By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal's former goalkeeper David Seaman is surprised how close his old club are to arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table ahead of Saturday's crunch derby at Wembley.
Less than a week ago third-placed Tottenham were 10 points ahead of Unai Emery's Arsenal side and still appeared to have a genuine chance of challenging for the title.
Consecutive defeats for Tottenham at Burnley and Chelsea, combined with home wins for Arsenal over Southampton and Bournemouth means the top-four battle looks far less clearcut.
Victory for Arsenal, who are fourth, a point above in-form Manchester United, would close the gap on Tottenham to one point and effectively make it a four-way battle for third and fourth place and qualification for the Champions League.
"It's a great opportunity for Arsenal with Spurs coming off the back of two defeats," Seaman, who won three English league titles with Arsenal, told Reuters at the London Football Awards.
"Arsenal have a real chance to get to within a point of Tottenham. If someone said at the start of the season Arsenal would be top four with 10 games left I would have bitten their hand off for that.
"Arsenal are still rebuilding whereas Tottenham, despite not spending money, have been quality for a couple of seasons."
Tottenham have finished above Arsenal for the last two seasons, signifying a shift in the balance of power in north London, but Seaman says they will be under pressure on Saturday with Arsenal suddenly breathing down their necks.
"The confidence is with Arsenal, they like going to Wembley they have won a lot of trophies there, so the Wembley situation won't worry them at all," the former England keeper said.
"It's a huge game and the added bonus for Arsenal is they can close the gap to a point. I didn't think Arsenal would get that close to Spurs this season if I'm honest."
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino was named London Manager of the Year on Thursday, but Seaman has been impressed with Emery's progress and believes his methods are now installed.
"What I'm seeing is the same Arsenal up front but I'm seeing the defence has tightened up a bit."
George Graham, who led Arsenal to the title in 1991 and also managed Tottenham Hotspur, has also been surprised by how the gap between Tottenham and Arsenal has shrunk so quickly.
"This is a very big game," he said. "A few weeks ago Tottenham looked dead certs for the top three and Arsenal were having a few hiccups. It's amazing how quickly it's turned around. But Arsenal are not the finished article by any means."
Former Tottenham defender Paul Miller said the visit of Arsenal is the perfect motivation for Spurs to click back into gear and re-open a healthy gap.
"It's massive," Miller told Reuters. "Mauricio said after the Chelsea defeat that there is no easier team talk (than before a north London derby). The players don't need motivation."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)