Perhaps this really is Arsenal's year. With quarter of an hour to go, they trailed 1-0 and looked bereft of ideas, so afflicted by injuries that Arsene Wenger was reduced to bringing in a full-back to play in midfield as it chased the game. And then that full-back scored, Kieran Gibbs arriving at the back post to meet Mesut Ozil's cross and level via the post and the chest of the goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. It was enough for Arsenal to salvage a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at home.
It wasn't the prettiest goal, and it came rather against the run of play, but Arsenal will hardly care. It kept them level at the top of the table and kept Spurs five points back. Perhaps more importantly, it signalled a resilience and a capacity to get at least something out of a game that had seemed to be going against them, something that has not been a forte in recent seasons. With Manchester City held at Aston Villa earlier in the day, this was an opportunity to go top of the table missed, but it could have been worse and, with games against West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City, Sunderland and Aston Villa next up, this feels like a period of the season in which Arsenal can get points in the bank and consolidate their position at the top of the table.
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It won't come as much consolation to Tottenham in the aftermath of a game they had looked in control of, but for around an hour, they played very well indeed, and looked like winning through Harry Kane's 32nd-minute opener. They pressed superbly, never letting Arsenal get into any kind of rhythm. Mousa Demeble, such a frustrating figure in his time at White Hart Lane, was excellent at the front of a central midfield triangle that outmuscled and outthought their Arsenal counterpart. There's something almost incredible about the thought that Eric Dier and Dele Alli are 21 and 19 respectively.
Arsenal's all-too-familiar injury issues left it with a major problem on the right. With Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all out, Joel Campbell was selected despite speculation Wenger may turn to Kieran Gibbs and his greater defensive awareness. At least a big a problem, though, was Campbell's technical ability. He may be a fine leader of the line playing as a lone front man for Costa Rica, but on the wing his touch looked heavy and he appeared not quite to be of the system, even if he did draw a fine low save from Lloris early in the second half. The result was a diminution of the fluency Arsenal is capable of at their best.
The fear for Arsenal was always that, given Campbell's defensive inadequacies -- something Bayern Munich had brutally exposed on Wednesday -- Tottenham would prosper down the right. Sure enough, 32 minutes in, Campbell failed to close down Danny Rose who shaped a superb pass over the top. Laurent Koscielny was mystifyingly caught dawdling behind the defensive line, playing Kane onside. He ran on and, with all the time in the world, calmly clipped the ball over Petr Cech. The pass and finish were superb but it was a goal Arsenal allowed to happen.
The introduction of Mathieu Flamini for Santi Cazorla at half-time gave Arsenal more steel, and the result was that Dembele stopped strolling through Arseal as he had in the first half. Alexis Sanchez still looked exhausted, but Arsenal did begin to create chances. Twice Olivier Giroud got above Dier in the box, but the first time his header clipped the top of the bar and the second time he glanced just wide.
But Spurs still offered a significant threat, Christian Eriksen seeing a shot deflected just wide by Flamini after a sharp one-two with Kane and then having a shot beaten away by Cech after a cut-back from Kyle Walker. With 20 minutes to go, by which point Spurs seemed to have stemmed the surge with which Arsenal had begun the second half, Cech made an even better save, parrying a Toby Alderweireld header from a corner.
But then came Gibbs's equalizer and a renewed Arsenal onslaught, Giroud fired just over and had a header saved by a scrambling Lloris and by the end Tottenham was wobbling. Defeat would have been extremely harsh on Mauricio Pochettino's side, though, and a draw in the end felt about right.
Three months into the season, though, with seven teams within six points at the top, there is a strange sense that the league has yet to take shape.