There have been many ups and downs in Arsène Wenger's reign at Arsenal but few of the bad experiences have come against Tottenham Hotspur. Unbeaten in the last 18 league games against his local rivals, Wenger said yesterday that in his time at Arsenal, Spurs has never been the critical match of the season but neither side could afford to lose tomorrow.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 10 but have drawn five of them. Wenger said that the head of steam his side had built up would not count for much in the derby. "When you have a momentum – like when we had not lost for 49 games – after a while you sense that teams nearly accepted they'd lose. That's never the case in a derby. The teams put everything in every time.
"Tottenham want to get out of the relegation zone, we want to get back into the top four – so there's a bit more pressure on both teams. I believe that we can only show on Sunday that we're playing as well as last season. We are on the way up. We are a bit less creative at the moment, though that is linked with confidence. I'm sure this team is ready to score goals."
Arsenal's new £15m signing Andrei Arshavin is not likely to feature at White Hart Lane, he was on a flight back from St Petersburg last night having had to return to Russia to apply for his UK work permit. "I believe he is talented, intelligent and motivated but you have to give him time," Wenger said. "He is not fit because he has 10 days' preparation after a long break."