In an uncharacteristically tame North London Derby, Arsenal and Spurs shared the points after Sunday’s 1-1 draw. Whether down to the early kick off time, or the respective clubs’ midweek European exploits, with Arsenal earning a late victory in Bulgaria and Spurs struggling at ‘home’, it was a somewhat stuttered affair.

In the absence of Santi Cazorla, Arsenal started with Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka in central midfield. In the first twenty minutes, they were overrun by Spurs’ midfield, particularly the excellent Mousa Dembele. Defensively, the Gunners were less solid than in recent weeks, Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny looking shaky. Both made too many sloppy mistakes: Mustafi was turned too easily by Son Heung-min in the first half, who really should have converted, while Koscielny clumsily gave away what was, despite Arsene Wenger’s comments, a clear penalty.

Tottenham dominated the first twenty-five minutes of the game, thanks to their screwed change of formation. Dropping Eric Dier into a back three allowed Dembele to play deeper and control the pace of the game, while Kyle Walker and Danny Rose offered a lot of width. For all their early dominance, they were toothless in attack.

Their dominance wasn’t all of their own making. Arsenal are at their best when pressing, as they have done in their standout performances over the past couple of years, against Chelsea, United and Liverpool at home for instance. Too often on Sunday they were content with sitting back; Alexis Sanchez was isolated and the only front man willing to pressure Spurs’ defenders. Two or three times he almost nicked the ball, some help would have been welcome.

After twenty-five minutes, we did apply more pressure, and consequently created several chances. Though reports have been scathing of Arsenal’s performance, in the period leading up to half time they played well. Alexis and Ozil probed with their usual inventiveness, though often their through balls were slightly overhit or didn’t quite beat the last defender. When we did breach Spurs’ backline, the decision making and final balls at times were poor.

Still, from minute thirty to the end of the half there was relentless pressure and attacking from Arsenal, the kind of spell that has seen us brush aside several teams over the past two or three seasons. On thirty minutes, Ozil scuffed wide off an Alexis cross; a minute later Ozil and Alexis combined to feed Alex Iwobi, starting in his first North London Derby, on the counter. He probably thought he’d scored, and certainly should have done, but shot straight at Huge Lloris. Two minutes later, another counter released Walcott in the box, who misplaced his cross. On thirty-nine minutes, Walcott again was through, this time hitting the post from twenty yards. It seemed a goal was coming, and it did, Ozil’s perfectly-placed free kick forcing Kevin Wimmer to head into his own net.

The disappointment in Arsenal’s performance stems largely from the second half which, aside from the odd half chance, was defined by poor decision making in attack and chaos in defence. The ease with which Dembele waltzed through our midfield and was felled by an uncharacteristically poor Koscielny was concerning. Only five minutes after Harry Kane’s penalty, Tottenham probably should have taken the lead, but Cech saved well to his right from Christian Eriksen.

A draw was the right result, and both teams have the right to feel slightly frustrated. While Arsenal were flat for most of the game, they were excellent for around twenty minutes, save for some poor finishing. On another day, the opponent would have been beaten, and the performance would not face such scrutiny. As it is, two home draws in a row, Chelsea and Liverpool racking up big wins to overtake Arsenal, the next match, against Manchester United on the 19th, becomes even more significant.

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