Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur: What the Gunners Are Saying Ahead of the Derby
Arsenal face a stiff test when they play North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur. For the first time in a long time, Arsenal go into this game as the underdogs, even though they play at home. Spurs' form has been such that most expect them to win.
There are at least three reasons why Arsenal would want to win this match. To maintain the bragging rights as the kings of North London, they must backup their words with action.
Moreover, a win is vital for the team's revival after back-to-back losses in their last two games, losses that have effectively eliminated the team's chances of winning a trophy this year.
Still again, a win will put them on the same points as Chelsea and keep them challenging for a Champions League spot.
By beating Bolton Wanderers at home by three goals, Chelsea effectively reclaimed the fourth place spot on the Premiership table, at least for this week. Arsenal would have to win by four goals against Spurs to reclaim the spot. Barring an amazing breakthrough, this isn't going to happen.
Although Arsenal are the clear underdog in the current derby, the players still fancy themselves to win it. The following is what a few of the players have said ahead of the match.
Thierry Henry: Victory Will Revive Arsenal
Thierry Henry admits Spurs are the better team this year, which is why an Arsenal victory could change the team's fortune. It could revive them for the final push for the end zone.
For years we have been used to being on top of Tottenham, by a mile, and now it is the opposite. But this is the derby, which you don't want to lose, and we need those three points massively.
Hopefully it will be the derby that can spark the players, the fans, everybody at Arsenal Football Club. We'll see.
The league is going to be very difficult but the top four is in Arsenal's hands. They have the squad, there is a long way to go, they have to play Chelsea at home, Tottenham at home, Newcastle at home, Man City at home… it is not impossible.
It, indeed, is not impossible.
Robin Van Persie: Only a Win Will Do
"Only a win will do," says the Arsenal captain, who—in the last two games—was unable to dig his team out of the fix of losing back-to-back games despite being on bristling goal-scoring form. It is a habit—the scoring habit, that is—he will be looking to rekindled on Sunday at the derby.
Speaking to the Official Matchday Programme, the captain said:
What better way to set things straight again than to beat Spurs?. I’d rather be playing them now than on any other day, and we know that a win is absolutely vital.
I don’t think anybody would deny that Spurs have a really good side – and they’ve added consistency this season. They’re winning the tougher games and, as a result, have made that next step towards the top teams.
Spurs have invested a lot of money over the past few years, and when you look at the figures it’s reflected in their league position.
Quality players like Van der Vaart, Adebayor, Bale, Modric and Lennon will win you games when the going gets difficult - any one of them can step up and make the difference at a given time.
Why would victory be vital?
They’re above us for the first time in many years but it’s in our hands to change the way things are going, win the game and start moving closer to them.
A draw will not be a good result for us [on Sunday], either in our bid to catch up with Spurs or in our efforts to fight off our other challengers for a Champions League place.
A Herculean task but achievable is what van Persie seems to be saying.
Bacary Sagna: A Personal Challenge
Bacary Sagna will be looking for a more propitious outcome to this derby. Arsenal not only lost the first one of the season, but Sagna himself was hit by a great adversity that kept him out for four months.
The first game was a nightmare for me because I got injured and was four months out.
This match is a good opportunity to show that I am back and to be decisive even. I would like to win the game because it would be special to me.
He explains why the derby is important:
Every game is important but the derby is the killer one. This is one of the biggest games of the season and we know we have to win it. It will give us even more power to move forward.
We can only look forward, we can only change things and this is the right time to do it.
We play Tottenham, they are the enemy this weekend and we lost the first game [at White Hart Lane] and we want to bounce back from it. For the fans it is even more important because it is a derby and we can't lose.
To help his team to victory, Sagna knows he must be alert to the danger of Gareth Bale.
[Bale] is a very good player, he was PFA Player of the Year last year and he deserved it,” Sagna told Arsenal Player.
He is a great player, but every weekend we play against great wingers. He is extremely quick, that's why you have to stay close and make sure he does not come quickly at you.
Will it be impossible to beat Spurs? "No," he says.
We can beat anyone, like Barcelona, but we can make silly mistakes and lose games. We need to improve this.
[Tottenham] are doing better but I think every team has surprised me this season. Every team can beat anyone.
Tomas Rosicky: Arsenal Must Stick Together
It is gloom and doom ahead of the match from critics and a section of Arsenal fans.
The media would like nothing more than to see the Arsenal house fall. And since the Chelsea house survived this weekend's assault, it'd please them to see Arsenal collapse, which is why Rosicky admonishes everyone in the Arsenal camp to stick together.
The outside world will try to separate you, they smell blood, so we have to stick together and for the rest of the season fight for fourth place.
We are there right now so we want to keep that position. Togetherness is very important; we can't be influenced by the outside.
We have the quality to [finish fourth], there's no doubt about it, but we have to avoid performances like those last week.
All people of goodwill towards Arsenal would hope, like Rosicky, that the gloom dissipates this week.
