London – Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has warned Arsenal to expect a fight to the finish in the race for third place in the Premier League.
Redknapp's side surrendered their grip on third spot, which earns automatic Champions League group stages, for the first time in almost three months after a 1-1 draw against Stoke on Wednesday.
While Spurs were failing to win for a fourth successive league match, Arsenal continued their revival with a 1-0 victory at Everton which allowed them to leapfrog their north London rivals.
It was another dispiriting 90 minutes for Spurs, who needed a Rafael van der Vaart stoppage-time equaliser to cancel out Cameron Jerome's opener as football returned to White Hart Lane just four days after Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba's horrifying collapse there.
Although Spurs have been in freefall over the last month, Redknapp is convinced they will rediscover their peak form in time to pip Arsenal to third.
“We can still finish above Arsenal. Arsenal can think it's all over. It's not all over,” Redknapp said.
“There's a long way to go yet. There'll be twists and turns. It's all to play for still.
“They're not going to win every game, are they, I don't think.”
Redknapp rubbished suggestions his players might have been affected by Saturday's distressing events, which saw Tottenham's FA Cup tie with Bolton abandoned after Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest shortly before half-time.
“Nothing affects them – they've been ready to play,” he said. “I'd be making excuses if I said that.
“I just felt we got a bit panicky. We stopped passing the ball as well.
“The crowd want us to get forward and want us to win, which is great.
“And we start lumping the ball forward. There's no point in lumping the ball forward against Stoke.
“We had to play, we had to keep being patient, and if it took 10, 15, 20 passes to try to make an opening, we had to do it.”
Redknapp revealed he even lied to his players at half-time to motivate them, telling them fifth-placed Chelsea were winning at Manchester City.
He said: “I said Arsenal were winning and Chelsea were winning. Chelsea weren't winning but I said, 'They're both winning. Let's get after them, we need a win'.
“It didn't work, did it, obviously because we only drew!”
Redknapp also insisted his players had not lost their nerve, having blown what looked set to be a 13-point lead over Arsenal during last month's north London derby.
He said: “We've had hard games. People can look at it as much as they want.
“We've played three games before tonight. They weren't exactly nine points you'd been looking at.
“We're all disappointed to have had a blip at this time of the season but we've got to come out of that now, we've got to keep going.” – Sapa-AFP