Arsenal face a big test of their Premier League title credentials on Sunday when they make the short trip to arch-rivals Tottenham.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners, seeking their first league title since 2004, start the weekend five points clear of second-placed Manchester City.
Fifth-played Spurs are vying to win four consecutive home league matches against Arsenal for the first time.
“I think the players are in a good emotional state,” said Arteta.
“They are excited, they are enjoying playing together and obviously we are in a good position. We have to now improve a lot of things and maintain a lot of the good things that have taken us this far.”
However, Arteta did admit they might have to change their “behaviour” after the club were charged with failing to control their players. That was for their angry reaction to not getting a penalty in Monday’s FA Cup win over Oxford United.
“I prefer not to comment on that [charge],” he said. “Anything we can do to improve we will always have a conversation with our players, the staff, as a club as well to see what we can do better, if we have to change any behaviour.”
Spurs boss Antonio Conte has called on both sets of players to respect referee Craig Pawson this weekend.
“You have to show respect in every situation and especially also with the referee because I know very well the difficulty to be a referee, to take decisions,” the Italian said.
“I think to intimidate or to create a bad atmosphere is not fair. I don’t like this. I hate the people that try to do it. Don’t forget that we are talking always about a game of football.”
Arsenal are on an 11-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, while Spurs have lost five of their last 11, including October’s 3-1 loss at Emirates Stadium.
‘Arsenal have to show they can face favourites tag’
Arsenal went into the weekend with a five-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola’s side lost 2-1 at Manchester United on Saturday, meaning Arteta’s side could finish the weekend eight points clear.
Speaking on Friday, Conte said: “When you are at the top of the league the perception of your opponents change totally.
“You are in that moment the best team in the league. For this reason, everybody wants to try to beat you.
“For sure, Arsenal has to face this situation of being favourites to win the league at this moment because they are top of the table. They have to show they are good to face this type of situation.
“In the last 10 years it was always the same, between [Manchester] City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Maybe Leicester.
“Now Arsenal have a great opportunity. They are working for many years in a project. They are doing very well. They sent away a lot of players, and bring in many players and they spend money to do it.
“Now they have to show they can stay there until the end of the season because I’m sure Manchester City doesn’t agree and will feel the real possibility to win [the title] again.”
“I think it is a battle between Arsenal and Manchester City.”
Tottenham winger Dejan Kulusevski is expected to be fit after missing the past three matches with a muscle issue.
Forward Richarlison and midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur face fitness tests, while Lucas Moura remains out with a tendon injury.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka was forced off at Oxford in the FA Cup on Monday, but he is likely to be available.
Forwards Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson are still sidelined with respective knee and thigh problems.
CHRIS SUTTON’S PREDICTION
I am looking forward to this game and it will be interesting enough just to watch the technical areas when Conte and Arteta are both out there.
On the pitch, it might be far less of a contest. Arsenal are a much better team, and for most of the season Tottenham’s performances have just not been good enough.
- Spurs have failed to score in just one of their previous 17 top-flight fixtures with Arsenal – a 2-0 defeat in November 2017.
- The Gunners are aiming to complete their first league double over Spurs since the 2013-14 season.
- Tottenham have lost three of their past four Premier League home games, winning the other.
- Spurs have scored 27 of their 37 Premier League goals in the second half of matches this season, more than any other team.
- Conversely, they have scored just once in the first half of their past 13 fixtures in all competitions. That was Harry Kane’s goal versus Leeds in November.
- Antonio Conte has won only two of his 10 matches as a manager against Arsenal (D4, L4).
- Harry Kane is one short of equalling Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s leading scorer with 266 goals for the club.
- Kane is also two shy of 200 Premier League goals and is aiming to become the third player to reach that milestone after Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer.
- He has nine goals in eight Premier League home games against Arsenal.
- Arsenal have won all six of their top-flight London derbies this season, keeping a clean sheet in all three away games.
- The Gunners are vying to win seven successive Premier League London derbies for the first time since the 2007-08 season when they beat Spurs home and away.
- They can win five successive away matches in all competitions for the first time since September to October 2018 under Unai Emery.
- Six of Arsenal’s eight top-flight clean sheets this season have come away from home.
- Mikel Arteta has managed Arsenal in six north London derbies with a record of three home wins and three away defeats.
- Eddie Nketiah has scored five times in his last five appearances in all competitions.
Predict Tottenham Hotspur’s starting XI for their next fixture – remember you can change the formation!
Predict Arsenal’s starting XI for their next fixture – remember you can change the formation!
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