For the second successive match Mikel Arteta’s players were knocked out of their stride by a raucous home crowd

After a season of gentle optimism, global improvement and reasons to believe, it felt as if it was all going to come down to this. The question was if Mikel Arteta’s best José Mourinho impression after the North London derby, ostentatiously avoiding explicit comment and covering for his Arsenal players by making himself the story, was to have the desired effect.

In a season of the Spaniard’s team providing half-answers to many, they did it again at St James’ Park. They had the guts but they lacked the nerve required of them on a Monday night that was always going to be more challenging than some suggested. Tottenham’s follow-up win, laboriously prised from Burnley at Sunday lunchtime, had knocked the ball flush into their court. The schedule and the occasion demanded and, if ever there was a night for Arsenal to show they really had changed and were becoming a team of substance, then this was it.

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