Now Arsenal are Gunner wobble in Champions League race, says Spurs star Van der Vaart
Published 22:30 02/04/12 By Mike Walters
Rafael van der Vaart took the temperature on north London’s fault line and claimed Arsenal should be nervous about the home stretch.
After Tottenham pulled out of their nosedive to move level on points with the Gunners in the duel for third place, Van der Vaart insisted it was Arsenal’s turn to feel the pressure.
Five weeks ago, when they led 2-0 at the Emirates, Spurs were heading for a 13-point lead in the race for guaranteed Champions League football next season.
But through a cocktail of ill fortune, an unkind fixture list, manager Harry Redknapp being linked to the England job and key players going off the boil, Tottenham collapsed to a 5-2 defeat in the derby and contrived to blow their 10-point advantage.
Sunday’s 3-1 win against Swansea was their first Premier League win in almost two months, leaving Redknapp’s men neck-and-neck with Arsenal and prompting Van der Vaart to call for two-goal hero Emmanuel Adebayor’s loan spell from Manchester City to be made permanent.
On paper, the Gunners - surprisingly turned over by lowly QPR at the weekend after seven straight wins - have the tougher run-in, with their top three aspirations likely to be settled by key home dates with City and Chelsea.
And Van der Vaart, whose 11th goal of the season opened the scoring against the Swans, crowed: “We were a little bit low on confidence, but we’re still there and we want to be in the top three.
“There’s still a long way to go, but the confidence is back. It never disappeared completely, but it’s all to do with winning. When you don’t win your games, and it’s also going in your head, then you are a little bit more nervous.
“Arsenal kept on winning. They came back and I think we lost those 10 points in two weeks, so it was quite hard and that’s why we had to beat Swansea.
“Of course we are confident we can finish third, but after a 10-point lead now we are level. If we play like we did on Sunday, we have a good chance.
“Is it Arsenal’s turn to feel the pressure now? I saw some highlights of their game at QPR and that really helped us. I hope they are also getting nervous.
“But it’s a big battle and we want to be in the Champions League again because last season it was a great experience.
“And it’s important for the whole club that we finish third rather than fourth because you never know who you could meet in the Champions League qualifying round if you finish fourth - there are some big teams in there.”
Four of Tottenham’s last seven games are at home - against Norwich, Blackburn, Bolton and Fulham - while trips to Sunderland, QPR and Aston Villa could decide their fate.
Redknapp believes five wins out of seven will be enough to nail down third spot and book Champions League football for the second time in three seasons at the Lane.