ARSENE WENGER: Forget about Barca, let's win at the Lane
Arsene Wenger has challenged his depleted Arsenal side to bounce back from their mauling in Spain – and win at White Hart Lane. After a testing Tuesday, feeling the full force of a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona, the Gunners face an altogether different
Arsene Wenger has challenged his depleted Arsenal side to bounce back from their mauling in Spain - and win at White Hart Lane.
After a testing Tuesday, feeling the full force of a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona, the Gunners face an altogether different examination at Tottenham on Wednesday night.
This weekend's break from action will be most welcome as they untangle twisted limbs before their journey into enemy territory.
But with games running out, next week's north London derby is a must-win for an Arsenal side who need to pick themselves up after their battering at the Nou Camp. It is a big ask from the manager.
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"The defeat (at Barcelona) is very difficult to handle because when you go out of the Champions League, the next day you are in front of a very empty future," said a clearly shell-shocked Wenger (below) on Tuesday.
"We have to deal with the disappointment and make sure we are ready for the next game.
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"Of course you worry because it is a big disappointment and we have to recover quickly because we cannot drop any points. That is why we have to recover and try to focus on the Premier League completely.
"For us over the years White Hart Lane has been a place where we have done well, so we will not go there with a negative history - but it forces you to focus straight away because you know it will be a derby."
Wenger is right.
While this bitter local affair still remains the one that really matters, Tottenham have lagged far behind their neighbours for at least a generation.
White Hart Lane, despite the bile and intense hatred aimed at those in red and white - and Sol Campbell in particular, who could return for the trip to his former club after wisely staying on the bench in Spain - remains a generally happy hunting ground for Arsenal.
The Gunners are, incredibly, unbeaten in N17 in the Premier League in the new millennium, a fact that sticks in the craw of Tottenham's followers, with two wins and seven draws gained since that dim and distant defeat - a 2-1 home win in November 1999 when Tim Sherwood struck the winner for George Graham's side.
That remains the only time Wenger has tasted defeat there in the league in 14 visits, and he knows he cannot afford to lose in his next game if he is to keep his fading hopes of ending a five-year spell without silverware alive.
Former Arsenal striker Martin Hayes, a veteran of many bruising north London derbies in the 1980s, believes his former club have a great chance of extending their excellent run at the Lane.
"The lads have got a week's rest before the game while Spurs have their cup semi this weekend," said Hayes, now a pundit on Arsenal TV Online.
"Maybe we should be supporting them this weekend because if they win they will be through to the final and that could prove a distraction for them.
"Experience tells me that once you reach a final it can be very hard to focus on the league.
"But Tottenham's game at Wembley could really be to our advantage as it could take a lot out of them. We can rest players this week and we still have a chance for the title so there is plenty to play for this season.
"Wenger will be telling his players that ahead of Wednesday.
"The Barcelona game is history. Really, Lionel Messi was the difference because if it wasn't for him it would have been a far more even game between two passing sides.
"But as I say, it is gone now and there is still the Premier League to go for. Tottenham away is always massive, whatever the context, and we have a great record there.
"I really believe we can go there, do well, and win.