LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) - Arsene Wenger is wary of a wounded Tottenham Hotspur as his Premier League title-chasing Arsenal side head to White Hart Lane for a crucial north London derby on Sunday.
While Arsenal are hardly in the best of league form, having lost their last two away from home, Tottenham’s season is in danger of imploding after a 4-0 drubbing at Chelsea last weekend and 3-1 midweek home defeat by Benfica in the Europa League.
It would appear to be the perfect time for Arsenal to face their bitter rivals, although with Wenger only having three league wins at White Hart Lane since arriving in 1996, he knows that form is often irrelevant in highly charged games.
“We have played two draws and three losses there (in the last five league meetings at Spurs),” Wenger told reporters on Friday.
”It is a difficult ground to go to for everybody.
“It has always been difficult at White Hart Lane but we are in a position where of course we want to win the game.”
Arsenal’s defeat at Stoke City put a dent in their title hopes. They are in third place, seven points behind leaders Chelsea with some difficult matches to come.
Tottenham are fifth, six points behind Arsenal and four behind Manchester City, who have three games in hand.
“After Stoke it was very important that we had a good result against Everton (in the FA Cup). We had a good result even at Bayern (in the Champions League) but it’s important that we continue and have no weak moment any more until the end of the season,” Wenger said.
Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood, who will be taking charge in his first north London derby since replacing sacked Andre Villas-Boas in December, has endured a difficult few days after an encouraging start to his managerial career.
Sherwood publicly questioned his players’ attitude after a second-half collapse at Chelsea, but he has received some sympathy from Wenger, who has seen nine Spurs managers come and go during his tenure at Arsenal.
“I think he said that the performance was not right, and I say that as well sometimes,” Wenger said.
”For the rest I think he is dealing with it well.
”Tottenham have bought so many players that it might take them some time to get the right balance or find the right level. I think they are a good side.
“I still think it always takes time when you bring in many new players, but you cannot say Spurs have had a bad season, they’ve had a good season and they are there.”
Should Tottenham lose, their hopes of finishing in the top four would be as good as finished, according to Sherwood.
“If we still have any hope of getting in the top four we have to win on Sunday,” said Sherwood.
“In some ways it’s the perfect match for us after the week we’ve had.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Stephen Wood