London: Arsene Wenger hopes today's north London derby against Tottenham Hotspur will prove a catalyst for his Arsenal as they bid to get back in touch with the Premier League's top four. That was the case last season when they hit back from 2-0 down at The Emirates in February with five unanswered goals to earn a victory that sparked a surge in form that helped secure a 15th consecutive season in the Champions League.
Four wins from their opening 11 matches has left Arsenal in eighth position, a point and a place behind Tottenham and 11 behind leaders Manchester United. "This year is important, every London derby is important," Wenger told a news conference.
"As well, we dropped some points recently and we want to come back in a more consistent way of results. That's why, of course, it's a good opportunity to do that. "The distance is not big. It's early in the season. First of all, we play at the Emirates. We know that it's important we are strong there. As well, for us, a successful season is down to consistency of results.
"At the moment that's what we are looking for." Despite champions Manchester City and Chelsea looking the most likely challengers to United, Wenger said there was still plenty of time for Arsenal to get back in contention. "We are a long way off the leaders and that is why we want to come back. We have had that before and we want to make up the ground as quickly as possible," he said.
Arsenal were already out of the title race by the time they hosted Spurs last season when defeat would have left them 13 points behind Tottenham, instead they won six of their next seven league matches and eventually pipped their north London rivals for third place to secure Champions League qualification. Tottenham, who never really recovered from that collapse, missed out despite finishing fourth because Chelsea went on to win the competition.
"It was later on last year," Wenger said. "It was our last chance to catch Tottenham back, because if we lost the game, they were of course out of sight."
Wenger is still sweating on the fitness of Theo Walcott (muscle) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hip) while right back Bacary Sagna is also a doubt because of "fatigue" after recently returning from injury. Sagna scored Arsenal's first goal to spark the comeback in February and said the win transformed their season.
"It changed our season because we got even more confident. From that time, we started winning games and came back," he told Arsenal's website (www.arsenal.com)