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Wenger calls for consistency
Manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his Arsenal players to kickstart their bid to break back into the top four of the Barclays Premier League by beating arch-rivals Tottenham at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
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 Barclays 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 on Saturday."
Arsenal will assess the fitness of several first-team players.
They include striker Olivier Giroud (hamstring/calf) and winger Theo Walcott (buttock muscle). Midfielder Mikel Arteta (hip) is another causing concern, along with full-back Bacary Sagna (leg), but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is close to a comeback from his ankle problem and could be included in the team for the first time since September.
Midfielder Jack Wilshere will be available again after suspension.
Winger Gervinho (ankle), defender Kieran Gibbs (thigh), midfielder Abou Diaby (thigh) and Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky (hamstring) all continue rehabilitation.
Steven Caulker is licking his lips at the prospect of beating Arsenal in a Tottenham shirt for the first time on Saturday.
Caulker was expected to play only a bit-part role for Tottenham this season but an injury to Younes Kaboul, and the 20-year-old's excellent form during the Olympics, means he is now one of the first players on Andre Villas-Boas' team sheet and has earned an England debut.
Despite his young age, Villas-Boas has placed his faith in Caulker for the games against Manchester City, Chelsea, Lazio and Manchester United - and he is almost certain to start the huge north London derby at the Emirates Stadium.
Caulker made his debut against the Gunners in a League Cup clash two years ago. The experience proved to be an unhappy one as Arsenal ran out 4-1 winners over an experimental Tottenham side.
Caulker did gain a small slice of revenge when he triumphed over Arsenal while on loan at Swansea last season, and he admits lining up against Arsene Wenger's side for Tottenham will be a huge honour.
"It will be very surreal knowing that in the space of two years I will be playing them again in a Tottenham shirt in a league game," Caulker told Spurs TV Online.
"That's what I have always wanted to do. Last year I beat Arsenal 3-2 when I was at Swansea. That was obviously a great moment and I hope we can do the same at the weekend."
Playmaker Mousa Dembele is out with a hip injury.
Aaron Lennon has recovered from a hamstring injury, and Jermain Defoe and Kyle Walker, who also had hamstring complaints, should be fit to play.
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