Antonio Conte’s side were beaten 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium in a typically fiery north London derby, with Emerson Royal’s red card compounding the misery.
At their best, Spurs have proven they can compete with the Premier League’s side leading sides even while ceding possession, having beaten Manchester City and drawn with Liverpool both away from home last season.
Still, Thomas Partey’s opener on Saturday came after 22 passes, offering at least indication of just how passive Spurs were at times. While Hugo Lloris was to blame for Gabriel Jesus’ goal after spilling Bukayo Saka’s shot, the England international was allowed time and space to cut in and shoot relatively unopposed.
Only Nottingham Forest, Everton and Bournemouth have allowed more shots at their goal on average this season (15.9), piling pressure onto a defence Conte was keen to strengthen with the signing of a big-name centre-back this summer.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Neville said: “I thought Spurs were awful.
“I don’t think we should apologise for saying that. I thought their ambition was poor, I thought they played too deep, it sent a message to Arsenal.
“Yeah, they got back into the game and you’re thinking Conte can win a game like that. We’ve seen managers over the years who are brilliant at winning games in that passive manner.
“But we’re seeing a lot less of it. It’s becoming a lot less of a theory that can succeed in football.”