Arsenal star admits Tottenham will be toughest test so far

Arsenal's Theo Walcott and Fenerbahce's Raul Meireles

Arsenal's Theo Walcott and Fenerbahce's Raul Meireles - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Theo Walcott is confident Arsenal will be ready for their ‘biggest test yet’ when they host north London rivals Tottenham in Sunday’s derby clash.

Since their opening day defeat by Aston Villa, the Gunners have won their last three games, two of them against Fenerbahce to qualify for the Champions League group stage.

Big-spending Spurs head to the Emirates with maximum points from their first two Premier League fixtures and Walcott has no doubts that Andre Villas-Boas’s side will provide the Gunners’ sternest opposition yet.

“Tottenham’s the biggest test, definitely, but we’re ready for it,” said the Arsenal winger. “We know their strengths and we need to make sure we utilise their weaknesses.

“They’ve invested well – they’ve got some very good players and a very good manager as well, but we need to focus on ourselves. The way we’re playing at the moment, we can beat anyone.

“Everyone may say our squad’s very weak and there aren’t many of us, but I feel we’re strong. We’ve bounced back from such a disappointing result in the first game and we need to step up on Sunday.

“Players love these games – I always look out for them straight away, to be honest – and it’s going to be a very interesting one.

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“Tottenham are playing some very good stuff at the moment and I think we’re looking very sharp. So for the neutral it’s going to be a really impressive spectacle.”

Walcott played 75 minutes on Tuesday before making way for Japanese winger Ryo Miyaichi as the Gunners cruised past Fenerbahce with a 2-0 win in the second leg of their Champions League play-off.

The result sealed Arsenal’s place in the draw for the group stage, which takes place on Thursday in Monaco – but it came at a cost as striker Lukas Podolski went off with a hamstring injury that will keep him out for three weeks.

Midfield duo Aaron Ramsey – who scored both goals against the Turkish side – and Jack Wilshere also picked up minor knocks, but are expected to be fit to take on Tottenham.

Despite his relief at Champions League qualification, Walcott stressed that Arsenal cannot afford to be content with simply taking part in the group stage.

“It probably wasn’t the best spectacle, but we did our job and that was the main task,” he added. “As long as we’re in the hat, that’s all that matters.

“For a club like this, with the stadium and support that we’ve got, we have to be there, playing against the best players in Europe. You want to be judged on that.

“If you play against the best players you’re only going to improve yourself. We don’t want to be challenging for that fourth spot any more, we want to be challenging for the Premier League, that’s our main goal.

“We always keep it tight towards the end of seasons and we don’t intend to do that this year. We need to go to that next level, not just getting in the Champions League but actually competing.”