Belfast Telegraph

Gunners blow big chance to hit top

Arsenal 1 Tottenham 1

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur can win the Premier League title, but will not do so playing like this.

This was Arsenal's chance to go top, Spurs' chance to go third, but they both missed out. This was a drawn derby which showed the limitations of both sides, and will not have given too much scare to Manchester City, Liverpool and the improving Chelsea.

Arsenal had the game where they wanted it in the first half, scored, but could not kill it off. Spurs came back into the second period, equalised, had chances to win it but could not take them either. The draw was a fair result and leaves Spurs, in worse form, the happier side.

For Arsenal there was a clear feeling of an opportunity lost. Three points would have moved them ahead of City and Chelsea and beyond the reach of Liverpool.

The draw, their second at home in a row, leaves them heading into the international break knowing that they have not quite fulfilled their potential over the last few weeks. This was a chance to pull away, a chance for Arsene Wenger to beat Mauricio Pochettino for the first time, and they missed it.

Arsenal's best moments in the first half were all on the break. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were as good as usual. Sanchez made one chance for Ozil, which was dragged wide, and another for Alex Iwobi, who shot straight at Hugo Lloris.

But Arsenal were starting to pick up and when Theo Walcott thundered a first-timer against the woodwork it felt as if a goal was coming.

Sure enough, the Gunners took the lead with three minutes remaining of the first half, although few would have predicted the goalscorer. When Ozil whipped in a left-footed free-kick, Kevin Wimmer was distracted by Sanchez, in an offside position, and headed past Lloris.

That sent Arsenal into half-time with the lead and the game was there for them. Spurs were tired, low on confidence and looking vulnerable at the back. But when they needed a powerful authoritative second-half performance, they produced nothing.

Spurs fought back into the game and had better chances to win 2-1.

That is why Pochettino was far more upbeat than Wenger afterwards, and why this felt like an important moment in Spurs' faltering season. They came to the Emirates just three days after one of the worst disappointments of the Pochettino era, their Wembley no-show against Bayer Leverkusen.

They had lost their fluency, confidence and speed. Here, at least, Spurs had two positive changes. First, the return of Harry Kane after seven weeks out with an ankle injury. And, for the second time in his tenure, Pochettino played with a back three, using a 3-4-1-2 system that Arsenal took some time to figure out.

This gave Spurs an early stability, and more of an open-play threat than they have had in weeks. What was impressive was that they did not collapse, despite being 1-0 down.

They started the second half with an intensity and force that caught Arsenal off-guard. Heung-min Son set the tempo with a good break down the left, but it was a run from Mousa Dembele that brought the equaliser.

He carried the ball close to Laurent Koscielny, who tripped him. Mark Clattenburg gave the penalty and Kane scored.

Spurs then should have gone in front. Christian Eriksen hit a volley that forced Petr Cech to save well.

This was not Spurs at their best, but it was a long way from their worst too. They are still, 11 games into the season, unbeaten in the league.

Arsenal are likelier to win the title than Spurs, yet this second half felt like an argument for why they might not.

Olivier Giroud came on and gave them presence, and would have won it but for a Jan Vertonghen header. They go into the international break in fourth, rather than first, wondering when their next chance to get there might be.

ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Coquelin (Ramsey, 64 mins), Walcott (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 70 mins), Ozil, Iwobi (Giroud, 70 mins), Sanchez. Unused subs: Ospina, Gabriel, Gibbs, Elneny.

TOTTENHAM: Lloris, Dier, Wimmer, Vertonghen; Walker (Trippier, 80 mins), Wanyama, Eriksen, Dembele, Rose; Son (Winks, 89 mins), Kane (Janssen, 73 mins). Unused subs: Vorm, Carter-Vickers, N'Koudou, Onomah.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.

Man of the match: Dembele

Match rating: 6/10

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