North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur battled in an exciting 1-1 draw in Premier League action at The Emirates with a second half Harry Kane penalty kick canceling out a Kevin Wimmer own goal.
Arsène Wenger had nearly a full-strength side available to him as Theo Walcott, Héctor Bellerín, and Nacho Monreal all returned to the starting XI. Recent injury returnees Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud began on the bench for the Gunners as the first-choice attacking four of Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez, Alex Iwobi, and Walcott were favored. Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin were paired in central midfield.
Tottenham, in large part due to injury issues, started the match with a 3-man backline of Jan Vertonghen, Eric Dier, and Wimmer. Their regular fullbacks, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, were pushed up as wingbacks supporting a midfield of Christian Eriksen, Moussa Dembélé, and Victor Wanyama. Kane, in his return from injury, and Heung-min Son started as the strikers.
Spurs began the match much more sharply than the Gunners, with an early chance early coming through Son. Shkodran Mustafi, playing in his first North London Derby, got to close to the Korean who brilliantly dummied and dribbled through on goal. Fortunately for the Gunners, the angle was too tight for a shot and his cross to Kane back across goal was well cut out by Monreal.
The away side continued to have some dangerous moments at the beginning of the match. Eriksen was given far too much space in the 21st minute and found Kane with a cross that was headed wide of Petr Čech’s goal.
Arsenal’s tactics for the match were obvious early. Attempt to press high initially, if unsuccessful, get back defensively and press less. Once possession was regained, the goal was to play balls quickly forward against the high line of Spurs. While he wasn’t working initially, it began to bear fruit.
In the 31st minute, Monreal played a long-ball through to Alexis who crossed the ball to Özil, but the German’s effort from 18 yards out was hit just wide.
Moments later, Arsenal broke brilliantly again as Alexis controlled a ball out from back one-time to Özil. The latter returned the favor and Alexis was able to set Iwobi in on goal. However, the youngster could only fire tamely at Hugo Lloris as he attempted to curl it into the far corner.
Arsenal continued piling on the pressure and had a couple more bright moments before finally breaking through in the 42nd minute. Bellerín was clipped by Dembélé on a break to earn Arsenal a free kick in a dangerous position. Özil played a teasing ball into the box which Wimmer could only head into his own goal. Referee Mark Clattenburg had initially apologized for blowing dead on an advantage, but, in hindsight, Arsenal would have no problem with the decision. Tottenham may feel slightly aggrieved as Alexis appeared to be in an offside position. Though he was not involved in the play, there’s an argument to be made that he may have impacted Lloris.
The first half ended with a bit of fireworks with Vertonghen running up and yelling at Walcott, who had made the most of a Wanyama forearm to the face. Lots of crowding and yelling, but nothing more.
The beginning of the second half was a nightmare for Arsenal as Spurs levelled within the first 6 minutes. Dembélé dribbled brilliantly past Coquelin into the box and was felled by Laurent Koscielny. Clattenburg rightfully awarded the penalty kick, which Kane dispatched down the middle after Čech dove to his left.
In the initial period after the equalizer, Spurs were well on top. They nearly doubled their tally in the 55th minute as Mustafi mishit two headed clearances, the second falling straight to an unmarked Eriksen in the middle of the box. The midfielder fired his shot between the legs of Bellerín and Čech did very well to get down and save the low shot to his right.
Arsenal were forced to make a last ditch effort to save a Tottenham goal in the 60th minute as a Monreal challenge did enough to force Kane to mishit a shot at the far post.
Arsenal began to get back into play as a minute later, Iwobi’s cross to an on-rushing Xhaka just missed the head of the Swiss midfielder.
Wenger’s attacking intent was shown in the 65th minute as he took off Coquelin for Ramsey. In the 70th minute, the manager substituted Iwobi and Walcott for Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
In what would turn out to be the running theme for Arsenal in the last 20 minutes, Alexis played a tempting ball through to Özil that Lloris had to save. Unfortunately for Arsenal, the Chilean would be centimeters away from playing the deciding pass multiple times throughout the remainder of the match.
In the 74th minute, after a combination of build-up play and fortuitous bounces, Oxlade-Chamberlain broke through into the box and cut it back for Bellerín whose shot was well block by Walker.
Arsenal nearly gave away the match in the 84th minute as a brilliant Eriksen free kick into the box was missed by everyone and thankfully bounced off the post. Čech had come for the free kick and was in no man’s land as it sailed past him. Had it been a goal, it would have been Arsenal’s turn to be aggrieved as Vertonghen appeared to shove Koscielny down to create space for himself.
Arsenal quickly pushed forward following that scare with Alexis cutting inside and playing a cross to Giroud that Vertonghen narrowly recovered in time to save what would have been a great chance to score with Giroud free behind the other two centerbacks. Not even a minute later, Alexis played a throughball to Oxlade-Chamberlain that was barely cut out for a corner kick.
Alexis again worked well to get space and put a cross into the box which, this time, Giroud did get a head to. Unfortunately, the combination of the lack of pace on the cross and Giroud’s stationary attempt led to it falling tamely into the hands of Lloris.
Neither side was able to score in the 5 minutes of stoppage time, though Čech nearly gifted Spurs a goal late by unconvincingly coming out to distribute, and the match ended in a hard-fought 1-1 draw.
The draw leaves the Gunners with 24 points in 11 matches as they head into the international break. That tally is good for third, a point behind Chelsea and level on points with Manchester City, ahead of Liverpool’s showdown against Watford later today.
Arsenal return to action November 19th at Old Trafford against Manchester United.