Wenger hoping for derby day boost

Arsene Wenger is looking to Sunday's north London derby against Tottenham to kickstart Arsenal's struggling season.

The Dutchman celebrates his double.

The Arsenal boss wants to mark his 15th anniversary in charge of the Gunners by proving they are still a force in English football after six years without a trophy.

There could be few better stages to do so than in the frantic atmosphere of a packed White Hart Lane against an in-form Tottenham side with former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor leading their attack .

The importance of the fixture was drummed home to Wenger the moment he stepped inside Highbury in 1996 when the football world were still referring to him as `Arsene Who?'

How long did it take him to grasp the importance of the rivalry?

"Two days," Wenger said, recalling one of his first meetings with assistant Pat Rice.

"Because when you see Pat Rice, you realise the game is important. I didn't know that well what the north London derby was like before I arrived here.

"But when you experience it it is different. In England you have some derbies that are really passionate; Tottenham-Arsenal, Liverpool-Everton, Man United-Man City."

With Arsenal having amassed just seven points from their six matches so far the derby takes on even greater significance.

"It's not like any other game," Wenger said.

"It is for us an opportunity to continue our way back to a more ambitious position in the league. The fact that it is a derby makes it more difficult but it is more enjoyable. Fantastic. Both sets of fans are up for it."

Wenger is irritated by the criticism he and his team have attracted since the sales of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City.

But with Theo Walcott likely to return after recovering from his injured knee and Gervinho (hamstring) facing a late fitness test and a Tottenham side packed with attacking intent, the derby could be a feast of attacking football.

Wenger said: "Maybe people expected us to crumble completely with the start that we had but they don't know us well enough. We have a very strong mentality in the team, we are highly focused and motivated and we are no fools.

"Tottenham are a good side and it could be a difficult game but it will be less difficult if we turn up with a great performance."

To those who have suggested it is the changing of the guard in north London with Arsenal's period of domination at an end, Wenger said: "To me, they (Tottenham) have always been direct rivals every year we have played them.

"They always have good teams. They had (David) Ginola and (Teddy) Sheringham. They had always great players.

"But we are at the end of September and the season finishes in May. Don't come to quick conclusions, there is a long way to go."

Wenger refuses to look back and savour the triumphs of his 15 years in charge which have brought three Premier League titles and a Champions League final appearance against Barcelona.

Instead he concentrates on potential future successes, insisting that given time Arsenal can be the world's top club under his guidance,

"All what you have done in life is not so important, what you do in front of you, that is what is exciting," Wenger said.

There is little chance, however, of him jettisoning his miserly reputation any time soon.

England's most parsimonious top boss dismisses any thought of reckless investment and shrugs aside any criticism.

He said: "Look, it is quite simple, the whole world is bankrupt and the one who is not is accused of not being bankrupt. I can't understand it."



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