Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has urged his players to seize their moment and beat rivals Tottenham on Saturday to move within a point of their neighbours.
The Gunners head to Wembley knowing they can close right up on Spurs, who currently occupy third place in the Premier League table.
After three successive wins – a run which has seen Emery nominated for Premier League manager of the month – Arsenal head into the third north London derby of the season in better form than their hosts.
In contrast, Tottenham were beaten at Burnley and Chelsea in their last two games – dropping out of the title race and potentially into a scrap to finish in the top four.
Emery knows the challenge of securing Arsenal’s first away win over their nearest rivals since 2014 remains a difficult one but believes recent form should give his players all the confidence they need.
“We’ve been speaking about the opportunity and each match gives us the opportunity to win three points,” he said.
“Sometimes we can take the big opportunity like tomorrow because there were 10 points difference between us and Spurs two weeks ago. Now it’s four points.
“Tomorrow we are going to play together and it’s very important for both teams. It’s very different if you win or lose.
“This is a big opportunity for us to play with confidence in our moment, respecting them because they lost two matches but they are still having a very good season.
Yes, Unai! — Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 1, 2019
“We want to play with confidence and also free in our minds, with a focus on our game plan. All individuals can have this confidence.
“Usually I’m not thinking about the ‘if’s’ – I’m thinking in the present and the moment.
“We will prepare to deliver the best performance individually and collectively. We need to be strong and we need to be very concentrated over 90 minutes and we need to read different moments in 90 minutes.
“When we get our chances, we need to be efficient in attacking moments against them.”
Emery also insisted he did not have to put any work in on preparing his players mentally for a big day at the national stadium.
“Matches like tomorrow’s, the players know that it’s important for us because we want to get three points to improve in the table,” he added.
“Then afterwards, it’s special for the supporters. We are playing for three points and more tomorrow.
“I think tomorrow is a very different match to other matches. It’s not important about their moment or our moments, because both teams will play with motivation.
“It’ll be different for us because it’s away and more against their supporters. For us to prepare, it’s about thinking about the best Tottenham, and thinking we need to be strong going into the match tomorrow.”
It will also be a special occasion for Emery as he takes charge of a team at Wembley for the first time.
Asked if he was excited to be managing at Wembley, he replied: Yes. I am looking forward to playing the match tomorrow and watching our performance, and hopefully enjoying 90 minutes with a very big atmosphere.
“We know our supporters are going to be with us, more their supporters, but our supporters will be there. Together, we can be concentrated on doing the rest.”
Arsenal are likely to have captain Laurent Koscielny available after he shook off a knock to his knee in Wednesday’s 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth, while Stephan Lichtsteiner is also fit following a back problem.
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