Arsenal unable to cope without Declan Rice as sloppy Gunners lose their way against Tottenham

The north London derby felt like a game where Declan Rice would underline his importance to Arsenal - and so it proved.

Unfortunately for Mikel Arteta, it was not in the manner he would have wished. Rice was conspicuous by his absence in the second-half, with Arsenal’s midfield struggling without the England international - who went off with an injury.

His replacement, Jorginho, was sloppy dispossessed for Tottenham’s equaliser to make it 2-2 and it summed up the Gunners’ malaise.

Without Rice, Arsenal lost the lead and their way. At 2-1, you backed them to go and take charge of the game - but instead Spurs were level within a minute.

It was a nightmare goal for Arsenal to concede and one that was entirely of their own making. They never really recovered from it, unable to rediscover the rhythm that had help them shine in the first-half.

Rice has been at Arsenal a matter of months, but this draw demonstrated his immense importance to the team already. The midfielder just plugs so many holes, covering ground at a ridiculous rate to break up counter-attacks.

He brings a sense of control and calm too, and as emotions ran high at Emirates Stadium it was clear Arsenal missed his leadership.

Arteta has been without several players this season as injuries have taken their toll. Jurrien Timber and Thomas Partey have been out since August, while both left wingers Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard were absent today having picked up injuries this month.

Arsenal have so far ridden those, but the loss of Rice today felt like a bridge too far.

It should, to a degree, not come as a surprise. At £105million, you would expect to find a hole in your team if Rice was out - but perhaps not one as gaping as this.

The nature of this game should be taken into account, too though. Nothing can compare to the emotion of a north London derby, which no matter the circumstances of either teams throws up drama and goals.

Truth be told, this is about the last match, save maybe Manchester City, that Arteta would have wanted to haul Rice off at half-time.

The Spaniard will just hope that Rice’s injury is nothing serious. On this evidence, Arsenal cannot afford to be without him for long.