Rivals both draw comfort from derby stalemate
Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham
Sometimes from a draw, there can be two winners. Or three when that old cliche of football being the victor is also factored in.
It was a clear sign of Arsenal's resolve that, a goal down, shorn of key players through injuries, overwhelmed at times by their hungry north London rivals, they eventually came back strongly enough to earn the point that took them back level with Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League.
It was an emphatic sign of Tottenham Hotspur's growing belief and organisation, their youthful power and cohesion, that they left the Emirates hugely disappointed that they did not gain the win that would have planted a flag for their ambition, in this most hostile of environments, under manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Yes, also, both sides missed a chance. Arsenal kicked off knowing that City had drawn and that they could take a precious two-point lead, if they won, at the top of the table going into the international break. Psychologically, that would have meant so much.
Yes, Spurs had the opportunities after taking a deserved lead to increase their advantage, dominating for most of this, at times, febrile encounter, and to claim only their second-ever victory at the Emirates. By doing so, Spurs would have reinforced their own case to finish in the top four, taking themselves to within three points of the top.
But they showed their credentials anyway as they ended Arsenal's run of five league wins and extended their undefeated league sequence to 10 games.
It must also be factored in that this was Spurs' third match in just six days. But the best performers were in white shirts: Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Dele Alli, Eric Lamela, Christian Eriksen and, of course, Harry Kane, who claimed a fifth league goal in his last three matches and offered yet more compelling evidence that he is maturing into a formidable and characterful centre-forward.
Those injuries are undoubtedly catching up with Arsenal and although Arsene Wenger said he hoped that both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would return "soon" after the domestic season resumes, that still leaves eight players out. It will catch up with them, it has to, unless the situation is quickly resolved and, if it is not, then that accusation that Wenger will fall short by not signing an outfield player last summer will resurface.
But he did sign a goalkeeper. And Petr Cech did more than any other Arsenal player to earn this point. Wenger later admitted that Cech had kept his team in it, while striker Olivier Giroud was "angry" with himself, the manager said, for spurning a hat-trick of headed opportunities.
Arsenal also lost Santi Cazorla to "dizziness" at half-time, but by then, there was a collective sense of light-headedness from the home side, who had been given the runaround by their committed opponents. Wenger brought on Mathieu Flamini and, immediately, he added a bit more uncomplicated bite to the midfield and, by the end, Arsenal were reduced to fairly rudimentary, one step up from route one, tactics as they tried to salvage something.
They did just that from the unlikely source of substitute Kieran Gibbs, pushed into midfield, a sign of depleted resources, who stole in behind the otherwise impressive Kyle Walker to meet Mesut Ozil's flighted cross and guide his shot up and in off the turf at the far post with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris befuddled by the bounce.
It ratcheted up an already raucous atmosphere, while, at times, it was in danger of spilling over on the pitch. Ozil appeared to be struck by a coin thrown from the away end, while Giroud clashed with Jan Vertonghen and claimed he had been held by the defender who he then, foolishly, chest-bumped to the ground.
Rose was struck in the face by Joel Campbell, with a flailing arm, but recovered to later deliver the pass from which Spurs took the lead. Clearly, Pochettino had noticed a vulnerability in the Arsenal defence, the ball played quickly in behind, between centre-half and full-back, and it was into that area that Rose arced a pass.
Laurent Koscielny stepped out, trying to play Kane offside as the striker angled his run behind Per Mertesacker.
He got it wrong and Kane ran on to calmly side-foot back across Cech and into the net. It was no more than Spurs had deserved. They had dominated with Kane then forcing a fine block from Cech.
Ozil delivered a free-kick which, stretching on the edge of the six-yard area, Giroud clipped against the crossbar with a header, but the striker was culpable as he reached a corner, unmarked, to guide another header narrowly wide. Lloris pushed another header past the post.
Then Spurs racked up the chances. Kane's cross-shot was deflected past the post, he dragged another effort wide, Eriksen forced a smart parry from Cech, while Alderweireld provoked an even better save with a point-blank header.
At the end, Pochettino declared he felt his side should have won; Wenger spoke of relief - and regret. Both managers had a case.