Kyle Walker: Priority for Spurs is to avoid defeat against West Ham and Arsenal
Kyle Walker believes there is a “level playing field” across London now – and he feels the priority for Tottenham is to avoid defeat in this week’s derbies against West Ham and Arsenal.
Spurs travel to the Irons’ Upton Park ground for the last time on Wednesday night, as their rivals prepare to move to the Olympic Stadium in the summer, and they then host Arsene Wenger’s Gunners in a highly-anticipated north London showdown on Saturday.
In previous seasons there has been a certain hierarchy in the capital, with Spurs generally finding themselves below Chelsea and Arsenal, with West Ham further back.
This campaign, however, the landscape has changed. The Lilywhites are leading the pack – sitting second in the Premier League – ahead of the Gunners, while Slaven Bilic’s Hammers lie sixth and Chelsea have spent most of the season below Crystal Palace.
“Before, Chelsea and Arsenal were the outstanding two,” said Walker, who scored in November’s 4-1 home win over West Ham. “I think it’s good for the Premier League that everyone’s on a level playing field now, and everyone can beat everyone really.
“Every London derby now, you know you’re going to be in for a game, whether it’s Crystal Palace, West Ham, Arsenal or Chelsea.
“Watford have come in and they’re doing really well this season as well, so it’s been great to be a part of. But we’ve done really well as a team this season, we deserve full credit for where we are – not just us as players but the managing staff and coaching staff and everyone.
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“I think it’s an important week. As I’ve said to a lot of people talking to me, if we can get past this week not being beaten then I think it’s going to be very important and it will keep us on track to where we want to be at the end of the season.
“It’s a weird one when you say that because people say if we lose one of the games and then go and win the other, instead of drawing two, then you’re still picking up more points - but obviously it’s two games against two local rivals that you don’t want to lose, so it’s a bit of a difficult one.
“I want to go and win them all. But I think if we get a couple of draws, and maybe a win, I’d take that as well. We just need to keep the momentum going and get on a good run now to the back end of the season.”
Few expected Tottenham to challenge so strongly for the title this term, but Leicester City’s bid has been even more remarkable, given they were bottom of the division at this stage last season – seven points adrift of safety.
Walker admits he is as surprised as anyone to see the Foxes still leading the field – two points ahead of Spurs – at the end of February.
“I’ve said it myself – they’ve got to hit a brick wall, they’ve got to hit a brick wall,” he said. “At Christmas time I was thinking ‘maybe they might hit a brick wall now’ but they’ve just kept going. Full credit to them. They’ve kept it going, they’ve kept their foot on the gas and they fully deserve to be where they are now.
“If we’re playing at the same time as them, you’re not really concentrating on them. But you always check the results after and you’re always seeing Leicester have won – Vardy, Mahrez again. You’re thinking ‘for God’s sake, when are these two going to just quit playing around?’
“But it’s good. Jamie [Vardy]’s from Sheffield, like me, so I’m really happy for him to break the record that he did, and [Riyah] Mahrez is a fantastic player and he’s proving that - but they’ve got other players as well that are not getting as much credit as the other two.
“As I say, they deserve to be where they are and full credit to them, I take my hat off to them - but we need to keep snapping at their ankles and hopefully they mess up once.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs