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Arsene Wenger keen for Arsenal to close gap on Tottenham with north London derby win

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger recognises the emotionally charged nature of the north London derby, but is also keen to stress the importance of victory to their season as a whole.

A win for Wenger’s side in Saturday’s Premier League game against Tottenham at Wembley would take the Gunners just one point behind their fifth-placed rivals and it was that, and the goal of securing a Champions League place via their final league position, that he was keen to focus on at Thursday’s pre-match press conference.

“There is always huge passion before the game and the emotion at stake that becomes a bit more agitated,” he said.

“I worked with Pat Rice when I first arrived so he got me very quickly on that territory. It is always a game that is charged emotionally.

“This season, if you look at the table, is a very important game. For us, it is an opportunity to come back closer to the Champions League places, which is a priority.”

Wenger also gave an injury update on goalkeeper Petr Cech, who had to come off with a calf injury during the 5-1 win over Everton.

Cech could yet to start at Wembley, although David Ospina is in line to replace him in the starting XI if required.

“We have a similar squad to that against Everton,” added Wenger. “Maybe Danny Welbeck will be back – we are not sure about Petr Cech, he has not practised. I don’t know if he will be available.

“Nacho Monreal looks alright again so it should be a similar squad. I have no problem with David Ospina or Petr Cech – I will make that decision tomorrow.”

Arsenal have lost their last two away games from winning positions – 2-1 at Bournemouth and 3-1 at Swansea – but Wenger is confident that will not become a trend.

“We have lost games with 75 per cent possession, at Swansea for example,” said Wenger.

“At the start, it was linked with bad luck, bad decisions – I speak about Watford, West Brom. After that, you question your away form, and that can affect you.

“We lost our last two away games, at Bournemouth where we were 1-0 up, at Swansea where we were 1-0 up. You look at the mistakes we made and I am quite optimistic we will not make them again.”

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