June 18 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe
Friday, November 16, 2012
Arsene Wenger believes that Tottenham’s advances in recent years mean that results in north London derbies can now have a big impact on who qualifies for the Champions League.
The Gunners play host to Spurs tomorrow in this season’s first clash with their local rivals with both sides side by side in the Premier League table but already off the pace set by leaders Manchester United.
For much of the Frenchman’s 16 seasons in charge of Arsenal, the White Hart Lane side have rarely troubled the top four but under previous boss Harry Redknapp they booked their place in Europe’s top competition for the first time.
Last term they again finished in the fourth place but were denied entry as Chelsea – who came fifth – won the competition and that, for Wenger, shows that the noisier neighbours are closing the gap in the battle for north London supremacy.
He said: “For some time we were winning championships and they were not in the top four at all so, of course, they’ve got closer in recent years but we always managed to get above [them].
“Every year they have a good side and they are always a team that is fighting with us.
“Certainly the results in the two derbies can have a big influence on a qualifying spot for the Champions League.”
Current Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas revealed yesterday that the importance of tomorrow’s fixture has been greatly impressed upon him by chairman Daniel Levy, but Wenger says he does not need similar reminders.
“My chairman knows how much that game means to me and to everybody at the club,” he said.
“I’ve played these derbies for 16 years now so at least I understand the importance of it.”
He added: “Every London derby is important and we dropped some points recently and we want to come back in a more consistent way of results and that’s why it’s a good opportunity to do that tomorrow.”
But away from the rivalry, Wenger agrees that both sides are playing catch-up in terms of the title race.
“Of course, but the distance is not big,” he said, adding: “It’s early in the season but first of all we play at the Emirates and we know that it’s important that we are strong there.
“A successful season is down to consistency of results and at the moment that’s what we are looking for.
“We are a long way off the leaders and that’s why we want to come back. We have had that before and, for us, it’s important to make up the ground as quickly as possible.”