'The way we responded decided our season'

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The Independent Football

Spurs' domination was achieved by the simple skills of overwhelming Arsenal at their own game of hunting the ball and the man, constructing swift, attractive patterns of attack - and believing totally in their new-found ability to put together an unbeaten run, which now stretches to seven. Even the favourite White Hart Lane sport of booing the traitorous Sol Campbell had to be shelved. He was performing so indifferently that all his misdirected passes were cheered instead.

Beforehand, Arsène Wenger had conceded: "Suddenly, we are expected to be underdogs. We accept that." The French fox was probably playing politics, since it was the "underdogs" who almost inflicted the killing bite after enjoying much the better of the second half, thanks to the introduction of Robert Pires.

Suddenly, Arsenal were doing what they do best, or certainly better than Spurs. Tottenham almost capitulated to panic in the face of wave after wave of raids, conceding a flurry of free-kicks as Arsenal turned on their going-to-ground skills. Deservedly, it was Pires who rescued the draw, following yet another easily won free-kick, but the simple sight of seven English players in the Spurs starting line-up will have cheered up even Sven Goran Eriksson, quite apart from the fact that three of them, Ledley King, Michael Dawson and Michael Carrick, were outstanding in that glory, glory opening 45 minutes.

But dusting off the changing-of-the-guard phrase, given a good airing after Andy Murray beat Tim Henman, is always likely to be premature with Wenger's team. They were as impressive after the interval as they had been shabby before it.

Wenger was not inclined to share with the world the words he delivered to his underperformers at the interval, but opined: "The team was born after half-time. We couldn't afford to lose today, it would have been disastrous for us. The way we responded in the second half decided our season today. If they had not responded it would have been dramatic."

Explaining he had left Pires out initially, not because of last week's penalty antics but because he wanted to correct a failing in previous away games and strengthen the midfield, Wenger said: "We needed to put the ball on the ground and play what we are strong at."

The Spurs manager, Martin Jol, was in an "if only" mood. "If we had played the second half the way we played the first... " But he paid proper tribute to the opposition: "You always know with their quality up front they are capable of getting a goal. But I told my players it must have been a long time since Arsenal were happy with a draw."