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By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Andre Villas-Boas says Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has left him in no doubt about the importance of Saturday’s clash with Arsenal.
The Portuguese head coach will take charge of his first north London derby at the Emirates this weekend, and he admits that the anticipation has been building ever since the start of November.
“I have been getting it [the importance of the derby] for the last two weeks,” said Villas-Boas. “People have been speaking about it quite often - the staff, the chairman, so you understand the importance of it.
“This is a game where passion is very high. It’s a game that represents three points but is more than that in the history of north London derbies.
“The chairman keeps on mentioning it. I think it’s normal, you really have to embrace it because it’s part of the greater culture of this game - it means a lot for both teams. “You can’t wear red in a situation like this, at this training ground. The meaning of it is quite special and all of us embrace it.”
Steffen Freund stated this week that the rivalry between Spurs and the Gunners is closer that ever, but Villas-Boas feels that the Lilywhites have some way to go before they can call themselves equals.
“I think Arsenal at the moment have got a recent amount of trophies, which is important, and it includes being Premier League champions,” he said. “This is a step up, where we want to be in the future.
“Recently they have got in the Champions League more often. Our objectives are the same for this season too.
“We’re getting nearer in terms of what we’re doing for the club, but the past shows us that at the moment they’re more regular in obtaining those objectives.”
Tottenham are currently one point and one place above their arch-rivals, but Villas-Boas is adamant that the current standings are irrelevant.
“I think it’s completely indifferent at this point in the season,” he said. “Both teams are not where they want to be. They have been where they want to be but now the position in the league doesn’t suit both teams - but both have shown they can do better.
“It’s very early in the league. Last year we were a little bit better at this stage - the worst period came towards the end of the season - so there is still a lot of time. Last season they [Arsenal] had a poor start and managed to clinch third spot by picking up points when the season was decided, so it’s irrelevant to condemn people on a weekly basis.
“You drop three points and you are condemned. You pick up three points and you are back there. This is the nature of the Premier League, particularly when it’s so tight in the league for these spots.”
Villas-Boas admits that Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League are likely to rest upon their ability to finish above Arsenal for the first time since 1995.
“We have to,” he said. “By what I see in the Premier League it’s obvious that Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are in the race for the title and we want to get one of those spots further nearer to us, but it’s difficult - they have other resources.
“We are looking at trying to shorten the gap and not letting it grow. To play for fourth spot is difficult bearing in mind the competition you have to overcome.
“It’s possible to bridge it. We had great games against all three of the top teams - we led in all of those games but lost in two of them.
“What’s important is to gain regular points, but against these teams it’s incredibly difficult. We’ve done it against Man United but we want to do it better next time with Man City and Chelsea - but it’s on the road with other teams that you might shorten the gap.”
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