It’s been billed as the biggest north London derby for years, with the two teams occupying fourth and fifth places in the league, and hunting Champions League qualification at the business end of the season.
With just two games remaining after this one, fourth place is within our reach with victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while our neighbours will move to within a point of us should they triumph.
With the stakes so high, and with so few points left to play for this season, the game has the feel of a cup final about it.
“It’s the opportunity to achieve something we haven’t achieved for many years,” Mikel said during his pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
“It’s the game that will decide it. Normally you don’t play games like that in the league unless you are competing for the trophy. But we know that at our level and our extent what this game can deliver to us is really important.
“We always play to win and that’s the way we will prepare this game. I’m sure they will try to do the same. That’s why hopefully it’s a really spectacular game.”
Asked how important Champions League qualification would be, after a five-year absence, the boss said it would have positive ramifications in various aspects of the club.
“It’s what we want to do. It’s what we haven’t been able to achieve in the past few years and it’s had big consequences for the club in the atmosphere and environment around it, financially.
“We want to put that right and the best way to do it and help the club is to deliver on the pitch because the rest naturally comes out and plays out and that’s what we want.”
Arteta is no stranger to Champions League qualification, having achieved it in each of his five seasons as a player at Arsenal, but he says the circumstances are different now.
“At the time obviously the club was very consistent in achieving a Champions League spot so it was almost a must. Now the perception is a little bit different because we haven't been able to do that, so we didn't have expectations to be where we are.
“And being a player and a manager unfortunately is very different, but I’m very excited about it. It's a game that can help us move forwards quicker than expected.
“The expectation is huge. This is an opportunity for one of the clubs to achieve what we are looking for. And on top of that is the emotion and the passion that the derby brings with it.
“We need to be away from that and focusing on what we have to do. To win the match tomorrow we are going to have to be at our very best.”
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