Johan Djourou: We Must Prove We Are the Kings of London
Johan Djourou, if he plays, will not be thinking of fourth place on the table. The battle at hand will eliminate that thought for a short while. He explains to Arsenal.com:
When you play them, you forget the table; it is a battle and the best team will win.
They are in great shape this season, they have been playing a lot better than before but you have to forget about that and go to war.
They have a lot of quality, we shouldn't be blind about that. They have players like Modric, Parker, Adebayor and Bale so it’s a good team.
When you play well you gain a lot of confidence. At the start of the season some people wrote them off because they lost a few games but since then they have been unbelievable. But it is up to us to show that we are the kings of London.
A lot of respect there, but the throne of London is at stake.
Kieran Gibbs: It's More Than a Fixture
The Derby means a lot, says Kieran Gibbs. It can help Arsenal win back their respect as well as appease the fans, he thinks.
It’s more than just another fixture, it has something special and we can use it to put things behind us.
We owe the supporters a lot – we have to hold our hands up about what’s happened in the last week or two, we know that we didn’t do what was required of us and everybody has been feeling very apologetic towards the Club and the fans.
Can they win? He think so.
This is the game in which we can overcome [our adversity], and there’s so much to lift ourselves for. We’re still in the top four in the Premier League and I’m sure we can stay there.
Spurs have improved a lot, though, and you have to give them credit. Any team that’s in their position at this stage of the season has clearly done well, so we’re in for a real battle. All I can say is that we’ll be ready.
Gibbs thinks Arsenal's injuries this seasons haven't help the team in their campaign for top honors.
At one point we had so many players out, and it just hurt to see the team effectively cut in half. It was so frustrating, and when you can’t help the team you almost blame yourself in some ways. You wonder why it’s happening, and just want to get back as soon as possible.
Wojciech Szczesny: Finishing Above Spurs Is a Personal Goal
Back in December, Wojciech Szczesny thought Arsenal could still finish above Spurs this season. Currently, it's all a tall dream. But this is what the Arsenal goalkeeper said back then in an interview with the Evening Standard:
Getting above Tottenham is the main target. We don't want to finish below them no matter what.
That's just my personal ambition because I am one of the fans and so it means a lot to me to finish above them. I am confident we will do so.
Why did he think this would happen?
They will slip up eventually. They have been in good form – you have to give it to them – but I am confident we are a better side and will finish above them. Time will tell if they can handle the pressure but they look good at the moment. Hopefully they will drop points in the second half of the season.
Isn't the gap—currently at 10 points—between the two teams on the Premiership table insurmountable?
I don't think there is a big gap between the teams in terms of quality.
They just got the winning goal and that was the difference. But we showed that we are just as good as the richest team and possibly, at the moment, the best team in the league, so that gives us confidence we can beat everyone else.
They will drop points. They lost against Chelsea, who are a good side, and they seemed to have got their confidence back. We are confident, playing well while they are on top of the league but United are catching up. Everyone can win it still.
It is too big a gap but we hope we can make it smaller and then we can talk about challenging for the title. We are confident going into the Christmas period that we can get the results.
That was back then, what Szczesny thinks about this now is anyone's guess. What is sure is that he has his work cut out for him stopping Emmanuel Adebayor and company on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Jack Wilshere will be hoping for an Arsenal win to ensure that his confidence that Arsenal will finish above Spurs this season isn't dealt a further blow.
Arsene Wenger: It Is a Massive Game
It is a massive game, but it should not stop the players from enjoying it, says Wenger:
Every game is massive now until the end of the season, but it is exciting. What is terrible is to play a game of no importance. What is important is that we enjoy it and come out with a good performance.
I don't know [if this is my most important derby]. It is the most important game because it is the next one. That is what top-level sport is like.
For us it is important because we have an opportunity to come back closer to Spurs and strengthen our position in fourth place, which is a very important target.
You judge [who are top] at the end of the season. The only thing you can say is that in the last 15 years Spurs have finished behind Arsenal.
Does the match come at the wrong time? Wenger doesn't think so:
It is not the easiest task but that is part of our job.
You can't complain - we are in a fantastic job and we have a big game in front of us. To feel sorry for ourselves would be criminal. We have a good opportunity to show that we have character, that we have the mental qualities to play for this Club and so let's go for it.
He surveys the past week and half:
We had disappointing results, especially in Milan.
The Sunderland game was a bit unfortunate for two reasons: we played three away games on difficult pitches and the game was positioned on an impossible day for us after coming back from Milan. We lost a game against a team with zero shots on target, we scored two own goals.
We were a bit unlucky because Sunderland played well but there was a 100 per cent penalty on Robin van Persie, things went against us but we won just one week before against Sunderland in the league.
In the championship we have drawn 0-0 at Bolton and beat Blackburn with a good score. Let's continue our run. No matter what we say at the moment it will be printed in a negative way. So it is up to us to transform that in a positive way.