Arsene Wenger has called on his players to deliver a calm and focused performance against Sp*rs at Wembley even though he knows from experience that the occasion can be emotionally fraught.
One a nine-game winning streak at the national stadium – a run that has seen them collected five trophies along the way – the Gunners head into the clash in a positive frame of mind, all the more so following the impressive home debuts of new signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang against Everton.
While the duo are yet to experience the ferocity of the North London derby, Wenger insists that his established players will have informed them of the importance of the occasion.
“The players know [the importance] because we’ve had many players who have been here for years,” Wenger told press on Friday.
“The good thing in sport is that you have to find a good balance between being rational and and emotional.
“As much as you have to certainly be emotionally-charged because of the importance of the game and needing to get the high energy level, once you’re on the pitch you have to be calm, focused and make good decisions.
“That’s why you can’t let the emotions take over. At the end of the day, it’s down to making good decisions on the football pitch.”
Of his own memories of the derby, he added: “The memory is always the huge passion before the game and the emotional state. That becomes a bit more agitated.
“I worked with Pat Rice when I arrived for many years, so he got me very quickly on that territory! It’s always a game that is a bit more emotionally charged because of the importance it has for us, the fans and everyone around the club.
“This season, if you look at the table, for us it’s a very important game.”
Arsenal head to Wembley knowing a win would close the gap on their neighbours to just one point. A defeat, on the other hand, would seriously harm the Gunners top-four ambitions. It’s a real six-pointer.
“It’s the next one, so the next one is the biggest,” replied Wenger when asked if the fixture is the most important of the season.
“It is a big game because we are behind in the table and we have to catch up. I must say that personally, it’s more important mathematically for us to come back as quickly as possible, rather than it being emotionally-charged.
“I’ve known the importance of this game for more than 20 years but for us, it’s an opportunity to come back in the table and get closer to the Champions League spots. That is the priority.”