Arsenal skipper Robin van Persie and right-back Bacary Sagna have suggested that Sunday afternoon’s highly anticipated North London derby could make or break the remainder of the club’s season, with no less than a win considered acceptable.
The Gunners have done all but win in the last few days, virtually crashing out of the UEFA Champions League and falling short in a massive FA Cup clash three days later.
Furthermore, the last time they were playing bitter cross-town rivals Tottenham Hotspur, they were beaten 2-1, a result that propelled Tottenham to a break-out title-chasing season and condemned Arsenal to fighting desperately for Champions League qualification.
Nevertheless, a fantastic home record (eight wins, two draws, and only two defeats) has kept the Gunners’ hopes alive to realistically finish as high as third – a feat that would make them London’s most successful outfit this season.
But for that, they will have to start cutting into the Spurs’ 10-point lead, making the three points at stake on Sunday absolutely critical to earn.
“They’re above us for the first time in many years but it’s in our hands to change the way things are going, win the game and start moving closer to them,” said van Persie, who leads the league in scoring.
The Dutchman added: “A draw will not be a good result for us [on Sunday], either in our bid to catch up with Spurs or in our efforts to fight off our other challengers (Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle) for a Champions League place.”
Frenchman Sagna, who suffered a major injury during the aforementioned defeat at White Hart Lane earlier this season, echoed his captain’s sentiments towards the derby match.
“The first game was a nightmare for me because I got injured and was four months out. This match is a good opportunity to show that I am back and to be decisive even,” Sagna explained in an interview with Arsenal Player.
He added: “Every game is important but the derby is the killer one. This is one of the biggest games of the season and we know we have to win it. It will give us even more power to move forward.
“We play Tottenham, they are the enemy this weekend and we lost the first game [at White Hart Lane] and we want to bounce back from it. For the fans it is even more important because it is a derby and we can’t lose.”
While Arsenal may be out of running to win any silverware this season, the recent loan spell of legendary striker Thierry Henry helped them pick up some much needed points in the league.
Henry’s proven track record of being a champion was invaluable to a Gunners squad that sorely lacks a winning mentality and even though he has now returned to the New York Red Bulls, the prolific veteran also maintains that a derby win is all it would take for the Gunners create a quick revival.
Sagna quickly agreed with that viewpoint, asserting: “We can only look forward, we can only change things and this is the right time to do it.”