Arsenal took the lead just before half-time with a Kevin Wimmer own-goal but a penalty from Harry Kane on his comeback from injury devoted Tottenham Hotspur a 1-1 away draw
There was no doubt, judging by the unmistakable frustration in Arsne Wengers voice, which team could be the more satisfied with the result. Arsenals director briefly tried to argue that Victor Wanyama “shouldve been” sent off and made an even less persuading lawsuit that Tottenham Hotspurs penalty should not have been awarded on the basis that Laurent Koscielnys contaminated was not deliberate, dangerous or denying Mousa Dembl a scoring opportunity utterly none of which matter a jot if one is going to be old-fashioned and apply the rules.
Thankfully Wenger did eventually return to a far more legitimate point, accepting that Arsenal had lost their way in a second half that was a reminder of Tottenhams competitive qualities. Our level fell, Wenger told. We appeared flat, physically. The same could not be said of their adversaries and, though Tottenham have now gone seven games without a win in all rivalries, on this evidence it would be misleading to think Mauricio Pochettino is supervising a team in distress.
Pochettinos humen proved the kind of togetherness that constructed them authentic title challengers last season. They are not passing the ball as fluently but Dele Alli was ruled out with a knee trauma and Harry Kane is still short of fitness, lasting only until the 72 nd minute on his first start in seven weeks. Spurs still appear better with him back in the team and perhaps a fully firing Kane would have accepted one of the opportunities he missed either side of scoring their penalty.
The second one, in particular, looked like the kind of opportunity Kane would usually accepted and Tottenham could also reflect on the moment, late on, when Christian Eriksens free-kick curled beyond everyone and bounced off a post. That would have been lucky but Pochettinos men had finished as the more likely wins in a compelling, fluctuating match when the speed and frequency with which video games swing from one objective of the pitching to the other generated an absorbing spectacle.
Arsenal, however, undoubtedly finished with the greater sense of exasperation. Spurs had started encouragingly but the home team rendered some thrilling assaulting football when they took command during a 20 -minute spell of sustained pressure late in the first half, bringing an own aim from Kevin Wimmer and several other opportunities. In the first half we looked like we could score every time we crossed the halfway line, Wenger said.
Pochettino was certainly taking a gamble by experimenting for the first time with an unorthodox 3-3-2-2 formation in such a key fixture and it was not easy at that stage to remember the visitors had the best defensive record in the league. Theo Walcott and Alexis Snchez caused them plenty of problems, with Mesut zil always in close proximity, and Alex Iwobi really should have given Arsenal the result after the best pas exchange of the first half. Iwobi trundled his shoot into the arms of Hugo Lloris with so few conviction it was seducing to question his big-game mentality. The same player afterward preferred the incorrect pass from another threatening infringe, eliciting a rare prove of anger from zil, before Walcott nearly scored a beauty with a rising 25 -yard shot that rattled Lloriss left post, close to its point with the crossbar.
Tottenham did, however, have legitimate grievances about the opening aim on the basis that Snchez and Shkodran Mustafi had both strayed offside when zil curled over the free-kick that led to Wimmer heading into his own net. Wimmer was making his first appearance in the Premier League this season, brought in as part of a new-look three-man central defense, and his only possible mitigation could be that the two offside players were in his line of vision. Even then the Austrian defender should have avoided what happened next.
Arsenal have lost only one of these fixtures at their own stadium in the last 23 years but there is another statistic that says they have not beaten Spurs in the league during the course of its Pochettino era and Wenger did not really find wholehearted support in his post-match complained about Wanyamas first-half clash with Walcott.
Dembls switch to a slightly more deep-lying stance was a subtle yet important change for the second half. Eriksen became more influential and Son Heung-min was prominently involved, with Danny Rose operating as a wing-back and Kyle Walker doing the same on the other side until he was forced off in the second half with an injury.
You need to be flexible, Pochettino said of the new system. In the last month weve had some small problems so we tried to find a better solution with our full-backs higher up the pitching. We demonstrated a strong performance and we worked hard.
Dembl still had the licence to roam forward and it was his run from right to left, evading Francis Coquelin and then coming inside Nacho Monreal, that inspired Koscielny to induce current challenges that led to the penalty five minutes after the interval. Koscielny had clipped the player, rather than the ball, however much Wenger tried to argue it was unjust. Kane took advantage of Petr Cech diving out of the way by aiming his shot down the middle and, ultimately, the depict felt like a fair outcome.
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