Arsene Wenger admits the first North London derby marks an ‘important’ moment in the season as the Gunners look to build momentum after last weekend’s victory over Aston Villa.
Unbeaten in the Premier League since April – a run of 10 games – the boss claimed that beating Sp*rs will mark a good foundation on which to mount a title challenge.
“It’s an important moment of the season and it has a meaning for everybody,” Wenger told assembled media at his weekly press conference.
“Above all it’s an opportunity for us to take points in the Premier League where every point counts. It looks again this season that every point is difficult to make. Of course we play a home game and we want to win our home games.
“Are they defining points [on Saturday]? I don’t know, but Tottenham has over the years had good players and a good team. To be on top of them of course means that you can fight for the top of the league.”
Tomorrow’s clash marks Arsene’s 44th against Sp*rs over the course of his 18 years at the club. He’s lost only 6 – a record that speaks volumes.
For three Arsenal players, tomorrow’s clash will mark their first taste of the rivalry. Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and Calum Chambers are all set to start with the latter facing his former manager in the same week he renewed ties with old club Southampton.
Handed his debut at St. Mary’s by new Sp*rs manager Mauricio Pochettino, the Argentine admits he’s been impressed by the the versatile defender’s subsequent progress at both domestic and international level.
“Calum is a great personality and he has great talent,” he said. “He deserves his moment now because one year ago, at the start of pre-season at Southampton, he was playing in the development squad. Step by step, he won his place in the first-team. It is not only because he has talent but also because he has great character.”
Thrown in the deep end at the Emirates following his £12 million move, Arsene Wenger reflected that his latest protégé appears to be coping with the demands of playing weekly for a big club.
“I don’t know [how he feels] because he played against Southampton and after he plays against his former manager. The only thing I can say is that he looks like he’s dealing well with the pressure.
“We forget a little bit that top-level competition is first of all pleasure, enjoyment and I just want him to enjoy the game. We forget sometimes that it’s a huge joy to play at that level and I just want him to enjoy it.
“For us he has straight away become a regular player. For a 19-year-old boy that’s very demanding in a club where the requests are very high but he absorbs the game very well, not only physically but as well he deals very well with the huge pressure that is on him for such a big game.
“[The yellow cards worry me] a little bit because he has three yellows and after five you miss a game. But that’s down to the fact that he’s committed and lacks sometimes experience in the challenge.”