Arsene Wenger knew all about the talents of Luka Modric before Tottenham signed the Croatian midfielder. The Gunners boss takes his Arsenal team to Tottenham on Sunday for a north London derby which doubles up as a celebration of his 15th anniversary in charge. If Arsenal are to come away with anything they will need to contain the play-making talents of the man Tottenham refused to sell to Chelsea in the summer transfer window.
Chelsea were not the first club to take an interest in Modric, though, with Wenger having previously checked him out. Wenger said: "We knew Modric before Tottenham knew him. We played against Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League and he played in the same team as Eduardo against us. "At the time we had (Cesc) Fabregas, not a bad player. But we were interested in Modric. He is very mobile. I'm not surprised how well Modric has done, I knew he would do well." Arsenal winger Theo Walcott looks set to return on Sunday following a knee injury along with Gervinho (hamstring) but central defender Laurent Koscielny is out and Alex Song is likely to feature. It could be a defining match in Arsenal's season as they attempt to recover from a wretched start. Yet Wenger, whose last major trophy was lifting the FA Cup in 2005, insists he has lost none of his ambition and believes he still has the drive to make Arsenal the best club in the world. Wenger said: "I miss winning titles. Very much. You only have one way, to fight and win again. "I feel part of what is very important for us is to transform the club into a top-level club, into a club that has a fantastic future potential with values that we think are very important in the game. "The style of play, the way we behave to develop young players, to give a chance to people who deserve it in life. "That for me is very important in the history of the club. The vision is to make this club the best club in the world, it is as simple as that."
Wenger urged the Arsenal fans not to abuse Emmanuel Adebayor, the former Arsenal striker who is on loan at White Hart Lane from Manchester City. "You want people to support the team in a positive way," Wenger said. "A football game is a fantastic day that everyone has to enjoy and with a positive atmosphere it is even more fantastic so let our fans get behind our team and forget about the rest." Striker Jermain Defoe is confident Tottenham will continue their recent good form in the eagerly-anticipated encounter. Tottenham's current three-match winning streak means they are favourites for the clash at White Hart Lane, which will be Defoe's 15th appearance in a north London derby. The England hitman's partnership with Adebayor has been key to Spurs` upturn in form, with the pair finding the net seven times since the latter signed on a season-long deal. "It's the big one, a massive game," Defoe said. "Games like these are the ones you want to play in. "I will definitely be ready for it. I'm sure the fans can't wait and we can't either. "With the way that we are playing, we are confident." Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who made 10 changes to his team for the Europa League win over Shamrock Rovers in midweek, will give Aaron Lennon a fitness test after he had to come off with a groin problem. William Gallas (calf), Michael Dawson (Achilles) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle) are out but Steven Pienaar is available to play his first game of the season after overcoming a groin injury.
Having spent all his career at Tottenham, no-one in Redknapp's squad knows more about north London derbies than club captain Ledley King. After years of being underdogs in the contests, Spurs have enjoyed relative success in the fixture in recent years, losing just two north London derbies since Redknapp took over - one of which was in the Carling Cup. King thinks that the vast experience within the Tottenham squad means they will be able to cope better with the raucous atmosphere. "They're always massive games against Arsenal," King said. "There won't be too many lads who haven't experienced the derby before, maybe just Scotty Parker at the moment. "He is an experienced player though and he'll know what it's all about. "The rest of us know it's a great game to be involved in. "When you drive up to the ground it's a completely different feeling and when you get out playing the atmosphere is electric."
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