Arsenal face a big test of their Premier League titles on Sunday on the short trip to rivals Tottenham.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners, chasing their first league title since 2004, start the weekend five points clear of second-placed Manchester City.
Fifth-placed Spurs are vying to win four consecutive league matches at home to Arsenal for the first time.
“I think the players are in a good emotional state,” Arteta said.
“They’re excited, they like playing together and obviously we’re in a good position. Now we need to improve a lot of things and maintain a lot of the good things that got us here.”
However, Arteta admitted they may have to change their ‘behaviour’ after the club were accused of failing to control their players. It was for their angry reaction to not getting a penalty on Monday FA Cup win against Oxford United.
“I prefer not to comment on this [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 of behavior.”
Spurs boss Antonio Conte has called on both groups 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 of being a referee, of making decisions,” said the Italian.
“I think bullying or creating a bad atmosphere isn’t right. I don’t like it. I hate people who try to do that. Remember we’re still talking about a football game.”
Arsenal are on an 11-match Premier League unbeaten streak, while Spurs have lost five of their last 11, including October’s 3-1 loss at the Emirates Stadium.
“Arsenal must show they can deal with the favourites”
Arsenal entered the weekend with a five-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
On the side of Pep Guardiola 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’re at the top of the league, the perception of your opponents totally changes.
“You are the best team in the league at this moment. For this reason, everyone wants to try to beat you.
“Of course, Arsenal have to deal with this situation of being favorites to win the league at the moment because they are top of the table. They have to show that they are good at dealing with this type of situation.
“These last 10 years, it was always the same, between [Manchester] City, Chelsea and Liverpool. Maybe Leicester.
“Now Arsenal have a great opportunity. They have been working on a project for many years. They are doing very well. They have fired a lot of players, and brought in a lot of players and they are spending money to do that.
“Now they have to show they can stay there until the end of the season because I’m sure Manchester City are not okay with it and will feel the real possibility of winning. [the title] again.”
“I think it’s a battle between Arsenal and Manchester City.”
Tottenham winger Dejan Kulusevski is expected to be fit after missing the last three games with a muscle issue.
Striker Richarlison and midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur face fitness tests, while Lucas Moura remains out with a hamstring injury.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka was sent off at Oxford in the FA Cup on Monday but is likely to be available.
Forwards Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson are still sidelined with respective knee and thigh problems.
THE PREDICTION OF CHRIS SUTTON
I’m looking forward to this game and it will be quite interesting to watch the technical areas when Conte and Arteta are both there.
On the pitch, it could be much less of a contest. Arsenal are a much better team, and for most of the season Tottenham’s performances just haven’t been good enough.
Sutton’s full predictions against singer-songwriter Gaz Coombes
- Spurs have managed to score just one of their last 17 top-flight appearances for Arsenal – a 2-0 defeat in November 2017.
- The Gunners are aiming to complete their first league double against Spurs since the 2013-14 season.
- Tottenham have lost three of their last four Premier League home games, winning the other.
- Spurs have scored 27 of their 37 Premier League goals in the second half of games this season, more than any other team.
- Conversely, they have scored just once in the first half of their last 13 matches in all competitions. It was Harry Kane’s goal against Leeds in November.
- Antonio Conte has only won two of his 10 games as a coach against Arsenal (D4, L4).
- Harry Kane is one short of equaling Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s top scorer with 266 goals for the club.
- Kane is also one step away from 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 derbies in London for the first time since the 2007-08 season, when they beat Spurs home and away.
- They can win five consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time since September-October 2018 under Unai Emery.
- Six of Arsenal’s eight clean sheets this season have come from home.
- Mikel Arteta led Arsenal in six North London derbies to a record three home wins and three away losses.
- Eddie Nketiah has scored five times in his last five appearances in all competitions.
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