Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Elneny Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck
Subs: Macey, Chambers, Monreal, Flamini, Campbell, Walcott, Giroud
Arsenal claimed a creditable 2-2 draw at Tottenham despite playing with ten men for most of the second half. The Gunners were leading at the break thanks to Aaron Ramsey’s backheeled goal on 39 minutes only for Francis Coquelin’s 55th-minute red card to turn the tide in favour of the home side. Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane scored within two minutes of each other and the home side could have further extended their lead before Alexis Sanchez pounced with 14 minutes to go to grab a vital point for the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger made four changes to the team that started the defeat against Swansea. At the back David Ospina stepped in for the injured Petr Cech in goal and Nacho Monreal – nursing a slight calf problem – dropped to the bench with Kieran Gibbs taking over. Mohamed Elneny replaced Joel Campbell meaning Aaron Ramsey was shuffled to the right flank. Up front Alexis and Ozil were joined by Danny Welbeck. Goalkeeper, Matt Macey, aside the subs bench had an experienced look about it with Giroud, Walcott, and Flamini all included.
North London derbies often come served with a side of blood and thunder and this was no different. The home side, drilled in the art of high pressing by Mauricio Pochettino, started with real intensity as the White Hart Lane crowd roared them forward.
Three times Harry Kane went for goal inside the opening six minutes. Two efforts were calmly collected by David Ospina, a third deflected over the bar.
Arsenal looked anxious at the back. The game plan was obviously to soak up the pressure and try and use the pace of Alexis and Welbeck to launch attacks on the break.
Alas, time and time again we surrendered the ball in dangerous parts of the pitch allowing Spurs to break through midfield and work the ball to the wings. Tackles flew in. Not all of them legal. Bellerin and Coquelin both ended up in referee. Michael Oliver’s book.
For all the home side’s possession they only had one real chance of note in the first half. A rocket of a cross by Walker, delivered after a fine Gabriel challenge on Kane pushed the ball to the right flank, was sent goalwards by Eric Lamela who was denied by a fine stop by Ospina. It was a reflex save of the highest magnitude from the Colombian.
Bright sparks for Arsenal in a torrid opening half hour? Mohamed Elneny, making his first Premier League start, looked very composed given the intensity of the game, Ramsey battled hard and Welbeck was a useful outlet up front.
The latter pair eventually got just reward for their hard work, combining six minutes before half time, along with Hector Bellerin, to give the Gunners a surprise lead. Ramsey got the goal, sumptuously back-flicking the ball past Hugo Lloris after a delicious pass from the Spaniard. (1-0)
The goal sparked Arsenal to life. The passing was crisper, the movement dynamic and incisive and chances ensued. Welbeck failed to get a shot off after being played in by Ozil, then the England international flicked a header on target from an Alexis cross. By the break we looked the more likely side to get a goal.
All Arsenal’s good work was undone inside 15 minutes of the restart and the blame lies squarely with Francis Coquelin.
Booked in the first half the Frenchman knew he had to be careful, so quite why he threw himself into ridiculous sliding challenge that took out Kane on the touchline is anybody’s guess. The referee had no choice but to issue a second yellow card. Coquelin trudged off. There were 55 minutes on the clock.
Within seven minutes of the red card Spurs had scored twice. Were it not for goal line technology the home side may have equalised even earlier. Ospina’s fine stop to deny Kane saw the ball 90 per cent cross the line. Just enough.
It didn’t really make much difference. On the hour mark Alderweireld smashed home at the near post after the Gunners failed to clear a corner. (1-1)
A bad situation got considerably worse inside two minutes as Kane cut in off the left and curled the ball into the top corner. (1-2)
Mohamed Elneny was replaced by Olivier Giroud as Wenger threw caution to the wind and within 30 seconds Arsenal had an equaliser. Ramsey worked the ball to Bellerin who fed Sanchez. The Chilean’s first time strike bobbled past Lloris at the far post. (2-2)
Giroud then totally schooled Eric Dier in the centre of the park only to be hauled down by the England midfielder. Having been booked five minutes earlier, Dier should have been sent off. Michael Oliver bottled the decision despite the protestations of the men in red.
Welbeck, who’d run himself into the ground, was replaced by Flamini with six minutes left.
There were chances for both sides to win the game as the game edged towards the 90 minute mark. Ospina denied Eriksen’s speculative effort. Lloris punched away a decent Alexis free-kick and Gabriel nearly put the ball in his own net, shinning a cross just over the bar. Deep into stoppage time Ramsey, bursting through on goal, was denied by Wimmer’s last ditch tackle.
In the end the spoils were shared. Certainly a more satisfying point for Arsenal given the circumstances, but one that doesn’t do our title chances much good.