Tottenham beat their north London rivals in a Premier League encounter. Photo by: Andrew Winning

London – Andre Villas-Boas claimed Arsenal are a spent force after Tottenham stretched their lead over their north London rivals to seven points.

Gareth Bale, who scored his 16th Premier League goal, and Aaron Lennon put Spurs in control at White Hart Lane before Per Mertesacker pulled a goal back for the Gunners.

The Tottenham manager said Arsenal were trapped in a “negative spiral of results” and Arsene Wenger now faces the prospect of missing out on a top-four finish for the first time since he became Arsenal manager in 1996.

Spurs jumped into third place ahead of Chelsea, and are just two points behind champions Manchester City as they chase a Champions League place.

Villas-Boas said: “It’s not a big margin yet for us to be completely safe, but it can have a direct effect on their motivation and on ours. “For them, the difference from last year is that we are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they are in a negative spiral in terms of results.

“To be out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult for Arsenal, but we have seen in the past they have been able to finish seasons strong.

“We have seen so many shifts in league positions that we can’t stop. Confidence makes a difference and makes you better.

“Playing in all these big games – against Inter Milan on Thursday and Liverpool next weekend – can give a big lift to the squad and make the players better. That’s what we want.

“There is great focus on trying to make this the year we qualify for the Champions League again.

“They have been absolutely outstanding. They have made their ambition public and their desire has been tremendous.”

Michael Dawson, outstanding at the back for Spurs, added: “Seven points is a massive lead and this was a huge game. We have a great squad and a great team. It wasn’t a great performance but we deserved to win it.

“We want to be back in the Champions League and we showed that after this performance.”

Wenger admitted it will be a huge challenge for Arsenal to finish in the top four after their seventh defeat. The Arsenal chief blamed his defence for the two goals conceded in quick succession and criticised striker Olivier Giroud for failing to trouble Spurs’ defence.

Wenger said: “It is a massive challenge to finish in the top four.

“It’s so frustrating because they played on the counter-attack and defended, so it’s difficult to understand why we lost the game.

“We were not effective in the zones that matter, the front and the back. It’s happened to us many times this season and only in big games.

“I cannot fault the attitude or the effort the team produced, the spirit they showed. But you give yourselves a mountain to climb.

“In the final 20 minutes it was stop and go. They fouled to stop us and stayed down a lot. We couldn’t get the final flow into the game.” – Daily Mail