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'We showed we can play better' - Arsenal ready to topple Spurs, says Leno

22:30 BST 02/09/2019
Bernd Leno Arsenal 2019-20
The Gunners drew 2-2 with north London rivals Tottenham on Sunday in the Premier League

Bernd Leno believes Arsenal showed against Spurs that they are ready to become top dogs in north London once again.

After more than two decades of dominance over their neighbours, Arsenal have had to endure Tottenham finishing above them in each of their last three campaigns.

And last season they even had to watch their rivals reach the Champions League final, where they were eventually beaten by Liverpool in Madrid.

Arsenal, meanwhile, missed out on a top four spot in the Premier League once again and suffered a heavy defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League final.

So it’s been a difficult few years at the Emirates, but after an impressive transfer window which saw the Gunners smash their transfer record to bring in Nicolas Pepe, optimism is high that this season could see the balance of power in north London shift once again.

And Leno feels the performance during Sunday’s derby, which saw Unai Emery’s side fight back from two goals down to draw 2-2, showed that Arsenal are now more than a match for their rivals.

“We showed that we can play better than them,” said the German keeper.

“To be honest, in the first half you saw the quality of Tottenham so it will a very hard fight until the end of the season - then we will see who will be better.”

After a bright start on Sunday, Arsenal fell behind when a weak save from Leno presented Christian Eriksen with a tap in.

Harry Kane then doubled Spurs’ advantage from the penalty spot before Alexandre Lacazette reduced the deficit just before half-time.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang levelled things up after the interval, turning in Matteo Guendouzi’s cross to ensure Arsenal entered the first international break of the season two points ahead of their neighbours.

Leno said: “It was a very difficult start, but then we said on the pitch: 'we have to stay positive'.

“There was still an hour to play and we know about the character in this team - and also our quality. After it went to 2-1 you could see that we at least wanted to draw the game and at the end we still had chances to win.

“After the game it was a little bit disappointing because we had a chance.

“But after an hour you have to say it's okay because we were 2-0 down and came back to 2-2. Also, Tottenham could have scored a third goal. So at the end it was a deserved draw.”

On the save that led to Spurs’ opening goal, Leno added: “I couldn't catch the ball completely and then I tried to get up but Eriksen scored. It was unlucky, but that is the life of a goalkeeper.

“For me, it was like the team, I had to stand up. It's not a big problem just because we conceded a goal, I had to stay positive and I thought after that I did a very good job.”

Having got back on level terms, Arsenal had chances to win the game, with Pepe blazing the best of the lot wide from the edge of the area.

But Spurs also had opportunities and had a penalty appeal turned down in injury time when Kane went down following a challenge with Sokratis in the box.

Referee Martin Atkinson waved play on and VAR upheld the decision, with Kane being criticised heavily in the aftermath of the derby for diving.

When quizzed on whether he felt the England captain had dived, Leno remained coy.

“I don't know,” he said. “I think from Kane and also from Sokratis it was maybe over-reacting from both, but that is normal in this game.

“Everybody was going crazy in the last few minutes. All the fans and players were crazy and the referee made the right decision. He just said that everyone should calm down. So it was okay.”