TOTTENHAM manager Andre Villas-Boas has warned his team against underestimating sleeping giants Arsenal ahead of tomorrow’s north London derby at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners are mired in their worst start for 30 years, currently eighth in the Premier League, having picked up a meagre 16 points from 11 matches. Spurs, who have not finished above their neighbours since 1995, before Arsene Wenger took over, sit one place above.
But Villas-Boas wants his team to learn from the heartache of last season, when they gave up a 10-point lead over their rivals, and with it a Champions League spot.
“Arsenal’s current position is irrelevant because last season they had a poor start and clinched third spot by picking up points at the decisive moment of the season, so it’s wrong to condemn teams on a weekly basis,” said Villas-Boas.
“The league is so tight for these spots. We’re nearer to Arsenal than we were in the past but it is still a step up and is where we want to be in the future. Recently, they have obtained more Champions League qualifications, so our objectives for the season have been within their reach for the last couple of years.”
The former Chelsea manager is looking forward to his first derby since taking over at White Hart Lane.
“I’ve been getting used to this derby for the last two weeks,” he said. “The staff speak about it and the chairman keeps on mentioning it. It’s normal and you have to embrace it. It’s part of the greater culture of the game and it means a lot for both teams.”
Tottenham, who will be keen to bounce back from a cruel last-minute defeat at the hands of Manchester City on Sunday, are without injured central midfielder Mousa Dembele. Returns for Kyle Walker, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon will be decided following assessment.
Arsenal could welcome goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny back into the fray, following tests later today, after being sidelined for two months with an ankle injury. Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are likely to feature, having appeared in the 3-3 draw against Fulham last weekend.
NORTH LONDON DERBY
■ Of their last 10 league meetings, Arsenal have won four, Tottenham three, and three have been drawn
■ Four times in the last four seasons a team has overturned a two-goal deficit to win or draw the fixture
■ Tottenham’s 3-2 win in 2010/11 season is the only time Spurs have won away to Arsenal in 19 years
■ The fixture has seen an average of 4.2 goals over the last five years
■ Emmanuel Adebayor has scored nine goals in the North London derby, eight for Arsenal and once for current club Tottenham