Xenia Sports – London
Mikel Arteta concedes his Arsenal side will be coming up against one of Europe’s deadliest forward lines in Sunday’s north London derby – but has said it is too early to consider Tottenham as Premier League title contenders.
Arsenal head to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium knowing defeat will see them fall 11 points behind their hosts.
While the Gunners have lost half of their 10 Premier League games so far this season, Jose Mourinho’s Spurs head into the weekend top of the table.
There has also been a stark difference in the attacking prowess on either side of the north London divide this year.
Arsenal has scored just 10 goals – only the current bottom three have fared worse – and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not scored from open play in the league since the opening day win at Fulham.
In contrast, Spurs have been free-flowing with both Harry Kane and Son Heung-min in scintillating form.
Son has nine goals while England captain Kane has weighed in with seven goals and nine assists.
There are slight fitness concerns over Kane ahead of the first north London derby of the season but Arteta admits Spurs currently have the edge when it comes to attacking talent.
Asked if his defense had to be prepared to face one of the most potent strike forces in European football, the Spaniard replied: “Yes, absolutely.
“They are in a great moment, they are full of confidence and you can see how much belief they have in what they do.
“When they have moments of difficulty, they stick to the plan and they believe they will get the result at some stage and at the moment it’s happening for them.
“They’ve been doing really well and that’s the reason why they are where they are.”
As the Spurs sit pretty at the top, Arsenal has been trying to identify how they can improve having lost their last three home league games in a row.
It is their worst start to a league campaign since the 1981-82 season and ESPN revealed angry exchanges took place between the players in an attempt to clear the air and address a poor run.
Arteta is determined to make the short journey back across London three points closer to Tottenham and feels it is too early to say whether Mourinho’s men will challenge for the Premier League title this year.
“I think it’s very early in the season to see who is title contenders or not,” he added.
“But what you can say is what I said before is that they (Spurs) are in the position they are because they are doing things the right way.
“What we have to look at is where we will be after 38 games in the league. Now what is going to happen after Sunday, we want to be close and finish three points closer to them.”
Arsenal welcomed back 2,000 supporters for their Europa League win over Rapid Vienna on Thursday and Arteta said afterward that playing in front of their own fans for the first time in nine months gave his players a lift.
But on Sunday they will be on the receiving end as Tottenham supporters return in time for the derby – although Arteta refuses to see it as a negative for his team.
“A derby without fans is not the same,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time and I’m not going to complain.
“Honestly, I’d rather play in a stadium with an atmosphere, with some fans and at this moment it’s going to be for them with their supporters and the next week it will be us.
“We’d better get real with that. We will bring more fans back when it’s safe and, as a professional, it makes sense when you have to handle that extra pressure… when you have fans pushing you, giving you extra energy.
“This is our profession and the beauty of it is that we can share it with them.”