Press conference

'It's always a game that's emotionally charged'

Arsene Wenger has taken charge of us for 51 north London derbies, but he says the emotional charge of the fixture remains as fierce as ever.

We head into Saturday’s game at Wembley Stadium with the pressure on as we look to bridge the gap between us and the top four, but the Arsenal manager says the match has always been special, no matter what is riding on it.

on his standout memories of north London derbies…
The memory is always the huge passion before the game and the emotional state. That becomes a bit more agitated. I worked with Pat Rice when I arrived for many years, so he got me very quickly on that territory! It’s always a game that is a bit more emotionally charged because of the importance it has for us, the fans and everyone around the club. This season, if you look at the table, for us it’s a very important game.

on who tells the new players about the fixture’s significance…
The players know because we’ve had many players who have been here for years. The good thing in sport is that you have to find a good balance between being rational and and emotional. As much as you have to certainly be emotionally-charged because of the importance of the game and needing to get the high energy level, once you’re on the pitch you have to be calm, focused and make good decisions. That’s why you can’t let the emotions take over. At the end of the day, it’s down to making good decisions on the football pitch.

on whether this has become the biggest fixture on Arsenal’s radar in the fixture calendar…
It’s the next one, so the next one is the biggest. It is a big game because we are behind in the table and we have to catch up. I must say that personally, it’s more important mathematically for us to come back as quickly as possible, rather than it being emotionally-charged. I’ve known the importance of this game for more than 20 years but for us, it’s an opportunity to come back in the table and get closer to the Champions League spots. That is the priority.

on being surprised by how quickly Pochettino has settled…
Yes and no, because I always think that when a [manager] comes in certainly the club has done its homework and that he has some talent. He has proven that since he is here, so he has done a good job and that is what you want. You wish that every manager who comes into the Premier League will bring something special and will be capable of surviving in an environment that is very harsh and demanding.

on whether there’s a better striker in Europe than Harry Kane…
If you look at the numbers, no, because he has high numbers. What you want in a game like that is to keep him quiet and our strikers, who are top class in Europe as well, to express their talent.

on internal defensive solutions to stop Harry Kane…
The answer will be on Saturday. We can talk and talk and talk, but at the end of the day it is the numbers that will show that. The best way to defend is for us to have the ball and to take the game to them, and after - when we don’t have the ball - to defend as a team.

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