Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Match preview

By Richard Clarke

It is very unusual for an Arsenal press conference not to be about Arsenal. Arsène Wenger is the most quotable manager in English football and his side are the most stylish around.

However, for once, Tuesday’s media meeting directed the attention away from Emirates Stadium. Harry Redknapp arriving at tonight’s visitors Tottenham, Juande Ramos and Damien Comolli leaving them, ex-Arsenal legend Tony Adams taking the top job at Portsmouth as a result – everything was discussed but Wenger’s side themselves.

It was understandable. Tottenham’s troubles have been manna from back page heaven for the past few weeks. Despite Sunday’s Redknapp-inspired win over Bolton, they will start tonight’s North London derby still rock bottom of the Premier League table.

However Wenger argues that the attention must return to its rightful place, the pitch, once the first whistle blows this evening. And that’s where his side can thrust themselves back into the limelight by continuing their fine recent run.

“I wouldn’t like to speak too much about Tottenham,” said the Frenchman at the start of Tuesday’s press conference.

“I believe what is important is how well Arsenal play and not who sits on the bench at Tottenham.

“We have put a run together and that has strengthened our belief. Now we want to go from strength to strength.

“We have come back to an interesting position in the League and we are highly convinced that it will be down to our strengths more than anything else.

“I believe if there is one game that is a bit special at Tottenham, no matter who sits on the bench, it is Tottenham v Arsenal so I don’t think that [the new manager] will change a lot for this game.

“Certainly in the longer term future, the fact that Harry has taken over will change things for Tottenham. But I believe, in this specific game, it is more about how well we will play. That is more important than anything else.”

Wenger welcomes back Denilson into the squad after a mild inflammation of the back kept him out of the game against West Ham. Otherwise the manager has the same squad available however he is likely to rotate in the way as he did at Upton Park.

Despite their different backgrounds, Wenger and Redknapp have always enjoyed a cordial relationship. One may be foie gras, the other jellied eels but, the Frenchman says, they have the same basic appetite for success.

“We are completely different people,” said Wenger. “But I respect everybody in this League.

“I was fighting against him 12 years ago at West Ham, we know each other and we have always had good connections. I like the fact he loves football and we share the same passion.

“Time will tell [if it works for him at Tottenham]. But everybody in England would say Harry is good at buying players and balancing his teams. And, of course he has a lot of experience to manage sides well.”

Redknapp will need all of it.

For most of this season, Tottenham have been a juggernaut without a steering wheel. Before Sunday's win they had picked up just two points and started to become the butt of endless internet jokes.

However an away win against their biggest rivals would more or less put them back on the right road in the space of 90 minutes. That is why there is more at stake than three points and bragging rights tonight.

Unsurprisingly, many Arsenal fans have revelled in their rival’s troubles. Their manager, however, has taken a different outlook.

“Look,” he replied when asked about the issue, “I would just love Arsenal to be champions.

“In life you are happy with what you achieve and not what other people don’t achieve.

“It is fooling yourself to think your happiness is linked to what other people don’t do.

“You are happy only with what you do.”

But whatever your perspective on Tottenham's troubles, happiness is an Arsenal win tonight.

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