Tottenham on a par with Arsenal claims Redknapp

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The Independent Online

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp insists the gap with Arsenal has been closed and there is little to choose between the bitter rivals ahead of their Barclays Premier League clash this weekend.

Spurs are level on points with Arsene Wenger's men, albeit having played a game more, and there are genuine hopes of grabbing a Champions League place, possibly at the expense of their neighbours in north London.

"I feel we're getting closer to them, without a doubt," Redknapp said.

"They play fantastic football but so do we. We have a squad here capable of matching anyone so we will be going there to win the game, absolutely. We always go for it and we only know one way to play.

"We'll be positive and take it to them. Certain parts of our game can cause them problems and we have to take it to them and give them something to think about it."

Spurs are looking for their first league win over Arsenal since 1999. They have never won at the Emirates Stadium and their last win at Highbury was in 1993 - so history is with the hosts.

However, Redknapp has been encouraged by his first year in charge at White Hart Lane, pointing towards the quality at his disposal among his first team.

"Maybe Arsenal have got a bit more strength in depth, a few more younger players ready to step into the first team, but I think we've got a terrific squad and in certain areas we are stronger than them," he said.

"We've improved by bringing in three strikers, we're strong at central defence and we have two terrific goalkeepers. We have a squad that can cope at the very highest level."

Redknapp needs to utilise his squad as winger Aaron Lennon has an ankle injury, meaning David Bentley will make his first league start of the season after previously getting his attitude in training questioned by his manager.

"He's in the right frame of mind and looks very sharp," Redknapp said.

Luka Modric is a long-term injury concern and Jermain Defoe is suspended, meaning Redknapp will not have three of his key attacking players. He is confident Peter Crouch can cause Arsenal problems after returning from a groin problem.

"Crouchy's played in a lot of big games and World Cups and nothing is going to faze him," Redknapp said. "I am hoping Crouchy can cause them problems and he can be unplayable if you hit him with the right ball. How can a fellow who is six foot beat a fellow who is six foot seven?"

The player likely to be given the task of marking Crouch is Thomas Vermaelen, a player Redknapp may have signed before he joined Arsenal.

"I was recommended him as a left-back but we were strong in that position," he said. "The people who recommended him didn't speak of him as a central defender but he and William Gallas look very solid at the back.

"Crouch can cause anybody problems. Vermaelen has a great spring, but if the service is good there's nothing you can do to stop Peter."

It is just over a year since Spurs snatched their dramatic 4-4 draw at the Emirates Stadium after going into the dying stages 4-2 down, with Redknapp feeling the result gave his men the momentum to kick-start their season.

"I turned to (assistant) Kevin Bond with 10 minutes to go and he said I can't believe we've got two goals away and have lost 4-2," Redknapp said.

"I said 'it's not over yet' because we were getting opened up easily. We turned it round and showed great character, then we beat Liverpool, and suddenly Tottenham were coming from behind and that carried us through the season."

As a result they almost qualified for the Europa League and this season they are looking at joining, or replacing, Arsenal at the top table of European football.

"The ambition has to be to get into the Champions League," Redknapp said.

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