Wenger summons Arsenal nerve for Spurs test
Reeling from their mid-week humbling by Bayern Munich, Arsenal face a test of nerve on Sunday when Tottenham Hotspur take their 10-game unbeaten Premier League run across north London.
Arsenal have been flying in the league, winning five consecutive games to draw level on points with leaders Manchester City, but Wednesday’s 5-1 drubbing in Munich left Arsene Wenger’s side in grave danger of failing to reach the Champions League knockout phase for the first time in 16 years.
It comes at a time when injuries have laid waste to the Arsenal squad and with Spurs unbeaten in the league since the season’s opening day, Wenger knows that his team will need every ounce of self-belief they can muster.
“It was a disappointing result on Wednesday night, but before that we did extremely well in the Premier League so we will try to continue from one competition (to) the other,” the Arsenal manager said.
“I believe that in the Premier League we have a strong confidence and focus and that is what we want to reproduce on Sunday against Tottenham.
“It is always a game where the commitment and nervous force will be important.”
Arsenal’s travails will give Tottenham hope that they can bridge the five-point gap that currently separates them from their derby foes, despite a return of just one win from their 12 previous visits to the Emirates Stadium.
Striker Harry Kane, who has never previously played at the Emirates, is wary of an Arsenal backlash, but having played his part in successive home wins over Aston Villa and Anderlecht this week, he believes that Mauricio Pochettino’s side have nothing to fear.
“They took a bit of a hiding in mid-week and they are going to want to put that right,” said the England striker, who has rediscovered his scoring touch with five goals in his last three games.
“We have come off two very good wins so we are going into the game on a high and hopefully we can finish the week off well.”
– ‘Come out firing’ -He added: “It is going to be a great battle and everyone is looking forward to it. We want to go there, set a high tempo and play well.
“It was not a good night for them (against Bayern). A lot has been said about that result and, as fellow players, you know they will come out firing to try and put things right. So we know what to expect.”
Kane scored a brace, including a memorable looping header in the 86th minute, when the teams last met in the league as Spurs ran out 2-1 victors at White Hart Lane in February.
But it was Arsenal who prevailed when their paths last crossed in late September, an unlikely brace from defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini giving Wenger’s men a 2-1 victory in the League Cup.
Wenger has admitted to being “very concerned” about Arsenal’s injury crisis, which has left Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky on the treatment tables.
Arsenal hope that centre-back Laurent Koscielny will be fit to play after he sat out the drubbing in Bavaria with a hip problem, but right-back Hector Bellerin will not feature due to a groin injury.
Spurs left-back Danny Rose is expected to recover from a knock that forced him off during Monday’s 3-1 win over Villa, while Clinton Njie could return to the match-day squad following a hamstring complaint.
South Korea star Son Heung-Min made his return following a six-week lay-off with a foot problem in Thursday’s Europa League victory against Anderlecht, which took Spurs to the top of Group J.
But midfielder Nabil Bentaleb and winger Nacer Chadli are both out with ankle injuries, while Andros Townsend has been sidelined after clashing with a fitness coach following the Villa game.