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Nov 15, 2012

Villas-Boas aware of derby importance

Andre Villas-Boas has joked that Daniel Levy is putting him under pressure to win Saturday's North London derby against Arsenal, but also insisted he is well aware of the importance of fixture beyond his team's form.

• Preview: Arsenal v Tottenham
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Tottenham go into the match at Arsenal having lost three of the last four, and the Portuguese manager has said he knows he dare not lose this one.

"[Mr Levy] keeps on mentioning it! But it's normal," Villas-Boas said. "We really have to embrace it because it's part of the great English culture of this game. Against Arsenal, for both teams, it means a lot. The meaning of it is quite special and all of us embrace it.

"I have been getting it for the last two weeks. People have been speaking about it quite often, the staff and the chairman, so you understand the importance of it. This is a game where passion is extremely high. It represents three points but it means more.

"Both teams are not where they have to be... but both have shown they can do better. It's very early in the league. Last year we were a little bit better by this stage. The worst period came towards the end of the season so it's too much time."

Villas-Boas is also confident that Tottenham can finish ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League for the first time since 1994-95.

"We have to," he added. "It's obvious that [Manchester] United, Man City and Chelsea are into a big running towards the title. We want to be able to bring one of those spots nearer to us but it's difficult.

"They have other resources but we are looking at trying to shorten the gap and not let it grow. To play for that fourth spot, Champions League qualification, I think it's difficult bearing in mind the amount of competition that you have to beat."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is in little doubt about the significance of the North London derby, as this veteran of the local clashes with Tottenham appreciates what it means to all concerned.

"My chairman doesn't need to ring me to tell me how important this fixture is, he knows what it means to me," said Wenger, who can call on a vast depth of experience in this fixture compared to his opposite number on Saturday. "I have played this fixture for 16 years now and know what it means. It is always a frantic game and in recent years, we have had many goals."

Meanwhile, he suggests his midfielder Jack Wilshere is burning with desire to shine against Tottenham. "Jack arrived here when he was nine-years-old, so this game is in his heart," added Wenger. "he is in a good place and ready to play. I was happy with teh way England dealt with him in Sweden on Wednesday and he has done well to come through his first few games after 17-months out injured."

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