By Richard Clarke at White Hart Lane
Arsenal went down 2-1 in a thunderous North London derby on Sunday.
Rafael van der Vaart fired the home side in front five minutes from half-time. There was a hint of handball as the Dutchman controlled a chip from Emmanuel Adebayor but the finish was emphatic.
Arsenal were resurgent after the restart and quickly restored parity when great work from Alex Song allowed Aaron Ramsey to crash home from close range. It was his first goal since scoring the winner against Manchester United last season.
The visitors sensed another immediately but, gradually, Tottenham would take control in the latter part of the second half.
Their winner came in the 73rd minute when Song's block fell to Kyle Walker 25 yards out. His low, swerving shot beat Wojciech Szczesny down to his right and found the corner.
It was a bolt from the blue, a rocket-fuelled drive, and reminiscent of Tottenham's last derby win on this ground, which was set up by a similar effort from another young unknown full-back - Danny Rose.
This is another defeat and, given its location, hard to take. But it was not a mismatch as some had predicted.
Arsenal must just lick their wounds over the international fortnight, get their chins back in the air and dig in for the season ahead.
Wenger's team news was always going to be crucial. In all there were six changes from 2-1 win over Olympiacos on Wednesday.
The manager had said Gervinho's muscular injury would tested on the morning of the game if necessary. Whenever the examination was made, the Ivorian clearly passed.
As expected, the atmosphere was cooking inside White Hart Lane at kick-off. However a similarly sizzling temperature was unusual for North London in early October.
There is always a special buzz about this game but this afternoon it was multiplied. Arsenal had started the season slowly and the home fans were hoping to capitalise.
A fast start was expected and Tottenham duly delivered.
In the sixth minute, Emmanuel Adebayor escaped from Song the right and reached the byline. Arsenal gave the ball away in trying to clear their lines and Scott Parker went clear one-on-one eight yards out. Thankfully for the visitors his finish was faltering and the effort was blocked by Szczesny at the near post.
But, at the same time, it was a major opportnuity and Arsenal grew in confidence from riding it out.
In the 15th minute, they registered their first chance when Walcott curled a low shot through a crowded area and just beyond the far post. Then, from Arteta's corner, Ramsey sent a backward header across the face of goal.
However, overall, the tide was still with Tottenham. Ramsey gave the ball away in midfield and Bale sprinted clear on the left. His cut back was behind Van der Vaart, who hoisted his effort over the bar.
After 28 minutes, Jermain Defoe fled down the right and his low cross was touched toward goal by Van der Vaart at the near post. Again Szczesny came to Arsenal's rescue, this time with his knee.
By now Arsenal were starting to have more joy going forward and, seconds later, they would carve out their best opportunity of the half.
Van Persie escaped from Younes Kaboul down the left and darted into the area. His cut back found Gervinho just inside the area. However his contact was not confident and the shot flew wide.
Then just past half-hour, Gervinho cut inside and fed the ball to Walcott weaving in from the right. The Englishman's drive had power but he could not keep it down.
Arsenal had evened up the encounter after a difficult start. But derby day is often decided by capitalising on small errors and that is how Tottenham took the lead five minutes before the break.
Adebayor drifted a ball over the head of Mertesacker to the unmarked Van der Vaart. The Dutchman chested the ball down and fired into the corner.
The German claimed the ball had rolled off Van der Vaart's shoulder and he had actually controlled it with his arm. However the goal stood.
Bale crashed a shot wide as Tottenham tried to turn the screw. But, at the break, the hosts were ahead.
They carried that tempo into the second half and, in the opening minutes, the Welshman fizzed a shot just over the bar.
It would not last. Suddenly Arsenal stepped on the gas and grabbed an equaliser.
Song drove into acres of space down the left-hand side. His fierce near-post cross was crashed into the roof of the net from close range by Ramsey. It was not just a goal, it was a tonic.
Arsenal laid a mini-siege to the Tottenham goal in search of a second. But as is the way on derby day, there was nearly a goal against the run of play.
Bale profited from defensive confusion in the centre to put Adebayor clear. It was one-on-one, all the Togolese striker had to do was pull the trigger.
However Szczesny pulled off a stunning save low to his left.
The chance gave Tottenham fresh impetus and, once again, they piled on the pressure. However the keeper was unduly tested.
Midway through the half, Sagna was forced off after damaging his ankle in landing after an aerial challenge with Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Carl Jenkinson came on.
Wenger then withdrew Walcott for Yossi Benayoun and the Isreali took a role on the right to protect the youngster.
Then came the goal. Song blocked a drive from Modric on the edge of the area. It fell to Walker, whose low, rocket-fuelled drive found its way past Szczesny.
Arsenal were rattled and nearly conceded again when Mertesacker's hesitation allowed Bale to steal in and trickle a shot just wide.
Wenger brought on Arshavin and the visitors tried to respond. However Tottenham would carve out the better chances in the final stages.
Bale gave Jenkinson problems down the left and Defoe forced a flying save from Szczesny.
Wenger threw Mertesacker forward in the dying minutes and Szczesny joined him for the final few corners.
But Tottenham held on for victory.
- Sagna 68
- Mertesacker Yellow Card
- Ramsey Goal!
- Gervinho 77
- van Persie
- Walcott 72
- Andre Santos
- Jenkinson 68
- Benayoun 72
- Arshavin 77
- Walker Goal!
- Parker 90 Yellow Card
- Van der Vaart 64 Goal! Yellow Card
- Adebayor 85
- Corluka 90
- Livermore 85
- Sandro 64