Football: Bring on the North London derby, says Arsenal's Ramsey

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil outfoxing the Ludogorets defence before scoring an 88th-minute winner in the Champions League clash. The German dinked the ball over 'keeper Milan Borjan, and left two defenders on their backsides before passing the ball into the
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil outfoxing the Ludogorets defence before scoring an 88th-minute winner in the Champions League clash. The German dinked the ball over 'keeper Milan Borjan, and left two defenders on their backsides before passing the ball into the empty net. The goal completed a comeback, sealing a 3-2 victory after Arsenal had gone 0-2 down.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Arsenal are riding on a wave of confidence after reaching last 16 of Champions League

LONDON • Aaron Ramsey has warned Tottenham Hotspur that Arsenal boast all the momentum and confidence going into Sunday's north London derby, despite their opponents' unbeaten start to the English Premier League campaign.

The Wales international made his first start since the opening weekend of the season in Sofia on Tuesday as Arsenal secured their place in the knock-out stage of the Champions League with two Group A matches to spare by defeating Ludogorets Razgrad 3-2.

Arsene Wenger's team have lost only once in all competitions since mid-March, a sequence incorporating 25 matches. And the Gunners would move six points clear of Tottenham if they prevail at the Emirates Stadium this weekend.

"This team have been together for a while now, with a couple more additions (over the summer)," said Ramsey, who was yesterday included in the Wales squad for next week's World Cup qualifier against Serbia.

"We've brought in some quality and, while it takes a bit of time sometimes for players to adapt, the new players have settled in really well and hit the ground running.

"We've been on a good run for a long time. At the back end of last season we finished strongly, and we've carried that on this season.

"The team are full of confidence at the moment, and it was important to keep the momentum going against Ludogorets.

"We've been on a great run lately so, to keep that ticking over, it puts us in a good position going into the derby game.

"Tottenham have been a tough challenge in the last couple of seasons. They're unbeaten in the league so far this season, but we know what to expect. It's up to us to break them down. We're at home and we're full of confidence we can come away with a win."

Arsenal have lost only once in their last eight matches against their bitter rivals, and have not succumbed at home since 2010.

Ramsey pointed to the psychological significance of his side clambering above Spurs late on in the run-in last season.

Tottenham have never finished above a side coached by Wenger.

"Of course it mattered," said the midfielder when asked about that late burst of form last season which, combined with Tottenham hitting the wall, saw Arsenal leapfrog Mauricio Pochettino's side into second place behind champions Leicester City.

"It's been many years (21) since they finished above us, so we didn't want that to happen last season. It was important to finish above them and hopefully we can keep that going this season as well. You'd have to ask them if they think we have a mental hold over them, though," said Ramsey.

He was understandably rusty in Sofia, having sat out over two months with hamstring trouble, and may find himself back among the substitutes if Theo Walcott has recovered from a tight hamstring to feature in the derby.

Arsenal's other absentees against Ludogorets - Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal - are also hopeful of featuring, though Ramsey is eager to play a part if required.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'Bring on the north London derby: Ramsey'. Print Edition | Subscribe