Spurs looking to exploit shaky Gunners

Andre Villas-Boas hopes Arsenal’s shaky defence will suffer from another bout of nerves in today’s North London derby.

The Gunners’ season has been blighted by defensive shortcomings.

They won but still shipped five against Reading in the Capital One Cup, lost to Norwich recently and conceded three against Fulham last week.

After the draw against the Cottagers, Arsene Wenger said his defence looked “fragile”, and Tottenham manager Villas-Boas hopes the Gunners will have another off day at the back today.

“You try (to exploit) those things,” Villas-Boas said.

“When we went to Man City we did that, but as soon as they equalised, the environment turned.

“You can benefit from the buzz that’s around people. There’s always one more game for you to make the same mistakes.”

Spurs, of course, have not been immune from defensive lapses of their own this term.

Villas-Boas’ men have thrown points away in the last 15 minutes in four of their 11 matches — a problem which has caused the team to drop out of the reckoning for the Champions League places for now.

Yet there have been no collapses quite as spectacular as the one in last year’s thriller at the Emirates Stadium. Tottenham raced into the lead thanks to goals from Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor, but they wilted under pressure and went on to suffer a humiliating 5-2 defeat.

Villas-Boas does not want a repeat performance today.

“It’s a game where you can’t sleep. You have to be aware all the time,” he said.

“Hopefully we take the lesson.’’

Wenger’s plans for today’s game have been thrown into chaos with a string of players battling injury.

Preparations for the match had been hampered by fitness concerns over key men like Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta and in-form striker Olivier Giroud, who has returned from midweek international action with France carrying back and hamstring problems.

“There are so many — I think we need a few doctors this morning,” Wenger said. “We have so many players who have come back with injuries or small injuries. We will see this morning, but it is difficult to give you a clear idea of who will be available tomorrow or not.”

Arsenal will also assess goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who could be back in the side for the first time since September after recovering from an ankle problem, while midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hip) is another who will be monitored.

Wenger was less than impressed by the globe-trotting of midfielder Santi Cazorla, who jetted out to Panama with Spain only to be an unused substitute. “Could Cazorla have done without that trip? Of course. He could have got injured, so I personally don’t complain, but he must not be very happy.”


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