Hector Bellerin knows just what is at stake when Arsenal meet fierce local rivals Tottenham on Sunday – and the full-back insists he will be around for many more derby matches to come.
The 21-year-old Spain international faces a late fitness test ahead of the high-noon showdown with Spurs at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, but appeared to be winning the battle when he was pictured training with his team-mates on Thursday afternoon.
Bellerin has been strongly linked to Manchester City in recent weeks, while a return to Barcelona – he started his career at their fabled La Masia academy – has been suggested for some time.
But, having been at his best in an ever-present start to the Premier League campaign, Bellerin has dismissed as rumour any suggestion he will agitate to leave the Gunners any time soon.
Asked about a move to the Nou Camp, Bellerin told Standard Sport: “If I wanted to play there I would have stayed there.
“I was very happy when Arsenal showed interest in me and I decided to come here. I’m not looking back, I’m just looking to help Arsenal.
“It’s nice for a player to know that big teams want you, but I’m very happy here.
“I’ve still got three years left on my contract, so I’m just focused on playing every single week, improving and hopefully making things happen here at Arsenal.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said last month when speculation of a potential move intensified that Bellerin’s long-term future was with the north London club, and Bellerin’s words will come as a boost heading into a crunch weekend.
Wenger’s side have not lost since the opening weekend of the season and welcome a Spurs team who have not tasted defeat in the Premier League at all so far this campaign.
The days of local players turning out to battle for bragging rights may be largely confined to history in the multi-national Premier League era.
But Bellerin, who was just two months old when Spurs last celebrated finishing above Arsenal in the table, says everyone involved today knows just what a meeting with their rivals means.
“You don’t need to be told, you just know,” he said.
“It’s like a rule you just learn when you come into the club and you can see when you interact with fans how important it is to them.
“They (Tottenham) did well last season. They’re a threat. They are a good team.
“We’re going to have to take control. We know they press high, we know they press well. They run a lot, but it’s up to us to be inspired and when we have our chances to take them.”
Wenger will be hoping Bellerin can prove his fitness in time for Sunday’s derby after missing Tuesday night’s Champions League win over Ludogorets with an unspecified knock.
The Frenchman is also waiting on injury assessments of Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs and Santi Cazorla ahead of the visit of Mauricio Pochettino’s outfit.