Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld has stoked the fire ahead of Sunday’s huge encounter with Arsenal by claiming that the north London derby is now ‘big but not the biggest’ date for Spurs.
Traditionally, the fierce rivalry which exists between the two north London rivals sets the derby up as the standout fixture for both sides on a yearly basis. This time out, however, Alderweireld has suggested that times have changed.
“That says something about the evolution of Spurs. The derby is not the biggest game of the year, although it’s a very big game and we know this. We’re going to do everything we can to get three points.”
The tide has certainly changed during Alderweireld’s time in north London since joining Spurs from Atletico Madrid in 2015. Mauricio Pochettino’s reign has led Tottenham to compete higher up in the Premier League table, whilst also staking their claim in the Champions League.
Tottenham’s evolution under the Argentine has inspired the north London side to consistent progression, with Spurs having finished above their rivals Arsenal in each of the last two Premier League seasons.
However, Alderweireld has insisted that there is more work to do, admitting that Spurs are still not playing at their best, despite their rise to stand among the Premier League’s big hitters.
“We don’t feel we are hitting our best,” he added. “We are the most critical persons of our own performance. A lot has been said about the stadium and the pitch at Wembley, and I think we’re doing very well but we can improve.
“And even if we go well, we can improve further.”
Though Alderweireld has been keen to dismiss any overriding importance of the north London derby on Spurs’ agenda, Sunday’s meeting with Arsenal certainly bears significance for Mauricio Pochettino’s side in terms of league standings.
Unai Emery’s Gunners are just three points behind their rivals in the table heading into Sunday’s clash, meaning that defeat at the Emirates could be a significant setback for Spurs in their challenge for one of the top four spots.