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Arsenal v Tottenham: Spurs need positive result to forget struggles

Match of the Day

You can watch highlights of Arsenal v Tottenham on MOTD2 at 22:30 GMT on Sunday on BBC One and the BBC Sport website. Danny Murphy and Alan Shearer join Mark Chapman in the studio.

Tottenham have gone six games without a win and have not scored a goal in open play for more than seven hours, but I don’t see them as a team in crisis ahead of Sunday’s north London derby.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side are being judged in comparison to last season, when they set their standards so high and were Leicester’s closest challengers for the title, eventually finishing third.

They are a young, evolving team, but that success means people are being more critical of them now.

It is true that Spurs are not playing well at the moment and striker Harry Kane’s six-week absence with an ankle injury has not helped, but that does not mean they are not as good as we thought.

‘A positive result and Spurs’ struggles are forgotten’

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Without Kane they have clearly been struggling in attack, but they are still undefeated in the Premier League and only three points off the top of the table.

They also still have a chance of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League, even if they have left themselves a mountain to climb after Wednesday’s defeat by Bayer Leverkusen.

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Wembley not to blame – Pochettino

Sometimes a defeat and a horrible performance like that can give you the kick up the backside you need before another big game.

For Spurs, it doesn’t get any bigger than Arsenal. If they can put on a positive performance at Emirates Stadium on Sunday and get a positive result then their other recent results are forgotten.

Every game against the Gunners is huge but this one is especially important to my former club because the outcome could help them keep their belief in their ability and their manager’s tactics.

Why are Tottenham struggling in the final third?

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Harry Kane could return for Tottenham against Arsenal – Mauricio Pochettino

It will be very hard for Tottenham against a side playing so well with so much firepower and they would feel much more confident if they had their own best XI.

It will be interesting to see who starts out of Kane, Toby Alderweireld and Moussa Dembele, who have all been injured recently.

But, even if they are without those players, Pochettino’s side will still be well organised and work tremendously hard to stop the Gunners from playing.

The question is how much of a threat can they pose to Arsene Wenger’s team.

I know Tottenham beat Manchester City without Kane but they are a better side when he plays.

It is the last third of the pitch where they have been struggling without him because, with Vincent Janssen still adjusting to English football, the likes of Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko are not chipping in with enough goals.

Dele Alli is the only player who keeps getting himself in good goalscoring positions and he probably has not scored as many as he should have done when you look at the chances he has had.

Other than Alli, there does not really seem to be a goal threat from Tottenham’s front four, or anywhere else in their team – he is the only Spurs player to have scored a goal from open play in the last five games in the Premier League or Champions League

Tottenham’s front four are not looking anywhere near as dangerous or creative when you compare them to the players in the same positions from the teams above them in the table – City, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Should Pochettino change his system?

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Pochettino is an intelligent coach and he will be aware the players in the final third are not doing well enough. They have got to score more goals if they want to challenge for the title.

He has got a decision to make on Sunday because, if he gives his attackers more freedom to change positions and pop up in different areas then that will affect the team’s shape and the defensive solidity which is one of their strengths.

Goals were not an issue for Spurs last season so Pochettino knows his players are capable of doing far better when they attack, but he will also be well aware they cannot just be reliant on one player – Kane – to get them the goals that will win them the title.

Kane could return on Sunday but you cannot expect him to hit the ground running after six weeks out. I am sure Spurs are not going to panic and rush him back, either, because they have got some more big games to come.

Tottenham want to be in this position, though, playing Champions League football and then having big Premier League games straight afterwards.

They strived so hard to get here last season, therefore they have to embrace it, and do their best with the situation they are in without letting it dent their collective confidence and having an adverse effect on the current campaign.

Spurs players are hungry to improve

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As far as Sunday goes, I think if you offered Spurs a draw now, they would take it with the players they are missing and after the week they have had.

In contrast, the Gunners will be trying to get on the front foot straight away, like they did against Chelsea in September when they went 3-0 up before half-time.

Arsenal are flying at the moment so it is imperative Tottenham respect that, keep a good shape and stay in the game.

They also need to return to the performance levels they produced when they beat Manchester City last month and for long periods last season. When they do that, they will win matches again.

You learn the most from the bad spells you go through as a team and, from watching them play over the last year or two, I know the Spurs players have got the hunger and desire to improve and get through this.

There is enough quality in their squad for them to do it too.

It would be foolish to write them off because we could be sitting here in a month’s time saying how well they have done to turn things around, and look where they are now.

Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37852985