Arsene Wenger: Arsenal's passion for beating Tottenham hasn't diminished
Arsene Wenger says his players don't need to be pinned up against a wall to understand the importance of beating Tottenham, insisting they still have the same passion as his legendary teams from two decades ago.
Wenger was responding to comments made by Lee Dixon ahead of Saturday's North London Derby, after the former Arsenal great questioned whether this current crop of Gunners still care as deeply about beating Spurs. Dixon said his teammates pinned him up against a wall before his first derby and told him they simply had to win.
Wenger's team haven't beaten Tottenham in their past six Premier League meetings, but he was adamant they're just as desperate to win this fixture as Dixon's side was.
"Yes of course. But is that the best way [to pin them up against a wall]?" Wenger said. "Lee Dixon is a passionate guy, so his reaction is passionate as well. But I think if that was the only way to win football games, you would say to people, 'If you don't win the game you're killed after the game. You're executed.'
"That shows you it's not the only way, to put people against the wall. That's why it's so difficult, the game. It's a mixture between urgency and confidence, relaxed and tensed. And that is different for every individual. And different for every team as well. So you have to adapt your speech to the mental state of the team and of the individual."
Arsenal are looking to wrestle back North London supremacy after finishing behind Tottenham last season for the first time in Wenger's 21-year reign. Wenger, though, said he's not bothered by people calling last season's result a power shift, even though Arsenal won their third FA Cup in four years and Mauricio Pochettino has yet to win anything at Spurs.
"No, because today people take always one situation and it's permanent. The judgment is definite, permanent and forever," Wenger said. "But life is movement. It's down to us to change the opinions of people, down to our performances. I cannot say much more. If they have a perception like that they have a perception like that. How can we respond? Not by me talking here, but to show on Saturday that it's not true."
Pochettino's side may never fully eclipse Wenger's unless they start winning trophies, something the Frenchman said can become a mental block if it takes too long.
Wenger said getting over the hump can only be done "by fighting a little bit against the inhibition that can come with it, and the fear of not getting over the line."
But he wasn't interested in offering his view on how close Spurs are to doing just that.
"I don't know, and honestly it's not my main worry. My worry is for us to get over the line and win trophies, and it's not easy," he said. "It's always difficult to finish the job."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.