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Wenger calls for consistency
Published : 16 Nov 2012 13:55:00
Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal players to kickstart their bid to break back into the Premier League's top four by beating Tottenham.
The Gunners host their north-London neighbours in need of a confidence boost following a dip in form which has seen them win only two of the previous seven Premier League games, leaving them languishing in eighth place. Spurs, meanwhile, are one position higher, three points off fourth spot after last weekend's defeat to Manchester City, their third loss in four. "For some time, we were winning championships and Tottenham were not in the top four at all, so of course they have got closer in recent years, but fortunately we managed always to get above," said Wenger.
"Tottenham have a good side every year and they are a team who are now fighting with us. "It is important in the end to have consistency, and certainly the results in the two derbies can have a big influence as well on the qualifying spots for the Champions League." The last time the sides met at Emirates Stadium, in February, Spurs raced into a 2-0 lead before Arsenal battled back and ran out 5-2 winners, a result which was the catalyst for a fine end to the season which saw the Gunners finish third.
Spurs would eventually end up fourth and miss out on Champions League football after Chelsea won the European Cup. Wenger added: "Every London derby is important. We dropped some points recently and we want to come back in a more consistent way of results. That is why it is a good opportunity to do that tomorrow." Arsenal drew their last home game 3-3 with Fulham, having looked comfortable when 2-0 up midway through the first half.
Mikel Arteta saw a penalty saved in stoppage time which would have won the match. Critics claim had that spot-kick gone in, the victory would merely have "papered over cracks" in the current Arsenal squad. Wenger, though, insisted his players were up to the challenges ahead. "If you call 'cracks' for lack of unity, I don't believe it at all. This team has a fantastic spirit," he said. "If the results are not at the moment completely what we want then I agree, but we are not in a desperate situation. "It is down to us, the season will be what we make of it now, it is as simple as that."
Arsenal have fitness concerns over winger Theo Walcott and Arteta, as well as in-form striker Olivier Giroud, who has returned from midweek international action with France carrying back and hamstring problems. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who could be back in the side for the first time since September after recovering from an ankle problem, will be monitored, along with midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Wenger revealed there were also concerns over whether to throw Bacary Sagna into action once again following the France full-back's return from a broken leg. However, midfielder Jack Wilshere should come back into the side after he was suspended for the Fulham game, provided he shows no ill-effects from his England appearance in Stockholm. Wenger feels having come through the Arsenal academy, Saturday's game will take on an added edge for the 20-year-old. "Jack arrived here at the age of nine and that means this game is in his heart, in his brain, for the whole season every year. From the youth teams up, the rivalry exists," said Wenger. Wilshere continued his rehabilitation from more than a year out when he played in the second half against Sweden on Wednesday night. Wenger said: "Jack had not played for 17 months and the fact that he just has got over the first three, four games without any setback is very important."