This was a result that both teams would probably have taken beforehand but truly satisfied no one – except perhaps the neutrals, who were treated to an early contender for most breathless, frenetic and combustible Premier League match of the season.
Arsenal would have settled for a point and improvements in all departments on last week’s schooling at Liverpool when 2-0 down after 40 minutes, following Christian Eriksen’s tap-in and a Harry Kane penalty.
Tottenham, meanwhile, needed something – anything – from this fixture to better the previous outing against Newcastle and assuage the growing sense of unease further up the Seven Sisters Road.
Spurs came within 19 minutes of all three points until Arsenal’s pressure told just as they seemed to be running out of ideas and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added to Alexandre Lacazette’s late first-half strike.
Spurs make chances count
Arsenal carried the fight to Spurs and dominated the numbers: twice as many shots (26), more possession (55 per cent), greater pass success rate (85-79 per cent), twice as many dribbles (14), more aerial duels won (14-12), more tackles (24-14) and more corners (11-6).
What they lacked in statistical superiority Tottenham made up for in quality in both penalty boxes, for the first 40 minutes at least.
When they attacked they did so with greater cutting edge, Son Heung-Min and Erik Lamela slicing through Arsenal’s defence for the opening goal on 10 minutes, when the Argentinian’s shot was parried by Bernd Leno to the feet of Eriksen.
And when they defended they did so resolutely, Danny Rose throwing himself in the way of Nicolas Pepe’s back-post header. The hosts were guilty of the opposite, in particular Granit Xhaka, whose senseless tackle on Son brought the penalty.
Front three yet to click
After criticism for his cautiousness at Anfield, Unai Emery heeded calls to start his £180m front three together for the first time.
Aubameyang left, Pepe right and Lacazette through the middle; each carried a different threat but they are yet to click as a unit. That was in part down to Tottenham’s diligence but also owed something to the Arsenal trio.
If a pacy attacking trident is to work at home when opponents sit deep they may need one of the midfield three to play further forward. Matteo Guendouzi, whose cute ball teed up Aubameyang’s equaliser, seemed to act on this in the second half.
Pepe has been eased into the spotlight since his club record £72m summer transfer from Lille and, while he again showed flashes of promise, he is yet to become anywhere near as influential as the other two forwards.
The right winger did set up Lacazette to thump past Hugo Lloris in first-half stoppage time with a nonchalant waft of the outside of his boot, but he was wayward with his own shots, hitting the target with just one of seven attempts.
Worst of those was a wild slice when presented with a chance to volley the winner 13 minutes from time. For a gifted dribbler he also seemed reluctant to try to go past Rose.
Eriksen lifts Tottenham
One man who showed his value was Eriksen, who shone in only his second start after a summer in which he appeared closer than ever to leaving Tottenham.
Aside from his goal, the Dane was involved in most of his team’s good work in the first half. He whipped a fierce strike that needed a smart stop from Leno, as did his free-kick later in the period.
With his immediate future seemingly at Spurs after all, it looks best for all concerned if Eriksen can resume his role as chief creator. All concerned – apart from their opponents – will be better off for it.
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