Belfast Telegraph

Arsene Wenger: Arsenal will be ready to fight in north London derby

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will be sending out a team ready to fight as he looks to mastermind a victory over title-chasing Tottenham in Sunday's north London derby.

A number of elements will make this meeting between the fierce local rivals all the more interesting, especially as it will be the last at White Hart Lane.

Spurs, who confirmed on Friday that they will play at Wembley next season before returning to a new stadium on the site of their current home, will hardly have needed extra motivation as they look to keep on the coat-tails of Premier League leaders Chelsea.

And it is also a big game for the Gunners - particularly Wenger, who will be taking charge of his 50th north London derby on Sunday.

It could well be his last.

The 67-year-old Frenchman has yet to announce publicly whether he will sign a new deal to remain at the Emirates Stadium beyond the end of this campaign.

A vocal minority of fans have turned on Wenger in recent months as Arsenal slipped out of the title picture and were humiliated in the Champions League.

But they go into this clash having secured a place in May's FA Cup final and with renewed optimism that they can break back into the top four.

And Wenger knows showing those battling characteristics which his players have displayed on occasion this year will be key to his team's chances on Sunday.

"The combative side, yes, of course, will be right," he said.

"In this kind of derby where you know commitment will be 100 per cent on both sides. To be capable to fight, yes, will be a very big part.

"It's true that for a while, the first Bayern game (5-1 loss in Munich on February 15) and Chelsea game (3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge on February 4) was a big knock. For a while we bit like a boxer who got put on the floor twice.

"We lost a little bit and people interpreted that as them not caring. No. Maybe it's because they care very much that we were like that - shocked. We were shocked.

"I think the players care. The players have a good mentality. I love the attitude of this team. There's a good atmosphere compared to one or two months ago."

Wenger has a number of tactical options for the game, including whether to stick with his new-look three-man defence or revert to a back four.

He also has a dilemma in attack as he has to decide between Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott or Danny Welbeck to lead the line.

Wenger revealed that he is being overly cautious with Welbeck since he returned from a second serious knee injury back in January and that the former Manchester United man is still not training properly having only started six games since then.

"Recently he has not practised a lot because he had a pain in his toe and needed to be stopped from training," he said.

"I don't play him at the moment regularly because he's not fully consistently present in training. Yes, certainly (it is frustrating)."

Wenger has a number of injuries to contend with on Sunday with Laurent Koscielny rated at only 60-40 to be involved while fellow defender Shkodran Mustafi sits out for at least another two weeks.

Lucas Perez, David Ospina and Santi Cazorla are also absent as Wenger chases a 23rd victory over Tottenham to leave White Hart Lane for the final time with a smile on his face.

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