Perhaps, at some point during the summer, Flamini snuck into Harry Kane’s locker and did what the Monstars did in Space Jam; steal his ability. That’s certainly what it looked like after Wednesday night’s north London derby in the Capital One Cup third round ended in joy for Arsenal, and despair for Tottenham. Mathieu Flamini, appearing for the first time this season, scored twice, one of which was a superb van Basten-esque volley, while Kane huffed and puffed and couldn’t blow David Ospina’s door down. Arsenal won 2-1, with Flamini’s brilliance cancelling out a Calum Chambers own goal.
The first half was a considerable snorefest. Both sets of players looked as though their managers had instructed to conserve energy for more important games in the league this coming weekend. It certainly didn’t pack the intensity or tempo of your typical north London derby, that’s for sure. Spurs, who have been far from eye-catching in this campaign, looked seriously short of ideas going forward, despite their creative hub Christian Eriksen being back in the team.
It came as no great surprise, then, when the Gunners opened the scoring from the unlikely source of Flamini. The Frenchman stayed alert as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain opened fire from distance, following in like a predatory striker to convert Michel Vorm’s parry into the roof of the net for his first goal since March.
The opening period was certainly soundtracked by repeated cries of frustration from the home fans, aggrieved at a desperate lack of invention and inspiration from their side. Harry Kane remained the enigmatic shadow of his former self, exhibiting a lack of confidence and decisiveness when he found himself with the ball in a promising situation.
The England striker failed to pull the trigger when the ball dropped to him at the back post when last season we perhaps would have seen a volley burst the net and, leading a counter charge, the Spurs captain flashed a rather poor shot well wide of David Ospina left-hand post after being played through by Eriksen. Indeed, instead of seeing the devastating forward of last season who was repeatedly splashed across the back-pages with his arms outstretched in jubilation, the image of Kane with his hands to his head, looking to the sky, was a telling one.