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Saturday 25 February 2012

Wenger issues Arsenal rallying call

Gunners manager wants players to show character in derby with Tottenham

Kyle Walker (right) scored the winner in Spurs' 2-1 win over Arsenal earlier this season

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham is the perfect opportunity for his players to show their character.

The Gunners go into the Emirates Stadium contest after suffering defeats against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League and Sunderland in the FA Cup.

But Wenger is focusing on the positives and pointed to his side’s recent good record in the Barclays Premier League, with Arsenal losing only once in their last five matches.

"We had disappointing results, especially in Milan, and the Sunderland game was a bit unfortunate," said Wenger.

"We have a good opportunity to show that we have character and mental qualities to play for this club"
- Arsene Wenger

"In the Premier League we have drawn with Bolton, won at Sunderland and beaten Blackburn so let's continue our run.

"We cannot complain. We are in a fantastic job and we have a big game in front of us; to feel sorry for ourselves would be criminal.

"We have a good opportunity to show that we have character and mental qualities to play for this club. Let's go for it."

Arsenal are currently in fourth place in the League on the same number of points as fifth-placed Chelsea and 10 points behind Tottenham in third.

Wenger added: "For us it's an important game because we have an opportunity to come back closer to Spurs, that we can strengthen our position in fourth place and that's of course a very important target in the season."

Tottenham are enjoying a superb campaign having lost only four matches in the League, and are aiming to finish above their north London rivals for the first time since the 1994/95 campaign.

"That's the most important thing for me this year to be honest, to be the top London club," said Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.

"We have had the upper hand in the derby for the last few years, but they are dangerous opposition"
- Harry Redknapp

"We have got a nice cushion at the moment but we have all seen 10 points erode very quickly. We have got a tough run of games coming up.

"We have to keep it going and keep playing the way we are at the moment. That third spot - I want that at least."

And Redknapp added that although his side have got a cushion over Arsenal, they will have to be at their best to win this weekend.

"We have had the upper hand in the derby for the last few years, but they are dangerous opposition," he said. "It will be a difficult game.

"They have had a bad week but they have got good players and are a good side.

"It's important we start well. We want to make sure that in the first 15 minutes or so we get hold of the ball and frustrate them early in the game and get that anxiety coming through in the crowd."

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Key Points

  • Arsenal play Tottenham in the north London derby
  • Arsene Wenger wants his side to show their character
  • Spurs boss Harry Redknapp aims to finish season as the top London club