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EXCLUSIVE: Arsenal legend Alan Smith on the North London derby and Unai Emery

PUBLISHED: 17:57 01 March 2019

Arsenal manager Unai Emery instructs his players

Arsenal manager Unai Emery instructs his players

PA Wire/PA Images

Gunners legend Alan Smith has been speaking exclusively with Arsenal reporter Layth Yousif at the London Football Awards, in aid of national charity, Willow ahead of the North London derby on Saturday. Read on for what he said about the eagerly-awaited fixture

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates his side's first goalArsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates his side's first goal

Smith, who top scored for the Gunners during the club’s 1989 and 1991 title-winning seasons has been previewing the eagerly-awaited fixture at the national stadium.

After dropping out of the title race, Spurs’ hold on a top-four place suddenly doesn’t look as strong with in-form Arsenal approaching.

Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (obscured) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game from the penalty spot with team-mates, as a banana skin is thrown onto the pitch by a fan, during the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium, London. PAArsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (obscured) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game from the penalty spot with team-mates, as a banana skin is thrown onto the pitch by a fan, during the Premier League match at Emirates Stadium, London. PA

Their faint hopes of winning the Premier League are finished after losing to Burnley followed by Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

Arsenal’s form has been mixed since the end of 2018, but they are putting together a good run of form since losing 3-1 to Manchester City in early February.

Arsenal's first goal hero, Alan Smith, opens the scoring at Anfield to put the London club on course to win the Barclays League title from Liverpool's grasp. The Gunners needed two goals to become the champions for the first time since 1971 - and managed it with a 2-0 victory. 27/5/1989Arsenal's first goal hero, Alan Smith, opens the scoring at Anfield to put the London club on course to win the Barclays League title from Liverpool's grasp. The Gunners needed two goals to become the champions for the first time since 1971 - and managed it with a 2-0 victory. 27/5/1989

The Gunners thrashed Bournemouth 5-1 on Wednesday, after beating Southampton and BATE Borisov – but in this type of encounter form really goes out of the window, which Smith believes may be a small positive for Mauricio Pochettino’s Lillywhites.

Speaking exclusively with Arsenal reporter Layth at the London Football Awards, in aid of national charity, Willow.

Arsenal's Alan Smith loses his balance after a sliding tackle by Tottenham Hotspur's Gary Mabbutt.Arsenal's Alan Smith loses his balance after a sliding tackle by Tottenham Hotspur's Gary Mabbutt.

He said: “From Arsenal’s point of view we go into it in a much better frame of mind that we might have with Spurs in not as good form as they have been.

“It is the kind of game that Spurs need to wash away the last two results. They will forget about the losses to Burnley and Chelsea because of the fact they will be facing Arsenal.

Gunners legend Alan Smith with Arsenal reporter Layth YousifGunners legend Alan Smith with Arsenal reporter Layth Yousif

“Wembley will be buzzing, the fans will be up for it. But the atmosphere should help Arsenal too. It was a terrific match at the Emirates when Unai Emery’s side beat them 4-2 before Christmas.

“We’d certainly settle for the same result again.”

Emery’s Gunners have shown resilience since their dispiriting loss at the hands of City.

With Guardiola’s impressive side gaining ground on long-time leaders Liverpool Spurs hopes of ending their 58 year stretch without calling themselves champions of England is over.

While Pochettino – who is the 13th Lillywhites boss in the Premier League era – has been assembling a talented squad in N17, albeit one that has yet to win silverware in the five years since he was lured to Tottenham, Emery has been quietly transforming Arsenal.

Surveying his time at the helm so far after taking over from Arsene Wenger in May, Smith explained: “It’s a slow burner in terms of following Arsene who was in charge for 22 seasons and his methods.

“Emery’s challenge is to shape the culture in the dressing room to his own way. Slowly but surely he’s getting there, but you can’t do it without players.

“He will want to mould the team in his image and it’s not quite there yet.

“We were all disappointed when there wasn’t any money to spend in January.

“We’ll see in the summer but his issue is to address the defence first and foremost if you are to have any chance of challenging at the top of the table.”

Alan Smith has been speaking at the London Football Awards in aid of national charity, Willow, londonfootballawards.org

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