Arsène Wenger sent a dismissive message to rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Friday, claiming one good season cannot erase two decades of Arsenal dominance.
A Spurs win in Sunday’s north London derby would mathematically confirm their first league finish above Arsenal since 1995 and the first during Wenger’s reign.
This concession of bragging rights has been on the cards for some time, with Arsenal needing final day escape acts in 2012, 2013 and 2016 to keep their sequence of ‘St Totteringham’s Day’ celebrations going. Wenger though, bristled at talk of a ‘power shift’ from N5 to N17.
“No, I think Arsenal is a much smaller club, we are absolutely terrible,” the Frenchman replied sarcastically. “That’s a question I answer for 20 years. First of all, we are not there. Let’s see how it finishes at the end of the season.”
Wenger also remarked pointedly: “You cannot say the weight of one year has the weight of 20.”
Tottenham are four points behind league leaders Chelsea, who face Everton at Goodison Park just hours before Mauricio Pochettino’s side take on Arsenal.
Christian Eriksen’s winner at Crystal Palace on Wednesday extended their winning Premier League run to eight games and kept them 14 points clear of Arsenal who are struggling to make the top- four.
Derailing Spurs’ strongest title challenge for 30 years might be an enticing prospect for some Arsenal fans, but Wenger is not interested in inflicting pain on a rival.
He said: “We know we are in the position where we have to win our next game. We focus on our own achievements, to win our own games. I’m not in football because I want to stop other teams to be successful. I’m in football because I want to be successful ourselves.”
Arsenal’s longest-serving manager has an excellent record against Spurs, losing only seven of 49 encounters, but has not enjoyed a league win since Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment in 2014.
Four of the last five league meetings were score draws and the fixture has a justified reputation for open and attacking football, and Wenger expects more of the same.
“I expect an open committed match with high pace,” he said. “There could be goals because both teams play positive football and try to go forward and normally that finishes with goals. Look at the quality players on both sides.”
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit to start but Arsenal are waiting on Laurent Koscielny’s knee problem, with the centre back rated "60:40" by Wenger in favour of playing.
Three consecutive wins including an FA Cup semi-final triumph over Manchester City have partially lifted the gloom around Arsenal, with Wenger’s radical switch to a back three bearing fruit.
The Frenchman said: “These games tested our capacity to respond to a crisis of results. The mental test was important. We got positive results, we needed to fight and deliver something special in difficult circumstances such as the semi-final against Man City. We should have assured everybody we have the mental strength to do it.”