Gary Neville believes Arsenal’s young side succumbed to the atmospheric occasion in their 3-0 defeat at Tottenham on Thursday night.
Spurs moved to within a point of their fourth-place rivals with a convincing victory in front of a raucous home faithful.
The Gunners, who were reduced to ten men within 33 minutes after two avoidable yellow cards for Rob Holding, were like rabbits in headlights as Tottenham rode the wave of noise inside their new ground.
After the game was initially postponed in January and moved to an evening kick-off in the penultimate week of the season, with Champions League qualification on the line, Neville believes a combination of those factors created a unique vibe in north London.
And while Tottenham rose to it, he believes Mikel Arteta’s men faltered.
The Manchester United legend said on his podcast: “After 1-0, this crowd were all over the place – it was mayhem after the first goal. At that point, Arsenal did wilt. They capitulated in that part of the game.
“Once you create that carnival atmosphere in a ground like this, and I think calling it a hostile and fierce atmosphere is fair, it was testing tonight. I always felt like this would be a special game because of what’s on it, why it was cancelled earlier in the season and then what’s at stake.
“You never want to create a cliff edge but Champions League football or no Champions League football for Arteta and Conte, for Tottenham and Arsenal from an economic point of view is just off the scale. It’s huge and the drop is so big.
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“Then you’ve got the way the game was cancelled earlier in the season… It was all a little bit messy. They should have been made to play it, in my opinion.
“So there was a little bit of needle coming into this game on three fronts… and it being a Thursday night game just adds to it. You don’t ordinarily get that, they’ve usually been Sunday afternoon fixtures.
“It was red hot in here in terms of the atmosphere and it got to Arsenal and those young players. They looked mentally weaker in that period of the game from 10 minutes to 35 minutes. It just got to them. It can happen.”
In their remaining fixtures, Spurs have relegation-threatened Burnley at home and already-relegated Norwich away, while Arsenal travel to Newcastle and host a resurgent Everton – who could also be fighting to stay up on the final day.
And Neville believes that while destiny remains in the Gunners’ hands, Antonio Conte’s men have the edge.
He added: “You’d want Tottenham’s games – Burnley at home and Norwich away.
“Newcastle away [for Arsenal] on Monday Night Football, that’s going to be really tough, especially if Spurs have won on the Sunday.
“Everton at home on the last day, if Everton need points, then they’ve got two really tough games.
“I think Tottenham will beat Burnley and Arsenal will have to win their last two matches. But I’m not sure they will.
“Tonight was a really big blow – I might be wrong and I’m neutral between these two clubs – but I do feel now if I had to put money on it, it would be on Tottenham.”
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