LONDON • Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has said Tottenham deserve their place at the top of the Premier League table but it is too early to call them genuine title contenders.
Jose Mourinho’s Spurs have not suffered a defeat in the league since the season’s opening weekend and have the chance to move 11 points clear of their north London rivals Arsenal when they meet today.
“I think it’s very early in the season to see who is title contenders or not,” Arteta told reporters.
“But what you can say is that they (Spurs) are in the position they are because they are doing things the right way.”
Arsenal, in contrast, have struggled for consistency and sit 14th in the table, while their tally of 13 points is their lowest after their opening 10 matches of any league campaign since the 1981-82 season.
“The table is like that because they deserve it more than us and they’ve done things better than us,” Arteta added.
“We have to accept that. But we want to go there and make that gap three points smaller.”
London has been placed under Tier 2 Covid-19 restrictions by the British government, paving the way for a return of 2,000 fans to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first time since March.
Arteta is hoping his players can feed off the atmosphere too.
“We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time and I’m not going to complain,” he said.
“I’d rather play in a stadium with an atmosphere, with some fans… at this moment it’s going to be for them with their supporters and the next week it will be us.”
- MISFIRING GUNNERS
These statistics show Arsenal, while fifth in the Premier League for most passes this season, have hardly been in the attacking areas.
FEWEST GOALS PER GAME
1 Sheffield United, Burnley 0.4
2 West Brom 0.7
3 Arsenal 1
4 Fulham, Wolves 1.1
FEWEST SHOTS PER GAME
1 Newcastle 8.6
2 Burnley 9.2
3 Crystal Palace 9.4
4 Arsenal, Sheffield United, West Brom 9.5
POSSESSION IN ATTACKING THIRD
25 per cent (15th in league)
IN OWN DEFENSIVE THIRD
29 per cent (4th)
PASSES PER SHOT
DRIBBLES PER GAME
1 Arsenal have won only one of the last 12 away league derbies, losing seven and drawing four.
The Arsenal boss also confirmed that midfielder Thomas Partey, who has been out since he picked up an injury against Aston Villa last month, is back in training and in contention for the match.
Nicolas Pepe, meanwhile, will serve the second of his three-match ban following his red card against Leeds United last month.
As Arsenal – winless in their last three league games – hope to bounce back, pundit Jamie Redknapp has urged Spurs not to adopt their pragmatic style of play and attack the struggling Gunners.
“If it was a full house (at the stadium) they’d demand them to go forward… the fans want to see good football, they’ve been used to it over the years,” he told Sky Sports.
“If Harry Kane and Son Heung-min want to play and have a go, it doesn’t matter what the manager says… I think they will have a go at this Arsenal team because of how they’re struggling themselves.”
The odds may be in Tottenham’s favour but Mourinho has also said his team will not need to be warned about complacency.
“I think everybody knows what Arsenal did recently, the way they beat Chelsea (in the final) and (Manchester) City (in the semis) to win the FA Cup,” he said.
“The way they played in Liverpool in spite of defeat, the way they beat (Manchester) United at Old Trafford, the way they normally play against the top teams.
“I don’t think I need to (warn the players about complacency).”
Spurs had a number of injury concerns earlier this week, most significantly over their star striker Kane.
But Mourinho has said that the 27-year-old is “going to be fit”, while Erik Lamela is still out on the sidelines and Toby Alderweireld remains a doubt following a groin problem.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
TOTTENHAM V ARSENAL
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