Mikel Arteta would love for his players to invoke the kind of fighting spirit and passion Martin Keown and Patrick Vieira showed during their Arsenal days in this afternoon’s north London derby.
It was 18 years last Tuesday that Keown had his infamous bust-up with Manchester United ’s Ruud van Nistelrooy.
That flashpoint came in a day and age when those two teams would go at it hammer and tongs, and Arsenal weren’t afraid to mix it with anyone.
Vieira also relished relished those battles with United and, just as much, derby games against today’s opponents, Tottenham.
But in the years since those two waged war with opposition players, Arsenal have become a team of nice boys, a group of players who don’t seem to have the bottle and spite that is needed to back up technical ability if a team really wants to challenge for titles and top-four finishes.
Arteta is trying to change all that.
And asked about Keown and Vieira, he said: “It’s another generation of fantastic players that created a history in those clashes, it was different the way of acting, the way of relationships between players, it was phenomenal to watch.
“I didn’t experience it but it was phenomenal to watch from the outside because it was all about passion and competing with each other.
“Every time we are on the pitch we have to fight for ourselves, because we know that the basic principle to compete in any game in the Premier League and get the results we want.
“And hopefully afterwards people will get convinced that we are able to do that.
“We’ve done it in the past, since I’ve been here in previous years with other managers.
“And we kept that belief that we’re able to do it.”
While Spurs come into the game on the back of two defeats in the Premier League, Arsenal have slightly renewed confidence after beating Norwich and Burnley.
Although, as the old adage goes, everything goes out the window on derby day and Arteta will be drawing on his own experiences of clashes between Arsenal and Spurs, and Rangers and Celtic, to help prepare his men for battle in this one.
Speaking about his memories of his first Glasgow derby, 19 years ago when he was aged just 20, he added: “Everybody talked.
“When I was walking through Glasgow, they used to try to explain what it means for our supporters and for the people and the manager at the time and the players at the time.
“But then once you are in that stadium and it’s rocking and the pressure is on, it’s a different beast.
“You have to experience it, you have to go through that and enjoy it, because it’s a great game to play.”
For 21-year-old summer signing Albert Sambi Lokonga, this will be a first proper north London derby after playing against Spurs in pre-season and the midfielder will be right at the heart of the battle.
Arteta said: “It was a friendly, but he played really well.
“That was one of the days that told us he was ready.
“Or one of the other days, because when we analysed him, we already saw, and when we spoke to his previous coaches, we already had feedback that he had a big personality to play in any game.
“He was already captain at Anderlecht and that doesn’t happen by coincidence.
“He is fully ready to play.
“He knows what to expect.
“He played some big games as well in Belgium.
“We’re trying to acknowledge what he’s going to try to find on that pitch but he will be ready.”