Wenger's tactics work a treat in Gunners' fightback
Wenger's brave gambles pay off for 10-man Gunners
(Toby Alderweireld 60, Harry Kane 62)
(Aaron Ramsey 39, Alexis Sanchez 76)
Arsene Wenger's men lost a man, but found their spine last night.
Francis Coquelin's cock-up threatened to kill off their campaign. His red card appeared to be a rusty nail in a rotten coffin.
When the midfielder lost his head in the second half, Arsenal lost their lead and Tottenham were poised to run away with the frenetic North London Derby.
But the Gunners never cracked. They sustained an unexpected boldness that had been apparent from the moment their line-up was announced.
Wenger tinkered with the personnel, both before the game and during a pulsating contest and pinched a point at White Hart Lane.
The only winners were hundreds of kilometres away at Leicester City, but the psychological victory belonged to Wenger's battered, but unbroken men.
The old warhorse got one over the Argentine colt in the other dugout.
On first inspection, Wenger's initial line-up looked even more conservative and erratic than usual, but it proved to be a masterstroke.
Mohamed Elneny was handed his first English Premier League start of the season, a risky move, to ensure a second midfield anchor alongside Coquelin.
With David Ospina in goal for the visitors and Tottenham close to full strength, the hosts seized the initiative. Pochettino's young upstarts attacked in waves. But their immaturity slowly revealed itself.
Like teenagers on prom night, they were all fiddly foreplay and no climax.
Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane played musical chairs among themselves, swopping positions, but without stretching the Gunners.
Suddenly, the volatile Derby had a whiff of the Rumble in the Jungle, with one bitter enemy duping the other with a dash of rope-a-dope.
After enduring 39 minutes of intense pressure, the Gunners suddenly exploded.
Danny Welbeck slashed a cross towards Hector Bellerin. For the first time, Arsenal's right back stopped worrying about Danny Rose to be a thorn in Tottenham's side.
He sent a low drive towards Aaron Ramsey. The ball was fizzing behind the midfielder, so he back-flicked it behind his standing leg to finish a goal that was as exquisite as it was unexpected.
Wenger's plan had paid off until Arsenal did what Arsenal always do. After laying the explosives, they sat on the detonator. Or, in this instance, Coquelin's fuse proved too short.
After a first-half yellow, he followed up with a needless, foolish foul on Kane in the 54th minute. He was sent off. It was suicidal football.
Seconds later, Kane was millmetres from restoring parity. Ospina parried his effort and the ball bounced onto the line. But it didn't matter.
On the hour mark, Arsenal, in total disarray after losing Coquelin, failed to clear a corner and Toby Alderweireld lashed the ball home on the half-volley.
Tottenham smelled blood. Kane smelled immortality.
Switching positions again, the striker collected possession on the left wing. He cut inside, reached the edge of the box and shaped to shoot, from a ridiculous angle that seemed to defy geometry, physics and history.
In such hysterical contests, footballers can't possibly live up to the hype. But Kane did. He swung his right foot and touched the sky.
The whipped, curled strike started wide of both Gabriel Paulista and the far post. Inexplicably, the ball bent round one and inside the other.
The goal deserved to win a championship. But of course, in this madcap season, which appears to steal its storylines from Comedy Central, it wasn't even enough to win the game.
A goal down, a man down and in desperate need of a lie down, Arsenal somehow equalised in the 76h minute. Utter madness.
Tottenham's entire defence failed to intercept Bellerin's sly, angled pass from the right and Alexis Sanchez, who had rarely featured, stroked a first-time effort into the bottom corner.
Hugo Lloris went down in slow motion. The Frenchman had conceded an equally soft goal against West Ham. A brace of blunders will not go unnoticed.
Nor will Wenger's intervention. He essentially switched his 10 men to a 4-2-3 with Mesut Oezil in central midfield with Ramsey. Arsenal not only held on, they also pressed for a winner.
Wenger found the right formation and then the right answers when he had to solve a problem like Coquelin.
Most of all, he found a backbone and passed it to the players.
Whether Arsenal's new-found grittiness is enough to win the title remains to be seen, but it stopped their race from ending last night.
"Now explain yourself Coquelin...? We got lucky to grab a point... You owe the lads an explanation on where your head was."
- Golfer and big Arsenal fan Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter).
BLOODY SCENES AS RIVAL FANS CLASH
The action on the pitch was as heated as the scenes off it.
Supporters of Tottenham and Arsenal were involved in violent clashes on the streets surrounding White Hart Lane, ahead of last night's North London Derby, reported the Mirror.
The fixture has been hit by crowd trouble in recent seasons, but events spiralled out of control even before the game, as supporters gathered ahead of the early kick-off.
Police officers were forced to intervene as supporters clashed, with one supporter seen with blood gushing from a head wound, while others were knocked to the floor.
The Independent reported that upon arrival, police were greeted with volleys of beer cans and smoke bombs.
Using batons, they separated the rival groups of fans and dispersed the crowd. Two men were arrested in separate incidents.
The North London Derby has been troubled by violence around recent fixtures.
Ten Arsenal fans were arrested after smashing up seats and tearing out hoardings in White Hart Lane following a League Cup match last September, in which Arsenal came from a goal behind to win 2-1.
During a Premier League fixture in November, Tottenham fans smashed up the toilets in Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in an apparent revenge attack.
- Wire Services.