An entertainingly stupid derby, and one logical result to bring it right back around like Arsenal: a 2-2 draw. These were two teams who cancelled each other out with various moments of clumsiness, and it means we still don’t really have an idea of where they are.
That is kind of the point, mind, as both claimed a point they will end up mostly happy with – Arsenal for coming back, Tottenham for not giving it away completely in the face of the pasting they themselves were given in the second half.
That is all because they are two sides without a complete idea of themselves. Arsenal are still trying to figure one out in a new era, Mauricio Pochettino is still trying to reconfigure his team at the end of an old cycle.
That is summed up by how, after all the discussion, it was difficult to tell at the end of this whether Spurs are better with Jan Vertonghen in the team or out of it.
They’re generally better because he is such a good defender, of course, but this was the type of game where he was just one of many players who looked so exposed; unable to adjust to the whirlwind.
There was so little design on it – just chaos that favoured players with energy, or those with the presence of mind and quality to suddenly apply some pause.
Which is something you could never say of Granit Xhaka.
His 39th-minute decision was not just the most outlandish moment but also the most illustrative. It was the game distilled: a lot of hectic energy, very little calculation – even some outright stupidity.
That was partly what put Arsenal in that situation. While they were so impressively effervescent going forward, as is going to happen with a team that features Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alex Lacazette, they were damagingly effervescent at the back… as is going to happen with a team that features David Luiz, Xhaka and their most combative midfielder – Lucas Torreira – out wide.
Spurs at that point didn’t even have to be that good – and certainly weren’t at the back themselves. They apparently just had to get the ball forward. Christian Eriksen’s opening goal came from the most functional and direct approach possible, from Hugo Lloris’s punt to Erik Lamela’s run through. With Arsenal seemingly just vacating space, the Dane was left to tap it in. The ball just had to be in the box for the second goal, as Xhaka lunged so wildly, and Harry Kane predictably finished so well.
The problem with such a basic tactical approach for Spurs, though, was that it was dependent on Arsenal staying so chaotic. It was no coincidence that there was a complete change in the game with the one piece of proper calculation – even if it was to rectify an error. Emery removed Torreira, and reshaped his midfield, with the precocious Guendouzi then reshaping the entire match. He was suddenly dominant, winning everything, running everything.
Arsenal admittedly benefitted from the big psychological boost of that Lacazette goal before half-time – itself of course coming from yet another stupid moment, this time from Danny Rose – but it did feel that the momentum had already changed.
It was only going one way throughout the second half, and the equalising goal was appropriately one that almost seemed to be just going with the wind. Aubameyang only had to guide in Guendouzi’s superbly flighted pass.
There were spells after that where the ball was just flying around Lloris’ box, no one knowing where it would end up, just as the occasional Spurs break meant no one really know how the game would end up.
Which mend such chaos ended up finishing with a contradictory order: both teams claiming a point, both claiming some sense of progress from it.
Like so much else in this match, though, they might have to think about that a bit more deeply.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies