Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League • England

Arsenal legend playing mind games with ‘one-man team’ Tottenham in top-four race

Harry Kane, Tottenham

Arsenal legend Paul Merson believes Tottenham are now in pole position to land the fourth and final Champions League spot following events in the latest round of Premier League fixtures.

The two north London rivals are now level on points, but Spurs are above the Gunners on goal difference – and although Mikel Arteta’s men still have a game in hand, Merson thinks it’s advantage Tottenham.

There was a huge seven-goal swing as Antonio Conte’s side thrashed Newcastle 5-1 before Arsenal were thumped 3-0 at Crystal Palace.

And Merson, writing in his Sky Sports column, feels that the Gunners’ inexperience could ultimately cost them.

He said: “When you have a young team like Arsenal, you’ve got to just take the rough with the smooth – and the Crystal Palace defeat was very, very rough.

Arsenal are a decent team – they’ve got good young players – but they’re going to be up and down with their performances. One week they’ll be a nine out of 10, the next week they’ll be a four out of 10.

“It wouldn’t have surprised me if they didn’t beat Watford when they won 3-2. It wouldn’t have surprised me if they didn’t beat Leicester when they won 2-0. That’s just the way it is, it’s a young team.

“There are ways of getting beat and Monday night at Palace wasn’t a good way of getting beat. It was worrying. I expected one of those performances from Tottenham before the end of the season, I didn’t expect it from Arsenal. They could lose a game, but not like that.

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“Palace is a hard place to go on a Monday night, don’t underestimate it. And if Arsenal had beaten Palace, I thought top four was done and dusted. It would have been three points clear and a game in hand, it was massive.

Advantage Tottenham in CL race

“Now all of a sudden, Arsenal don’t really have a game in hand – because Tottenham have got them at home anyway. It doesn’t matter what they do with their game in hand, because Tottenham will have to beat them and can overtake them.

“You watch Tottenham completely and utterly dismantling Newcastle on Sunday. Newcastle aren’t the worst team in the world. I watched them at Chelsea a few weeks ago, and bar genius from Kai Havertz and Jorginho, the Blues didn’t really look like scoring that day – then Tottenham go and put five past them.

“Spurs are the favourites for top four now. When Harry Kane’s playing like he is, I don’t think too many teams are going to beat them. I saw him go to the Etihad and rip Manchester City apart. I saw him rip West Ham apart, I saw him rip Newcastle apart.

“But you take Kane out of the team, top four ain’t happening for Spurs. It’s as simple as that. When he doesn’t turn up at Burnley away, they get beaten. Tottenham are a one-man team and that’s not being disrespectful.

“You could have a Ferrari, but without an engine in the car it ain’t working. He’s the all-round package, and that’s why he’s the best centre-forward in the world. I’ve said it for a long, long time.”

The two clubs are back in action this weekend when Arsenal host Brighton and Tottenham head to Aston Villa.

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