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.”