More than bragging rights at stake in N7

London derby now a must-win for Wenger

Arsenal go into tomorrow's north London derby with so many of their old certainties fraying.

Their ability to compete with the European elite is weaker than it has been for years. Their chances of qualifying for next year's Champions League are fragile, and at the mercy of the continuing chaos at Chelsea. And, worst of all, their claim to local superiority is under threat for the first time in Arsène Wenger's reign.

Stewart Houston was in charge the last time Arsenal finished beneath Tottenham Hotspur, in 1994/95. Lose to Spurs tomorrow, and Arsenal will be 13 points behind them with 12 Premier League games left. It used to be unimaginable: last season's 3-2 defeat was their first home loss to Spurs in 17 years.

But after consecutive traumatic cup defeats to Milan and Sunderland, Arsenal is now an anxious place. Tottenham have lost just one of their last 11 games, and last time out in the league played some remarkable football in a 5-0 defeat of Newcastle United.

Wenger could have been forgiven some nervousness yesterday, but insisted that adversity provided the most revealing moments. "We live in a world where everybody is positive when it goes well," he said, "but life is not only ups, it is ups and down, successful lives are how people respond when you are down."

Clearly, Wenger relishes the competitive challenge of the run-in. While he would obviously rather Arsenal were doing better, he loves having something to fight for. "Every game is massive now until the end of the season, but it is exciting," he confessed. "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."

"It is the most important game because it is the next one," Wenger continued. "That is what top-level sport is like. For us it is important but because we have an opportunity to come back closer to Spurs and strengthen our position in fourth place, which is a very important target."

And despite the last week's disappointment, and the inevitable continuation of the trophy drought, Wenger will not permit self-pity or melancholy to seep into his team. "You can't complain," he said. "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, the mental qualities to play for this club. No matter what we say at the moment it will be printed in a negative way. It is up to us to transform that into a positive."

Wenger knows that results are worth worrying about, and thinks that criticism is not. "I fight for what I can master," he said. "And I cannot master what people say. It's a waste of energy and of time to speak about people who have opinions."

Arsenal's hopes of reasserting themselves tomorrow have been undermined by injuries. "I look at some teams, top teams, when they just miss one or two players, you really see it," Wenger noted. "So when you look at us, what we had out since the beginning of the season, it was difficult to imagine that you would have so many players out for such a long period."

Aaron Ramsey is out with an ankle strain, Francis Coquelin with a hamstring, and Sebastien Squillaci with a groin problem. With fitness tests today for Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs, the result will be another re-organised defence.

"It was a blow to lose Mertesacker," Wenger said, "because he is a good reader of the game and a calming influence." Johan Djourou is likely to start at centre-back.

Arshavin goes home on loan as Zenit meet Arsenal's terms

James Olley

Andrei Arshavin last night joined Zenit St Petersburg on loan until the end of the season after a dramatic chain of events at Arsenal.

The Gunners had dismissed two previous offers from Zenit, who it is understood then made an approach to the player directly with an assurance of first-team football. Arshavin (right), keen to play regularly to ensure his place in Russia's squad for Euro 2012, requested a meeting with Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger on Tuesday at which he asked to rejoin his former club.

The Gunners hierarchy demanded a £1m loan fee, which seemed certain to scupper the deal as Zenit "went quiet", according to a source close to the deal.

But Zenit agreed yesterday afternoon to pay the figure, as well as to cover his wages and bonuses.

Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living