“This game is always different for me, yes, but I must say as well that this derby is especially important for our Premier League position. And that has an even bigger meaning for me.
“It is all about the effort we have put in throughout the campaign. At start of the season we were facing a big question and had many doubters about us. We have worked so hard that now we want to transform that into a super successful season. We are in a strong position so, beyond even the derby, is the importance of this game in the Premier League for us.”
Arsène Wenger is wise enough to see Sunday’s game at White Hart Lane in its true context.
"We are in a strong position so, beyond even the derby, is the importance of this game in the Premier League for us."
For some of us, it is a title-decider. This season Arsenal have two falls already in the wrestling match for the north London crown. One more and their victory will be unequivocal.
But, in terms of the Premier League race, it will be a fixture in which rivals will have fancied Wenger’s men to falter. Derbies are notorious banana skins and his side have not won in five visits to Tottenham.
If, as expected, Chelsea and Manchester City win on Saturday then Arsenal will wake up on derby day in fourth place, 10 points off the top.
That does not tell the whole story as the FA Cup has temporarily left games in hand among different members of the top four.
However there would be pressure not only to win the derby but produce positive results in a following fortnight that includes Chelsea (a) and Manchester City (h) no less.
Fortunately, Wenger’s men found momentum last weekend against Everton and lost little forward motion in midweek despite exiting the Champions League in Munich.
“That was important for us,” said Wenger. “In the FA Cup we've beaten many good teams - Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton. And we made a very good result at Bayern. I think the team should take encouragement from that and go now from strength to strength and finish in a very positive way.
“With the season that we have in front of us now every game is a final,” added Wenger. “We are in a position where we can do well in the League and the FA Cup. That demands confidence. And confidence is linked with results.”
Tottenham may be struggling for that commodity right now given they were beaten 4-0 at Chelsea last weekend and slipped to a troubling 3-1 home defeat to Benfica in the Europa League.
Much has changed since Andre Villas Boas brought his confident, new side to Emirates on September 1 last year. Olivier Giroud’s goal and a superb defensive performance secured one of the most important “1-0s to the Arsenal’ of recent years.
“I think it was a surprising win at the time because it was all doom and gloom around us,” said Wenger. “But we won and the Ozil signing came the day after.
“When I came to the stadium that day it was basically done. But nobody knew about it and everybody expected us to be well beaten yet we responded with a great performance. It was a turning point in the season for the Club.”
|Arsenal: Gibbs (doubt - ankle), Ozil (hamstring) Ramsey (thigh), Wilshere (foot), Walcott (knee), Diaby (knee)
Tottenham: Walker (doubt - groin), Dembele (doubt - hamstring), Adebayor (doubt - ankle). Chiriches (back), Capoue (ankle), Dawson (hamstring), Lamela (back)
Villas Boas departed in mid-December. Tim Sherwood has kept his side on the fringes of the Champions League race but the gap between them and the top four is starting to look lengthy.
“They have had some changes over the season,” said Wenger. “I think now they have a new manager who he tries to find the right formula but [remember] they are still up there.
“Every year since I have been here we have had a battle [at White Hart Lane] and the way that we approach the game mentally will certainly play a part in the result.
“But we should take confidence from our last two performances and we have to make sure that mentally we are at the same level.”
As ever, the game that is closest to the heart will be won by the team with the clearer heads.
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