Tomorrow’s north London derby at the Emirates will be the 177th occasion of the on-pitch fireworks between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. There is a certain kind of buzz associated with any local rivalry, and the north London derby is no different. Arsenal may be coming on the back of a Champions League humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich, but the Gunners are already in derby mood, having already got Bayern off their minds.
“I think you enter the pitch differently in a derby, you prepare yourself during the week in a totally different way. You go in with your head thinking differently and everything is very different,” Gabriel told Arsenal’s official website, clearly buzzing for tomorrow’s game. The Brazilian will be in line to start should Laurent Koscielny fail to get match fit, although Arsene Wenger rates the Frenchman’s chances of playing at 80 percent.
One man who will have his first taste of the derby is goalkeeper Petr Cech. Cech was left out of the squad in the Gunners’ League Cup win over Spurs earlier in the season, but will be one of the first names on the team-sheet for tomorrow. The Czech Republic captain isn’t getting overly excited by the occasion though, instead sharing his experience of dealing with high pressure games.
“You need to play with your heart and with a cool head. In these types of games you need to make sure you play in the right way and you still need to keep your game going as this is how you win — because one free-kick, one mistake in terms of cards and it can change the game,” Cech said.
The last time both teams met, there was one player who hogged the limelight and stole the headlines. Mathieu Flamini isn’t nailed on for a start tomorrow, but his two goals last time out was the difference-maker as Arsenal went on to win 2–1 in the League Cup. Flamini is a plucky character on the pitch, snapping into tackles and recycling possession in an unfashionable manner. And he isn’t your average Joe who would hide his emotions in a game as big as the north London derby.
“It is a power, an energy, an electricity and something that drives you crazy. When you are on the pitch, I am talking about adrenaline and it’s exactly that. Some people jump from a plane to get this adrenaline, others go to the stadium. It is something you want to experience, not just see on TV.
“The ingredients [of a great rivalry] is first of all a winning mentality. When you play against a rival, what you want most of all is to win it. After, of course the fans are very much involved because they are part of it, you want to win and you play against another big club with a lot of history and you want to prove that you are better than the other one,” said Flamini, clearly keeping nothing in his pockets.
Regardless of the result tomorrow, it is clear the Arsenal stars will approach the game with the motivation to get one over their rivals, who have been on a good run of form themselves having not lost in the league since the opening day of the season. “It [the derby] is also about the history that Arsenal has of giving all it has in every match, of being determined,” said Gabriel.
The derby promises to be yet another advert for what the Premier League stands for, and the buzz among the Arsenal players suggests the magnitude of the occasion for both the teams.
Commitment and Nerves Key To Derby Win, Says Wenger
Wenger has become a specialist against Spurs during his Arsenal career. The veteran Frenchman has never finished below Spurs in the league, and his Arsenal teams over the years have scored more goals against the Lilywhites than against any other team.
However, Wenger is facing a job to motivate his troops after they were taken apart in Munich, although the Gunners have a good recent run of league form to rest upon. Wenger is hoping to isolate the Bayern result and take confidence from his side’s league form, which is the best over the last five games.
“I believe that in the Premier League we have a strong confidence and focus and that is what we want to reproduce on Sunday against Tottenham and, as always, it is a derby. It is always a game where the commitment and nervous force will be important,” said Wenger.