It has not been long since the North London derby mattered rather more than this. In March 2016, only a late equalizer from Alexis Sánchez at White Hart Lane prevented Tottenham from going top of the Premier League; Arsenal had been leading the table only a couple of weeks earlier. Both clubs, that year, had a genuine chance to win a title; Leicester City streaked clear instead.
Their paths, since that game, have diverged. Spurs, for a time, became the coming force in the Premier League — Mauricio Pochettino’s team would contend for the championship in 2017, too — and in Europe, too, losing out to Liverpool in last year’s Champions League final.
That final proved the high-water mark: Pochettino left a few months later, replaced by José Mourinho, with little or no discernible uplift in form or purpose. With the benefit of hindsight, it looks to have been a vanity appointment: furniture, to use a preferred Mourinho metaphor, to go with the size of the room, rather than because it fits the design scheme.
Arsenal, meanwhile, has been locked in decline. Wenger left, replaced by the unloved Unai Emery. Mikel Arteta was drafted in, late last year, to start again. The club has changed its entire internal structure, appointing a suite of new executives, toying with a variety of differing visions.
None has stuck. Arsenal lacks vision, direction, conviction. It has a manager tasked with promoting youth and a board fixated on offering Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, an undoubtedly excellent but undeniably 31-year-old striker, a three-year contract.