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Arsenal accused of being "conditioned to choking" as Mikel Arteta faces acid derby test

By Tom Hopkinson

Arsenal's bottle faces its acid test in the North London derby with Tottenham according to former Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and England striker Stan Collymore.

The Mirror columnist has even vowed to post a picture of himself wearing a Gunners shirt with ‘Arteta 8’ on the back on social media if a club he has regularly accused of lacking bottle and character proves him wrong by qualifying for the Champions League this season.

Arsenal can clinch a top-four spot if they beat their local rivals at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. And Collymore said: “Every game now for Arsenal is the acid test of their bottle. Last Sunday against Leeds was one and now the North London derby - this is it.

"When I put out a tweet about being ready to buy the Arsenal shirt a couple of weeks ago, a lot of fans still — and this is bearing in mind the run they are on and the fact Mikel Arteta has got them into a good position for fourth and maybe even third — came back saying things along the lines of, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to **** it up’.

“It was only one Arsenal fan in 50-odd comments who said anything other. I know that’s the sort of gallows humour we get from football fans but it was interesting that there weren’t many, ‘Haha, Collymore, you this, that or the other, get the shirt bought and let’s see you wearing it on Islington High Street’. It was all, ‘Nah, we’re not there yet’, and that’s because they have almost been conditioned to choking.

“So this is it and I actually hope now that, for the foundations the team have dug for themselves to get to this point, they can go on and give their supporters a run and have performances filled with character. Because as much as I would mock a Granit Xhaka as a yellow or red card machine, to be fair he has stood up to be counted for his team and he is what he is.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Will Arsenal beat Spurs? Let us know in the comments section

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta recently signed a new contract to stay at with the Gunners along with women's manager Jonas Eidevall (Getty Images)

“He’s not going to be in a title-winning team but the manager watches him in training and says, ‘You know what, I at least want him in the trenches because he is honest’. The young boys have stepped up and Arteta hasn’t got too high and too low, either.

“Sometimes as a pundit, you have to step back and say, ‘You know what, begrudgingly, after caning them for a few seasons as a glorified five-a-side team, and caning the manager, this is what he believes in and he will succeed or fail by doing it this way. He has a chance for it to succeed so go on and let’s see what you’ve got’.

"Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t changed my mind about Arsenal because I’m still convinced they have got it wrong in trying to be Manchester City-lite, because there will be better and wealthier teams who can do it in Europe and England in seasons to come.

“But Arteta’s bloody-mindedness has got him to this point and fair play to him. He still has to cross another bloody-minded manager in Antonio Conte but this is it, this is 11:59.59 for Arsenal in terms of, ‘Do they have the bottle, the talent and desire to really discharge the manager’s will and beliefs?’ Good luck to them — I don’t think it’s the way forward but I do admire the way Arteta has stuck to his guns.”

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