Pires artistry helps Arsenal resist the flowering of Spurs' young talent

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Arsenal 1

At the end of another afternoon of endless abuse Campbell had, 10 paces from the touchline, fixed his glare upon the Tottenham supporters by the entrance to the tunnel and dared them to respond - it was a pre-emptive move and in a battle of wills between one player and more than one hundred fans, Campbell came out victorious. Only as he disappeared from view did one of them pluck up the nerve to shout at him, if nerve is the right way to describe the strategy behind picking an argument with an opponent who can scarcely see you, let alone reach you.

The supporter was arrested and will, Tottenham have said, be banned and judging by the look Campbell wore on his face as he exited White Hart Lane, he must have felt that he had carried the day. There was no worse moment for Arsenal in the first half than when Campbell misjudged a pass to Lauren so badly that it went straight into touch. Arsenal looked like they were ready to be beaten - but they found something in the second half that indicated they are not yet ready to become the Premiership's lost team.

White Hart Lane expected an epochal match, the end of an era. The Tottenham supporters, whose side have not won a derby since 1999, and whose memories of a time of pre-eminence over Arsenal are more distant than that, were hoping for what Arsenal's vice-chairman, David Dein, once glibly described at Old Trafford as a "shift in power". What they got was a first half in which the tectonic plates of English football began to tremble just slightly before they settled back into a decidedly familiar aspect with Arsenal's second-half renaissance.

Arsène Wenger is a manager who refuses to accept the comfortable absolutes and uncomplicated extremes beloved of English football and yet even he proclaimed Arsenal's comeback from Ledley King's 17th-minute headed goal as the sign that his team had been "reborn at half-time." Defeat, on the terms of Arsenal's first-half performance would, he said, have been a "disaster". "The way the team responded will decide our season," he said. "If we'd not been able to respond it would have been dramatic."

In Wenger's world, where the discussion of crisis and disaster is so often met with a raised eyebrow and the flicker of a smile, you can be sure that he was not overstating the significance of half-time at White Hart Lane. He maintained that the tactical changes he made were not as important as the recognition among his players that they had to improve, but the re-location of Cesc Fabregas to the centre of midfield in place of Mathieu Flamini, and the introduction of Robert Pires, were crucial in turning the match back in Arsenal's direction.

Pires scored the equaliser on 76 minutes after Paul Robinson's weak punch, yet it was the neutralisation of Michael Carrick's influence that was most important. In a Tottenham team that featured seven Englishmen he was the pick during the first half, a playmaker in Patrick Vieira's image who crossed the ball for King's goal and made you wonder at times if he could possibly be fitted into the England midfield. The answer is, most likely, no: Carrick's slow-burning career is taking shape at last but he has picked the wrong position, the wrong generation of English footballers to hope to break through in time for this summer's World Cup.

Not even Sven Goran Eriksson, the old master of compromise, who was in the stadium on Saturday, would be able to justify forcing Carrick into the current England midfield shape. Playing in a different, more withdrawn position in the second half, Carrick faded badly and it was hard not to agree with Wenger that if the second half had been 10 minutes longer Arsenal might well have won.

Martin Jol had some complaints about an aerial challenge between Campbell and Teemu Tainio that left the Finn with blood streaming from his head, though Campbell said: "My eye was on the ball all the time and if you watch the TV replays you will see the same." The Tottenham manager illustrated Campbell's style in challenging for headers with great sweeping motions of his elbow and said that the defender had done the same to Michael Dawson.

"I would like to teach my players that if you want to go for a battle in the air like that you have to do a similar thing," Jol said. "He's going up with his arm and then he comes with his head and nobody can say it's intentional, so he's doing a very good job. Dawson was almost knocked out. John Terry is doing it more in the back of your neck and the timing is so good that it is almost at the same moment you have the header and the elbow. It's a good technique but you still see ... it's a foul."

For Tainio and Dawson, an elbow - for Jens Lehmann, a conker to the head. Accurately thrown at the Arsenal goalkeeper by a home supporter in the second half, it suggests the hijacking of a noble schoolboy tradition. As an act of conflict it was no braver than the man in the expensive seats who goaded Campbell; as an act of revolution, Tottenham's attempts to seize control of this patch of London needs more time.

Goals: King (17) 1-0; Pires (76) 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, King, Lee; Lennon (Reid, 72), Jenas, Carrick, Tainio (Mendes, 78); Mido, Defoe (Keane 81). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Naybet.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Lauren, Campbell, Touré, Clichy; Fabregas, Flamini (Pires, h-t), Gilberto, Ljungberg (Van Persie, 65); Bergkamp, Reyes (Cygan 90). Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Eboue.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Tottenham Defoe, Dawson, Lee, Tainio; Arsenal Gilberto, Flamini.

Man of the match: King.

Attendance: 36,154.

Comments