Arsenal 2 Tottenham 2
But who have they beaten? Three teams in the bottom four and, er, Manchester United. Tottenham had heard the attempts to explain away their excellent start to life under Ange Postecoglou, their finest opening to a season in 58 years. This would be the acid test, a truer gauge of where they stood: a derby against their neighbours at whose stadium they never seem to win. What we learned after a stirring contest is that they look like a serious proposition.
Postecoglou’s team were unable to record what would have been only a second Premier League victory in 31 attempts on enemy turf. But what the manager wanted to see from his players was personality and them imposing their game. He certainly got that.
Son Heung-min was razor-sharp, scoring a pair of equalisers, answering the Bukayo Saka-forced Cristian Romero own goal and a Saka penalty, conceded by Romero. But Son was ably supported by a clutch of stellar individual performances, most notably from Yves Bissouma, a titan in central midfield. James Maddison had his moments, too, setting up both of the goals.
There was steel from Spurs and no panic when the board went up to show 10 additional minutes. The scenes at the end felt telling, Postecoglou and his players taking the acclaim of the visiting fans. Arsenal did not do enough. They were flying after their 4-0 Champions League win over PSV Eindhoven in midweek, unbeaten since the start of the season and full of confidence. They were not the story here.
It was as if a switch had been flicked in the minutes before kick-off. A lazy Sunday afternoon, everybody bobbling along; the volume suddenly whacked up, hostility everywhere. “London is red,” said the tifo in the home crowd, who advanced a theory as to why Harry Kane had left their rivals for Bayern Munich. You can probably guess it. The tackles flew in from the early running and they did not stop. It was high-octane theatre.
Mikel Arteta had faced Postecoglou before, when he was Pep Guardiola’s No 2 at Manchester City and they met Postecoglou’s Yokohama F Marinos in a 2019 friendly. City won but what was notable was how Yokohama hogged 58% of the ball. “They played some incredible football,” Guardiola said.
Postecoglou only ever wants to play his way: on the front foot, possession-heavy, well-grooved combinations. Arsenal were determined not to allow it and one of the key battle areas was when Spurs had the ball in their defensive third. Arsenal put huge pressure on them. Spurs showed tremendous nerve.
The transitions were everything, the speed of them breathtaking, including the one for the breakthrough goal. Postecoglou watched Dejan Kulusevski run left to right and then run out of options, losing the ball. The Spurs manager gestured in frustration. He knew that there was danger coming.
Arsenal moved slickly, Martin Ødegaard coming right to Saka, who cut inside and shaped a trademark curler. It was hard to tell, in the moment, if it was coming back inside the far corner but it did not matter when Romero stuck out a leg and deflected the ball into his own net, Guglielmo Vicario flying the other way and helpless.
Arsenal had threatened before then. Gabriel Jesus, who Arteta played off the left wing, worked Vicario from a tight angle; Eddie Nketiah did likewise from one on the right after a loose Micky van de Ven back-pass. So many of the main themes coalesced on 32 minutes in what felt like a turning point, Spurs playing out through Vicario to Maddison, who took too long on the edge of the box and was robbed by Jesus, who had to score. Instead, he blazed high.
Maddison did not let his head drop. Destiny Udogie, booked for a 15th-minute lunge at Saka, continued to drive from left-back, enjoying some excellent moments. Spurs stuck to the gameplan and they deserved the equaliser. Brennan Johnson, on his full Spurs debut, drew a smart save out of David Raya after a Son incision, the Arsenal goalkeeper moving quickly across his line. Raya would deny Johnson again after a poor punch on a Pape Matar Sarr cross. Yet Spurs recycled the ball, Udogie heading to Maddison, who turned away from Saka’s challenge and cut back, Son timing his arrival to flick home.
The penalty at the start of the second half was a body blow for Spurs after they defended a corner poorly, allowing the delivery to bounce and leaving Ben White all alone in front of goal. When he spun and shot, the ball banged into the ground and reared up to hit Romero’s outstretched hand. It was not his day. Saka’s kick was chipped up the middle with beautiful disguise.
Back came Spurs again. Arteta had introduced Jorginho and Kai Havertz into midfield at half-time, Declan Rice and Fabio Vieira making way. It was Jorginho who gave away Arsenal’s lead. Again, it was a high turnover that provided the talking point, the catalyst. Jorginho tried to step away from Maddison but was dispossessed and Spurs had two against one, Maddison drawing William Saliba to play in Son, whose finish was nerveless.
Both teams had chances to nick it, Havertz lashing high when well-placed and Saka extending Vicario after a corner. For Spurs, Son went close after a Kulusevski pass and, at the very end, Richarlison saw a shot deflect wide after Bissouma had stepped up imperiously to feed Kulusevski. – Guardian