Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur played what has been billed as the most important North London Derby in the history of the tie on Saturday, and both sides came away with a point in an absolutely thrilling encounter at White Hart Lane. Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane both scored for Spurs but were cancelled out by strikes from Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez for Arsenal.
Tottenham started the match with what one could argue was their strongest possible lineup: Mousa Dembele returned to the starting lineup beside Eric Dier in midfield, and behind a forward band of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Erik Lamela, and Harry Kane. Danny Rose and Kyle Walker were the starting fullbacks. Mohammed Elneny started in midfield for Arsenal beside Francis Coquelin as Arsene Wenger opted to move Ramsey to the flank. Danny Welbeck started up top.
The start of the match was a bit overshadowed by reports of violence between Spurs and Arsenal supporters, with photos emerging of bloodied fans outside White Hart Lane. Inside the Lane, though, the atmosphere was positively electric, as both sets of fans understood the massive importance of this match.
The game started out as everyone expected, with high intensity and a lot of running. Spurs immediately put Arsenal's defenders and midfielders under pressure, and turned that into a lot of possession early on. Arsenal didn't exactly put a lot of players behind the ball, but did try and counter at pace through Alexis and Danny Welbeck.
Harry Kane looked like a player who refused to not score early on, firing three shot attempts towards goal within six minutes. None of them were particularly good efforts, but it did show the amount of confidence he clearly had coming into this match. Spurs' press gave them a lot more of the ball early in the half, but Arsenal were well organized defensively and Spurs weren't able to turn that possession into very many good attempts on goal.
Bookings didn't come often in the first half, but when they did they came fast. Hector Bellerin, Erik Lamela, and Francis Coquelin all were booked within a span of three minutes by Michael Oliver for various infractions, but none of them were deemed unfair.
Spurs were clearly the better side for much of the first half but it was Arsenal that opened the scoring in the 41st minute. Aaron Ramsey was on the receiving end of a cross into the box from Bellerin. In an amazing bit of skill, Ramsey backheel flicked the ball past Hugo and the Gunners led 1-0. Spurs looked rattled for a few minutes afterwards, and Arsenal had a couple more half-chances to go up even further. The first half ended with Spurs down a goal.
The second half started with no changes from either side. Arsenal came out looking like a team that has scored first at White Hart Lane. They were more confident than in the first half, and Spurs looked unsure of themselves.
That changed in the 55th minute after Coquelin picked up his second yellow card for fouling Harry Kane on the sideline. Michael Oliver had no hesitation in sending him off, and Spurs took advantage immediately.
Spurs pressed their advantage right away and very nearly scored twice: both Erik Lamela and Harry Kane had fantastic efforts that nearly went in; Kane's in particular was less than an inch from crossing the line but was ruled out via goal line technology.
Spurs kept up the pressure and soon afterwards got the equalizer. Christian Eriksen fired a corner in from the left, and defender Toby Alderweireld was there to meet it, poking it home past Ospina to level the score.
And they weren't done! Just minutes later, Harry Kane put Tottenham in front with a magnificent effort. Dele Alli, who was bombing forward, back-heeled the ball to Kane on the left side. Kane took one dribble and bombed the ball into the top right corner and Spurs fans erupted into jubilation. It was a magnificent strike from a player who hadn't been in the best form in recent matches.
Unfortunately, despite putting Arsenal on the ropes, Tottenham couldn't keep them there. Late in the match, Alexis equalized for the Gunners, sliding a well-placed ball just past a diving Hugo Lloris, despite playing with 10 men. It was a bit of a defensive screw-up and Hugo might have done better, but it was a well-placed ball.
Both sides pushed for the go-ahead goal, but in the end neither could muster another goal. The match ended 2-2 that was extremely fun to watch, but ultimately disappointing for both clubs.
- Spurs fans should have every right to feel frustrated after this match, especially after conceding a goal while up one goal and one man. Spurs should've done better against Alexis in the equalizer, but it was a well-placed shot. Still, I bet Hugo wants that one back.
- Take away the tribalism (right, lol) and this was an absolutely wonderful match for the neutral. Both clubs left everything on the pitch. In the end, a draw is maybe the fair result, but Spurs should most definitely feel like they should've taken this one and left points on the pitch. It feels like a loss, but it's not, so there's that.
- Eric Dier was magnificent in this match, but was extremely fortunate not to be sent off. I'm not sure how he wasn't after dragging back an Arsenal player late in the game.
- The match changed after Mousa Dembele and Erik Lamela were subbed off. Mason was fine in the attacking band, but losing Moose hurt badly. He looked gassed so it was probably the right call, but Son wasn't particularly effective, and Ryan Mason just isn't the same player in the pivot as he is further forward. I get why the subs happened, but Spurs lost a lot of oomph late in the game.
- Erik Lamela was outstanding today, especially defensively. He looked driven out there and was pressing the hell out of midfield.
- I was very impressed with Spurs' defense again, especially Aderweireld and Wimmer. Wimmer put in a crucial match-saving tackle late in the game, and both were solid positionally.
- Two games against Arsenal this season where Spurs were the better side but couldn't pull out a win. Super frustrating, but it doesn't change the fact that Spurs are still in the title race regardless of this result. And they didn't lose.
- Nine games to go and Spurs are still in the thick of it. A draw isn't a loss. Let's not pretend that it is. Spurs need to keep winning and hope that Leicester slips up again. Still, that six point cushion over the Gooners would've been really nice.