Tottenham v Arsenal Preview - William Gallas
William Gallas believes Arsenal have “a great chance” to finish above Tottenham this season – especially if they can gain an advantage by winning the North London derby on Sunday. Gallas is one of a select few players to have represented both Arsenal and Spurs, joining the latter from the former on a free transfer in the summer of 2010. The Gunners are currently fifth in the table and are two points ahead of their local rivals, but Antonio Conte’s men have two games in hand. Despite this, Gallas feels Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal should be viewed as the favourites to claim a Champions League place at the end of the campaign, if they can guard against complacency and win the derby.
Arsenal Well Placed
Speaking exclusively to Genting, the former France defender said: “Arsenal has a great chance to finish in front of Tottenham – what they’ve shown in the last Premier League games is very, very positive.
“Arsenal have played some good football and the players seem very committed. They understand what they have to do.
“At the same time they have to be careful. We saw the result against [Nottingham] Forest. Sometimes you can become complacent and drop points.
“They have an opportunity to finish above Spurs and to qualify for the top four but they have to respect Tottenham. Tottenham are showing positive signs under Antonio Conte.
“Make no mistake, the game on Sunday can be crucial [in the race for Champions League qualification].
“I’m very excited to see the match and to see who can grab the opportunity. Whoever wins will take advantage for the rest of the season.”
Derby Win Is What Matters
However, Gallas explained that, for the fans, Champions League qualification is secondary to claiming victory over a bitter rival.
“The fans will not be thinking about qualifying for the Champions League, they will want to see their team win the derby,” he continued.
“They can think about Europe afterwards, there is a long way to go.
“This match is so important for the fans. As a player, you have to understand that. This is an opportunity for players to show their passion and commitment for their club.
“You need passion in the derby. When I played in these games, I wanted to show everyone I was the best. I loved these games and the atmosphere was always crazy.
“It doesn’t matter if you play well or not – fans don’t care – they expect you to give 110% and they want to win. Winning is all that matters.
“The biggest [London derby] is Arsenal against Tottenham. It is the biggest because the two clubs are so close to each other in North London.
“The fans are absolutely crazy in the stadium. It is tribal. Before the match starts, when you can feel the atmosphere, it changes players.
“When I played in these games I was like a warrior and just wanted to do everything possible to win the game for my club and the fans.
“I’m sure the players will give absolutely everything. The two teams are so close in the table and both clubs have an opportunity to underline their ambitions in this fixture.
“Tottenham has an opportunity to go above Arsenal, while Arsenal can create a bigger lead. It will be a great game.”
Gallas also reminisced about his first North London derby at the Emirates Stadium as a Spurs player, in which he captained his new side to a 3-2 victory.
He said: “For this game, my first trip to the Emirates after leaving, there was a little bit of extra motivation.
“I knew how the fans would respond to me and I was ready for the boos. I was prepared for a difficult time.
“What I didn’t expect was to be the captain on the day. It’s a great story. Harry Redknapp gave me the armband for the match.
“He saw a story about me in the paper and on the day of the game. In the dressing room, he said to me, ‘You will be my captain today. Can you deal with it?’ I said, ‘No problem. I will do my job.’
“Harry was very clever because he knew that this decision would drive the Arsenal fans crazy, which it did.
“The atmosphere was electric. We won the match 2-3 after coming from behind. It was just unbelievable.”