The title race hung on the balance in North London, with Arsenal eager to gain space away from Chelsea and closer on Manchester United, while Spurs looked to get another year in the Champions League by putting pressure on Manchester City. Previous form made this game on paper a tight contest, with Tottenham not having lost at home since August, and Arsenal having had the best away form in the League and not having lost for 15 games- but having drawn plenty. Their last match- Spurs having won 3-2 while 2-0 down at half time-also made this a tasty encounter before the first whistle had blown.
Newly crowned PFA Young Player of the Year Jack Wilshere was left on the bench leaving tree trunk Diaby in midfield, while for Spurs PFA Player of the Year Gareth Bale was selected on the Spurs wing.
The game started off well enough, with Arsenal creating chances as usual, but Walcott drew first blood with a fantastic run putting him one on one with Gomes in which he dispatched, putting it 1-0 to the Arsenal, to what promised to be a not only exciting, but high scoring game.
The lead only lasted for 82 seconds though, with Spurs playmaker Van Der Vaart with his weaker foot beating Szczesny at his near post to put things all level again. Arsenal, however were undeterred by this setback, and continued to bombard Spurs with good ol’ passing round the box and the odd high cross that gets headed out again.
A few minutes later, Nasri picked up the ball just outside the box, took aim briefly and fired towards Gomes, with the ball going in (again) to make it 2-1 with only 12 minutes gone, with the ball flying straight through Dawson’s legs.
Chances galore came during the middle of the first half, as Spurs looked for a way back, and as Arsenal looked to gain more on their lead. One decent chance came on the half hour when Walcott shrugged off two Spurs defenders and hoofed a shot that just sprayed wide to the right of Gomes. Meanwhile Szczesny was having the game of his life, taking out Bale and making save after save to deny the efforts of Tottenham.
Just when the match looked to settle down, Sagna whipped in a low cross towards Van Persie. He smashed his header at Gomes, only for him to parry it upwards, and for Robin to blast it to the roof of the net, making it 3-1 to Arsenal.
But once again Spurs had their say, and off a clearance by Arsenal Huddlestone effortlessly drove his shot towards the goal that had Arsenal and Szczesny bamboozled, to make it 3-2 at half time.
This half was a neutral’s dream and a supporter’s nightmare, as both teams looked as if they could win it, regardless of past home or away form. Meanwhile in other fixtures Chelsea were taking a 2-0 lead to Birmingham at their break, and if Arsenal lost or drew Chelsea would take 2nd spot on the ladder- unthinkable a few weeks ago, but with Arsenal’s persistent draws against teams such as Blackburn and Sunderland it was now fairly possible.
A few minutes into the second half a poor Diaby with a very weak first touch was replaced with Wilshere, as Arsenal looked to open up the game. It didn’t happen. Instead, Spurs took the offensive through Van Der Vaart out-doing Arsenal with creating chances, and as usual we let one leak.
Aaron Lennon was sent clear on the left hand side, and as Szczesny had done twice before in this game he had come out to successfully claim the ball- but this time it wasn’t to be. His hand clipped Lennon (who had gotten to the ball microseconds ahead of him) and the referee pointed to the spot.
Van Der Vaart took the penalty, and converted it coolly as he had done previously against Arsenal back in October, to tie the game up again.
One minute later Spurs again looked the goods as Modric attempted to sweep the ball into the goal, but Szczesny’s left shin saved the day by blocking the ball. He proceed to make more saves from a Spurs side that looked determined to derail Arsenal’s title chances, and did so against Van Der Vaart and from substitute Sandro.
Meanwhile Arsenal looked more and more desperate, with wave after wave coming from Spurs attack, but Van Persie could not be found, and once again passing round the box with the occasional cross failed, even though it resulted in the odd shot from our attackers. Even Koscielny looked to be playing for Spurs as his header nearly caused an own goal.
And so another draw, as Chelsea move into 2nd place making Arsenal title chances fairly non-existent. Funny to think that since the loss against Birmingham in the Carling Cup we had only won once and drawn the rest in the league. Results like that (and here) really do make us think if we really deserve the title anyway.