The battle for fourth place is looking a capital affair. Arsenal have the games in hand, but Tottenham the advantage in the table, overhauling their neighbours on goal difference after running riot 5-1 against Newcastle.
Spurs have had a topsy-turvy time under Antonio Conte but now they seem to have the consistency and potency to realise their ambitions. For the first time since September, they are in the Champions League spots. With five goals, they leapfrogged Arsenal in style.
As they married speed with invention, they provided an emphatic endorsement of Conte. Victory was inspired by two players he has rejuvenated, albeit with in very different circumstances. Harry Kane did not score but his passing was terrific. He claimed a solitary league goal under Nuno Espirito Santo but has become a talisman for his successor.
Matt Doherty, however, had seemed destined to remain on the margins under a third successive manager. Conte often prospers with wing-backs but had been reluctant to pick the Irishman.
Then came an unexpected renaissance and, having established himself as the first choice on the right, he was switched to the left in the absence of Sergio Reguilon. He scored. For good measure, he crossed when Emerson Royal, who took his spot on the right, also struck.
“The manager wants us to defend at the back post and be at the back post at the other end,” said Doherty, explaining his role. “I was fortunate enough to score.”
With Ben Davies delivering his first Premier League goal since 2017, Tottenham could savour the sight of three defenders on the scoresheet. The forwards instead formed the creative contingent, each registering an assist. And while such a scoreline may have seemed predictable a few months ago, it was testament to Tottenham’s excellence that no one else has opened Newcastle up so well of late.
They had not conceded two goals in a game in 2022. They let in five in swift succession. So solid all year, they were shambolic in the second half as Kane showed his wonderful passing range with a brilliant display of playmaking, dropping deep to release runners.
It made for quite a transformation in a slow-burner of game. Though Tottenham dominated possession, little happened in the first 38 minutes. The next 45 contained six goals, while the lead changed hands.
Newcastle first took it, aided by poor handling by Hugo Lloris. He ought to have saved Fabian Schar’s low free-kick, which had gone through the wall. His team-mates ensured his mistake did not cost them as centre-backs traded goals in swift succession.
Davies met Heung-min Son’s cross with a brilliant glancing header. Tottenham’s second goal came from a similarly menacing centre, even if it may have been aimed for Son at the near post. Instead, when Kane whipped the ball in, he found Doherty, diving to head in at the far post.
The third involved all of the front three and offered evidence of Dejan Kulusevski’s impact since his January arrival. Kane began the move with a penetrative pass from his own half, Kulusevski sprinted clear to cross and Son provided the emphatic finish.
Then Doherty twisted, turned and crossed for Royal to open his Spurs account with a close-range finish. The substitutes Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn combined for the fifth as Spurs brimmed with menace, opening up Newcastle at will. It was the third anniversary of first game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Spurs, with 13 goals in their last three matches there, are enjoying their home comforts.
“They have players who can hurt you,” accepted the beaten manager, Eddie Howe. “Some of their football will be the highest level.”
It was a third successive defeat for his team. Howe had long insisted a winning run had not made Newcastle safe and he warned: “We’re still in a huge fight to stay in the division.” Tottenham, however, are eyeing a return to the European elite.