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.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice