Exclusive Wenger quotes, classic goals, team news and a quiz. This is your pre-match briefing ahead of the north London derby at White Hart Lane.
A HIGH-STAKES DERBY
The stakes are always high when the north London derby comes around each season - but Sunday’s showdown seems to have more hanging on it than most.
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Not only is this the final game between the two sides at White Hart Lane, but it also finds us fighting for a top-four place and with the chance to derail the hosts' title bid.
It will be Arsene Wenger’s 50th north London derby since his arrival at the club, but he says the buzz of anticipation remains as fierce as it was for his first back in November 1996.
“I’ve got it more than ever because there is a lot at stake on Sunday, for us and for them as well,” the manager told Arsenal Player. “We know we need to go on a run and that game is always special for the fans.
“I think maybe the expectation level is a bit less than usual. But not on our side. Within the group, we know what is at stake and how much we want to win, so we would not say that plays a part in the preparation of our game. We know what we want, we know how we can get it, so let’s focus on that.
“We are in a position where we can deliver something special. There are few times in the season where you can turn up and do that. So I think that’s the moment for us to deliver it.”
A ‘PLUS IN THE CONFIDENCE BOX’
We may head to White Hart Lane as underdogs, but at least we go there with our self-belief back on the rise after three successive victories.
Each win has given us a “little plus in the confidence box”, according to the manager, and it comes at just the right time ahead of a run-in that includes games against Manchester United, Stoke and Everton.
|Arsenal: Mustafi (thigh), Lucas (thigh – doubt), Ospina (back – doubt), Cazorla (ankle), Koscielny (knee – doubt)Tottenham Hotspur: Dembele (ankle – doubt), Vorm (knee – doubt), Winks (ankle), Rose (knee), Lamela (hip)|
“The group is happier and has more belief in its quality [after each win],” the manager said. “When you’re a footballer and you don’t win a game, you question yourself first.
“[You think to yourself] ‘Am I not good enough? Is my performance not good enough?’ and then afterwards you look at what’s around you - ‘Are we not functioning as a unit and why?’
“You get a bit confused about your individual and your collective quality. If you want to be efficient in competition, you need clarity and when you win, that brings clarity because you know that if you do that, you will win. Let’s continue to do that.”
Wenger also believes the nature of those three victories – games in which we have had to dig deep to secure the result – underlines the team’s fighting spirit, a quality that is often underrated by those outside the club.
“It improves your confidence [to win like that] and, for a while the questions around the team were about whether we were mentally strong enough and whether we were committed enough,” he said.
“If you look at the season overall, we’ve scored more goals than any other team in the final part of the game. To do that, you need a special commitment and you need a special belief as well. You need to be united.
“Overall, I believe that you only win if you keep going, if you keep belief high in the team and if you keep trusting in the way you want to play.
“The overall statistics in the season means that the group is mentally strong, and their desire, their persistence, is very strong.”
OUR FINAL TRIP TO THE LANE
When you’ve managed 50 north London derbies over 20 years, there are bound to be some pretty special memories of games at White Hart Lane.
Arsene Wenger has experienced a whole host of highs and lows up the Seven Sisters Road in his two decades at the club and his face broke into a broad smile when asked to recall some of his favourites.
Winning the Premier League title there in April 2004. That incredible 5-4 win at the same venue seven months later. Mathieu Flamini’s stunning League Cup volley last season. There have been some great moments – but, almost inevitably, the first he mentions revolves around a certain Invincible.
“Well, there are some pictures that are in my mind,” he said. “The first time when we went back with Sol Campbell on the coach and drove in there… phhh! That was special.
“When we won the championship at Spurs, of course, because we knew basically before the game [that we could do it]. Then the dramatic changes [to some derbies], so every positive result remains special in your memory.
“It is a quick pitch at White Hart Lane - and it is not massive as well. So overall the memories you have is always of games with frenetic pace, frenetic commitment, frenetic support for them.
“You always have other references going out there. On the right our supporters will be there, so our focus is there, our support is there, so I must say that’s what is in my mind - our support and the pace and commitment of the game.
“Usually [they are high-scoring games] because it’s two teams who try to play. I must say, Tottenham try to play, to go forward. We try to play, to go forward. Usually that is always finishing with goals on both sides.”
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