Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 2 Arsenal
0 – 1 Ramsey (39)
1 – 1 Alderweireld (60)
2 – 1 Kane (62)
2 – 2 Sanchez (76)
Sent off: Coquelin (54)
When two quick-fire goals entered the Arsenal net, we feared the worst. Instead, Arsenal uncharacteristically fought back and with ten men, snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat. It was the performance of champions in that sense; a pity that it is all far too late.
The mathematics tell you otherwise but Leicester, eight points clear of Arsenal, have been all but crowned champions. And that remains a damning indictment of Arsenal and the rest of the Premier League’s big clubs. None had the nerve, the strength of character or ability, to take advantage of the failings of their rivals. Hopefully Leicester will keep theirs and prevent Tottenham ending their record of only having won the league in a monochrome world.
Whilst Arsène wouldn’t concede the title outright, he observed that a win for The Foxes would put them into a “strong position” which is putting it mildly. It will be a major shock if they don’t win it from this position, particularly with their kind run-in. Fair play to them for doing the hard work in the difficult matches previously.
Aaron Ramsey’s delicious flick had given Arsenal the perfect smash-and-grab goal, enough for a half-time lead but all the good work was lost in one flash of Michael Oliver’s red card. You can’t argue with it; Coquelin lacked the presence of mind in the heat of the battle and went to ground, despite being warned by the manager and coaches at the interval about rash challenges.
The only surprise was that a similar punishment wasn’t meted out when Giroud’s shirt was clearly pulled by Dier, a second bookable offence. But when the referee had to make the decision, he bottled it. There’s not much point in complaining afterwards nor is it a conspiracy against Arsenal; it isn’t and I’m sure that all supporters from all clubs have similar gripes at some point in a season. All we ask for is consistency in the official’s performance and we don’t see it very often.
That’s not to absolve Coquelin. It was rash and stupid, underlined by his subsequent apology. What followed next was a surprising fightback. Arsène was pleased with what he saw,
We showed good attitude and character and I’m happy and proud of our performance and attitude. We refused to lose the game. We have as well big regrets because I could not see how 11 against 11 could have dropped points today. We made a mistake at 1-0 when it was 11 against 11 but even though we had a shock loss and it went to 2-1, we refused to lose the game. We always looked dangerous going forward
It was a stark contrast to the supine second half against Swansea in midweek. That contrast underpins the frustration with the way the season is panning out. Champions don’t lose seven games in a season, certainly not before the title is decided.
Both Tottenham goals were well-taken but avoidable. Defensive woes are nothing new and in both instances, there were opportunities to deal with the situations before the ball fell to the goalscorers. Two goals in as many minutes seemed to be the precursor of an Arsenal collapse. Instead, shirt sleeves were rolled up and there could be few complaints when Alexis equalised. And even if Tottenham complained, who was listening?
It was a most welcome goal, ending the Chilean’s own drought and hopefully a sign of better times ahead in terms of his individual form. And for the team of course. It’s too late for the Premier League – and Europe. Defeat would have all but sealed a third or fourth placed finish. A point keeps the runners-up spot a possibility.
The FA Cup comes into sharp focus this week. With a proper rest in between, there’s no reason why the strongest XI can’t be played at Hull on Tuesday night. It’s not an arduous fixture list to play three games in eight days, including the ‘dead rubber’ against Barcelona. With the FA Cup the only genuine route to silverware this season, it will be surprising if Arsène risks it with a weakened side.