Nigel Winterburn: Arsenal won’t go out to try and stop Tottenham’s Gareth Bale

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WE SEEM to be saying this every season now, but there can’t have been a derby in recent times as eagerly-anticipated as the one on Saturday.

The reason we have been saying that every year is because it always looks like Spurs are about to step out of Arsenal’s shadow, but it has never quite happened. Is this year any different?

Certainly Harry Redknapp has turned Tottenham into as strong a side as they have been for the last 15 or 20 years. They are in the Champions League so that is ample proof of that.

But the real test for them will now be to maintain that kind of performance level, the way Arsenal have done for over a decade now, the way Manchester United have done for almost 20 years and Chelsea more recently.

That will be very difficult to achieve, but it’s hard for anybody not to be impressed by how well ‘that lot’ from up the road have done in 2010.

I never really thought they would get fourth place last season, I always felt Liverpool would come back or that Manchester City would prove too strong, but all credit to Tottenham, they did it and in some style too by beating Arsenal, Chelsea and City in the last month of the season.

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This year they have had the Champions League to contend with and that can prove very difficult balancing act first time around when the players just aren’t used to it.

Back in 1998 when we first qualified for the modern group stages, it did affect us for some league games, but the level of both the Champions League and the Premier League has changed so much since then. You cannot afford to be under-par or you get beaten, as Spurs and a few others have already found out this season.

Tottenham have a great chance to qualify from the group stages next week and I think they will. And Gareth Bale has played a big part in that, he has been superb.

Obviously he is no longer a left-back and more of a left-winger, and we have seen teams like Everton and Bolton nullify his threat quite efficiently.

It is not Arsene Wenger or Arsenal’s style to go out and try to stop one player though, Arsene always focuses on Arsenal and on them keeping them the ball. If they do that, then at home very few teams can live with them.

Spurs were well beaten in this game last season when they were very defensive and I have a feeling this time that Harry, with Rafael Van der Vaart in such good form, will go for it a little more than he did just over a year ago.

But he will also know that is a big risk against an Arsenal side full of confidence after those two away wins. It should be a fascinating match again, and Spurs will make a game of it this time, but for me it’s going to be the same old story. Arsenal on top.