(Reuters) - Form is irrelevant when Arsenal play Tottenham Hotspur in the north London derby, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said on Friday as the race heats up for the two Premier League clubs’ bids to qualify for Europe next season.
While Spurs have picked up eight points in five games since the season’s restart last month, Arsenal have won 10 points, allowing Arteta’s side to leapfrog their old rivals into eighth in the standings — one point ahead of Jose Mourinho’s men.
“A derby has a completely different context to what is happening with the current form,” Arteta told reporters in a virtual news conference ahead of Sunday’s clash.
“I have huge respect for Jose, for what he’s trying to do there. To go there and get a win, we’re going to have to do everything really, really well. I’m expecting a really tough game.
“They’ve had ups and downs but overall you can see what he wants to bring to the club... They’ve had a lot of injuries and he hasn’t had a chance to be consistent with his teams, which was a big disadvantage... But I’m sure he’ll be successful.”
Arteta, who has been involved in numerous derbies such as the Old Firm derby in Scotland as a player and the Manchester derby as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City, said the north London derby was always a special occasion.
The Spaniard, who played seven times for Arsenal against Spurs and was involved in two 5-2 wins against the city rivals in 2012, said his players did not need reminding of how special this game was ahead of their first visit to Spurs’ new stadium.
“They know, they know how the media reacts, what the fans are expecting,” Arteta said. “It’s going to be a shame because it’s such a beautiful stadium, to not have the fans there will not be the same. It will be a strange derby.
“It’s such a special occasion. Rivalry in football, if you take it in a positive way, it brings energy and passion and brings a city together... We’re privileged to have big teams in the city.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge