Gibbs saves Arsenal from defeat against Tottenham
Supersub comes to Arsenal's rescue but point scarcely deserved
(KIERAN GIBBS 77)
(HARRY KANE 32)
Arsene Wenger pulled off the luckiest, most dramatic substitution in recent memory.
Arsenal were going nowhere fast in the north London Derby, out of ideas, out of sorts and seemingly out of time with 13 minutes left to play.
Their minds were still in Munich and their legs were not far behind when Wenger threw on Kieran Gibbs to perhaps stop Tottenham adding a second goal to their slender lead.
Instead, the fullback darted forward, outpaced the otherwise imperious Kyle Walker to tap home Mesut Oezil's deep cross at the far post this morning (Singapore time).
The equaliser was scarcely deserved, but Wenger deserves credit for putting the house on a dramatic substitution to prevent the foundations from giving way because the Emirates was at serious risk of imploding.
The massacre in Munich in midweek provided a telling insight into the alarming deficiencies that eat away at Arsenal's defence.
Tottenham needed half an hour to chip away further at the home side's fragile confidence.
The title challengers' back four isn't so much an Achilles' heel as it is an ugly gaping wound that threatens to add a gloss of gangrene to their campaign.
The warnings were there before the visitors took the lead.
Tottenham's high-pressing game against Arsenal's counter-attacking essentially saw countering piled on counter-countering like a scruffy game of Jenga.
But three games in six games for Spurs initially appeared no less debilitating than Arsenal's 5-1 humiliation in Germany. It was pinball with no wizards.
Tottenham took too long to probe their opponents' inherent weaknesses.
With Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both out, Joel Campbell made up the numbers on the right wing and Mathieu Debuchy was retained despite making a mess of his right-back role in Munich.
As the game progressed, Danny Rose slowly blossomed along Tottenham's left.
A free-kick from that side found Eric Dier's head in the 25th minute. The midfielder stooped low and missed the sitter, but highlighted Arsenal's soft underbelly.
They still nod off with dreadfully poor timing. Seven minutes later, it cost them. They went to sleep and woke to a derby-day nightmare.
From the halfway line, on the left, naturally, Campbell stepped off Rose, allowing the fullback to curl an exquisite ball into the space between centre backs, inviting Harry Kane to give chase.
In Munich, Laurent Koscielny was sorely missed. In the 32nd minute, he went AWOL again, misjudging the flight of the ball and losing his marker.
The battle between Kane and Koscielny was always going to have a bearing on the contest. The Englishman struck the first blow, slipping the ball past Petr Cech, who went down with the speed of a giant redwood.
Kane earned his sixth goal in four games. Koscielny hung his head in despair. He lacked match fitness. His colleagues lacked any sort of cohesion.
By half-time, Tottenham's high-pressing game was ridiculing Arsenal's faulty mathematical equations, namely that two into three doesn't go. Dier, Dele Alli and the excellent Mousa Dembele overran Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin.
Cazorla, in particular, laboured as the game passed him by and was quietly put out of his misery at half-time, replaced by Mathieu Flamini.
Wenger had little choice. The horror show in Munich still haunted Arsenal, leaving them distinctly underwhelming.
Like Manchester City and Chelsea, the Gunners appeared to be the latest challengers ready to rubbish their own title credentials.
Even half-chances were snatched at, with Olivier Giroud nodding Oezil's free-kick onto the bar in the 54th minute.
When he sent a second header past a gaping goal six minutes later, Giroud confirmed the suspicion that he isn't quite the finished article. In a game measured in inches, he still falls short.
Oezil and Alexis Sanchez teased the ball forward, but Walker was an impenetrable force, neatly complementing Rose's attacking forays on the opposite flank.
A humiliating home defeat seemed inevitable until Wenger went all in on Gibbs. The gamble paid off this time and the Gunners now jointly top the table. But if they want to stay there, Arsenal must fix their defence.
- ARSENAL: Petr Cech, Mathieu Debuchy (Mikel Arteta 77), Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal, Francis Coquelin, Santi Cazorla (Mathieu Flamini 46), Joel Campbell (Kieran Gibbs 74), Mesut Oezil, Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud
- TOTTENHAM: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Dele Alli (Ryan Mason 82), Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen (Joshua Onomah 90+1), Erik Lamela (Son Heung Min 75), Harry Kane
YESTERDAY’S OTHER RESULTS
- Aston Villa 0 Man City 0
- Stoke City 1 Chelsea 0