Ray Parlour formed part of the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ back in 2003/04, with that memorable campaign his last with the Gunners after 13 years of loyal first-team service.
Essex-born, the former midfielder was nurtured through the club’s youth system to become a Premier League winner and England international.
During his time in north London, Parlour experienced his fair share of derby duels with Tottenham Hotspur.
He is, however, prepared to admit that it was meetings with Manchester United which dominated Arsenal’s thoughts – particularly during his time spent working under Arsene Wenger.
Spurs were not a side pushing for title glory or Champions League qualification for much of that period, with some of the spice lost in the rivalry as a result.
That is no longer the case, with just two points separating two old foes as they prepare to put local bragging rights on the line again this weekend.
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“(Mauricio) Pochettino, I think he’s done a decent job. They’ve been inconsistent at times, but they are in the cup and going well in the league. It will be a big game for Arsenal. With the points gap as it is, it can really turn your season around if you can win it.”
Wenger’s men sit fifth at present, with only goal difference keeping them out of the top four, while Spurs are a spot further back and also within touching distance of their ultimate goal.
Parlour admits it is too close to call between the two, but does feel that Arsenal’s experience of getting over the line could stand them in good stead when the pressure starts to mount and nerves begin to jangle.
He added: “Third and fourth is so intriguing. I can’t call it. Arsenal have tended to get a good run going towards the end of the season, we have seen that, and they have the players to do it.
“I think it’s unbelievable at the moment. Manchester United are in there, but you don’t always know which United will turn up, and Liverpool are looking better again under Brendan Rodgers, with (Daniel) Sturridge coming back a massive bonus for them. Southampton keep getting results. People expected them to fall away, but they aren’t and keep grinding out results. Spurs as well, they will try and get as many results as they can.
“I don’t think anyone can get near Manchester City and Chelsea, but certainly third and fourth is going to be a great fight for a lot of teams. The pressure will kick in for a lot of teams, and that could work in Arsenal’s favour because they are experienced in being in there every single season.”
The Gunners boast a 100 per cent record in reaching the Champions League under Wenger and will be determined to keep that run going.
Spurs, though, will feel that the tide is turning in north London and that 2015 could be the first year in 20 that they finish above their arch-rivals from down the road.
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