Rafael van der Vaart confident Tottenham can finish above Arsenal

• Spurs forward says Arsenal are under pressure
• 'I'm confident we can finish third'

Rafael van der Vaart has suggested it is Arsenal's turn to feel the pressure after the race for Champions League qualification took another twist. The Holland attacking midfielder scored in Tottenham Hotspur's 3-1 home win over Swansea City on Sunday, which meant his team took full advantage of Arsenal's 2-1 defeat at Queens Park Rangers the previous day. Tottenham, in fourth place, are level on points with their north London rivals and behind only on goal difference.

Van der Vaart admitted that Tottenham had become affected by psychological jitters as they endured a sequence of five Premier League matches without victory. It coincided with Arsenal's resurgence and the 10-point advantage that Tottenham had held over their neighbours was wiped out in a matter of weeks. The most recent round of fixtures, though, has seen the margins alter again. Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, said after his team's 0-0 draw at Chelsea the previous weekend that Arsenal could be overhauled and Van der Vaart shares the conviction.

"It was important, the match on Saturday ... away at QPR," Van der Vaart said. "QPR played really well and it helped us. I hope that Arsenal are also getting nervous. It was a really difficult game for us against Swansea because they keep the ball well and they have a great squad, so it was an important win for us.

"We were a little bit low on confidence but we showed against Swansea that we're still there and we want to be in the top three. There's still a long way to go but confidence is back. It's all to do with winning. When you don't win your games, it's also going in your head ... then you are a little bit more nervous.

"Arsenal kept on winning. They came back and I think we lost in two weeks 10 points. So it was quite hard but that's why we had to win against Swansea. Of course, I'm confident we can finish third, although I said a few weeks ago that we're going to stay in third place. We will see."

Tottenham's principal target for the season has long been a Champions League finish and coming in third to secure automatic qualification to the group phase is clearly preferable to fourth, which would necessitate a play-off. Spurs diced with elimination in a play-off against Young Boys last season before they progressed and Arsenal lived on their nerves against Udinese at the beginning of this season before also winning.

"You never know because in qualifying there are also some big teams and good teams," Van der Vaart said. "Of course it's important to finish third rather than fourth for the whole club. We want to have Champions League again because it was a great experience last season."

It is commonly believed that Champions League football would help Tottenham to retain their star players, particularly the midfielder Luka Modric, but it is unclear whether that would be decisive in the future of Emmanuel Adebayor. The striker is on a season-long loan from Manchester City, who are paying £100,000 of his £170,000 weekly wage, and he is reluctant to accept a pay cut to improve his chances of a permanent move to Tottenham, where the weekly wage ceiling is around £70,000.

"I hope that he stays but it is always difficult," Van der Vaart said. "I think the problem is the wages but he's a great player for us. It's great for us that he came because he's a top striker. I was surprised that he came and I hope that he stays.

"I played with [Ruud] Van Nistelrooy and he was fantastic and with Ade ... normally, strikers wait for the chance and they score but he is working and even when he doesn't score he is fantastic for the team. He's so positive. We love him here. Last season I had a good understanding with [Peter] Crouch but with him it's even better."


David Hytner

The GuardianTramp

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