IT is closing in on five years since the last time Arsenal supporters celebrated St Totteringham’s Day, the exact point in the football calendar when the red half of North London cannot be caught by their derby rivals in the league table.

The moment was a 4-0 victory over already-relegated Aston Villa as Spurs’ season – one in which they had been title challengers right up until a handful of fixtures to go – was unravelling in embarrassing fashion. A 5-1 defeat by Newcastle at Tottenham meant that – as the joke went – Spurs became the only team to finish third in a two-horse race as Arsenal pipped them to the runners-up spot.

Similarly noteworthy was that the final whistle at the Emirates Stadium signalled the end of Mikel Arteta’s playing career and who said that despite finishing second it was “not good enough for this club” in a title race which Arsenal had led at New Year.

Since then, Arsenal have never looked capable of challenging again. Their failings are compounded by events elsewhere as Arteta, then captain but now manager, seeks the kind of consistency that has evaded the club since Arsene Wenger’s golden years.

Even in Spurs’ worst run in recent memory they still have a shot at a Champions League place, have reached the final of the Carabao Cup and are joint-favourites to lift the Europa League. They may yet end the season empty handed and – with Manchester City awaiting them in that aforementioned date at Wembley – there is every chance they will.

On the other hand if they do win something it will confirm the belief that one club in North London continues to rise while another is tangled in stasis. No one is seriously suggesting that Spurs have come close to surpassing Arsenal’s feats, nor does it mean their continued progress does not jar with their rivals.

In the midst of a crisis, Arsenal have still managed to win three FA Cups in the last five years – a record Spurs could only dream of. But, when it comes to league form in the same period, there is one team that has the significant edge.

Oh, how the worm has turned. At one time Spurs could not get near Arsenal either on the pitch or off it but in retrospect, 2016 represented the end of an era. Tottenham had been narrowing the gap on Arsenal in the Premier League for a decade. It took a bout of spring flu in 2006 and a defeat by West Ham to deny them a top-four finish on the final day of the season having spent most of it with their noses in front of their neighbours; in 2012 Tottenham led their rivals by four points at the end of February only for a late capitulation following Harry Redknapp’s flirtation with the England job and a distracting court case with HMRC to unhinge their season. And, again, a year later under Andre Villas-Boas they squandered a seven-point lead and finished fifth, a point behind the Gunners.

Yet, as much as Tottenham would take a big stride towards consigning St Totteringham’s Day to the bin for another season with a win this afternoon, the old uncertainties remain. Not least because they have not won at the Emirates Stad-ium in 11 years.

Harry Kane and Gareth Bale are flying so there is enough evidence to suggest that Tottenham might be capable of achieving a feat last managed in November 2010 following an exhilarating 3-2 victory – that included a Bale goal as Spurs fought back from 2-0 down.

Yet Spurs were 2-0 up and seemingly cruising to a win a year later before Arsenal thumped five past them without reply. Arteta played that day and in his Friday press conference was looking for positives from times past as he called on his players to replicate those deeds.

“I played in some magnificent north London derbies because we won some beautiful games against them,” he said. “The most important one was probably at the Emirates when we made a huge comeback after going down. I remember the atmosphere that day was rocking, and just feeling that the fans were so happy was emotional.”

This will be the third North London derby played without supporters and Spurs have won both. In the latter game, the distance between the sides was all too apparent with Arsenal dominating possession but Tottenham barely having to break sweat to record a 2-0 win. Kane was a difference maker that day – scoring one and setting another up for Heung-min Son – just as he has been on numerous occasions in this fixture, a game in which he holds the record for most goals scored by a single player.

His dominant, energetic performance on Thursday against Dinamo Zagreb was another reminder of what he has been doing all season – playing as both a No.9 and a No.10 almost simultaneously: demonstrating his usual clinical finishing, spraying balls left, right and centre with precision and even clearing balls from within his own six-yard box. He has elevated his game to a place where he is within touching distance of the best in the world – he may even be there already – and all under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho, who critics said would stifle Kane by asking him to defend. Well, it seems as if he has managed to do one without impinging too much on the other.

The debate over Mourinho’s suitability for the job will no doubt rage on among Spurs supporters but there is no doubt the England captain has flourished by working with him, no dubiety either about whether they will overlook Tottenham’s mid-season travails if the St Totteringham’s Day bunting is consigned to the attic for another year.