Rafael van der Vaart has insisted Tottenham can pip Arsenal to third place this season, and believes the Gunners will be getting ‘nervous’ as the race for Champions League football heats up.
Spurs finally won their first game in six attempts with a 3-1 victory over Swansea on Sunday, a day after Arsenal had surprisingly come undone against lowly-QPR, who sealed a 2-1 win over Arsene Wenger’s side at Loftus Road.
That bought the Gunners seven game winning streak to an end, and Spurs’ much-needed victory means just one goal separates the two north London rivals level on points in third and fourth spot with seven games of the season remaining.
Spurs had held a 12 point advantage over their rivals in third place at the start of February, before embarking on a poor run that saw them record three straight defeats and two draws that allowed Arsenal to jump above them in the league table.
However Van der Vaart believes the win over Swansea put a full-stop to their poor run, with the Dutchman insisting that nerves could play a part when it comes to the race for third place and automatic qualification for the Champions League.
"I hope Arsenal are getting nervous. It's a big battle — Chelsea also keep winning — and it's not going to be easy to lead from the front,” he told The Sun.
"I'm confident we can finish third. But I said a few weeks ago 12 points is a lot and we were going to stay in third!
"We want to have Champions League again because last season it was a great experience. It's important we finish third not fourth because in qualifying there are some big teams and you never know what can happen."
While Spurs attempt to hunt down their local rivals above them, the win at White Hart Lane on Sunday also ensured that Chelsea were kept at arms length, with five points still the gap between Harry Redknapp’s side and Chelsea and Newcastle, level on points in fifth and sixth respectively.
Tottenham appear to have the easier run-in of the teams competing for a top four spot, with their remaining seven games all coming against sides in the bottom half of the table.
Both Arsenal and Chelsea go head to head in the coming weeks while the Gunners play hosts to title challengers Manchester City this weekend, and Van der Vaart believes the fixture list could play into Spurs’ hands.
He added: "Yes we feel like we have the advantage. But sometimes we do better against the big teams.
"We were a little low on confidence but we showed we're still there and want to be in the top three.
"There's still a long way to go but confidence is back."