• Premier League

Derby 'not a must win' for Gunners, claims Wright

ESPN staff
March 1, 2013
Arsenal fans have increased the pressure on manager Arsene Wenger © PA Photos

Arsenal's game against Tottenham in Sunday's north London derby is "not a must win" one for Arsene Wenger's side, according to former Gunners star Ian Wright.

Tottenham currently lie third in the Premier League, four points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, and victory at White Hart Lane would increase the gap to seven with ten games remaining, putting them in the driving seat to clinch a place in next year's Champions League.

The Gunners have been dumped out of the FA Cup by Blackburn and are seemingly exiting the Champions League after slumping to a 3-1 first leg defeat to Bayern Munich, and it is looking likely it will be an eighth campaign without a trophy for Arsene Wenger's men.

But despite the recent woes and the increased pressure on Wenger, Wright is of the opinion that Arsenal can afford not to win the derby clash.

"Every game is big," Wright said in his regular column for The Sun. "It was a big game against Aston Villa last Saturday - another defeat would have been disastrous … But I would not say this is a must win match.

"Three points would be fantastic but I think Wenger would settle with a point as the match is at White Hart Lane."

Wright, who last month called for Wenger to depart the club, sees Tottenham coming out of the blocks in the contest, and feels the key battle will be in midfield, with Gareth Bale not the only danger man for the hosts.

"Spurs will start fast. They are at home and brimming with confidence. It's not just Bale, Mousa Dembele has been powerful and dominant. It will be fascinating to see how Dembele and Scott Parker shape up against Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta in midfield," Wright, scorer of 185 goals for Arsenal across seven years, said.

Ex-Spurs boss Terry Venables envisages his former side securing one of the Champions League spots come the end of the season, saying: "After being so cruelly denied last season they will be hungrier to not let it slip through their fingers this time."

Venables also waded in on Bale having the season of his life at Tottenham, but insists the Welsh winger can be thwarted.

"Bale's form at the moment is a terrific boost," Venables added. "He is an exceptional player - and he will get even better - but he is not unstoppable. His left foot is so lethal so Arsenal must keep shovelling him across so he is always on his weaker side."

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