There may be little love lost between Tottenham and Arsenal, but tensions are set to increase along the Seven Sisters Road as the two sides go into the second half of the season just six points apart at the top of the table.
While the Gunners are used to their position in and around the summit, part of the reason they find their bitter rivals close behind them is down to Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.
North London is now fortunate enough to hold two of the Premier League’s best managers, and the battle between the two could prove the difference between winning the title and missing out on the top prize.
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Arsene Wenger may not be in such overt competition with Pochettino than he has been with previous Spurs managers - such as Martin Jol with whom he famously squared up to on the touchline during a 1-1 draw. He will no doubt be aware, though, that while he has seen numerous Spurs managers come and go in his time, the current incumbent of the White Hart Lane hot seat could be his toughest challenge yet.
In terms of track record, Wenger is miles ahead, not least due to his extensive experience and advantage in terms of age. Pochettino struggled in La Liga, but transformed a struggling Southampton side into a respectable mid-table outfit, and has similarly worked wonders at Tottenham. Wenger is nothing if not consistent, and has a remarkable record of guiding Arsenal into the Champions League.
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Unfortunately, that has been where it ends for Arsenal fans, though he has recently got them back on track with successive FA Cup wins. The club experienced a trophy drought ending only in 2014, and while Pochettino is yet to lift any silverware, it is fair to say the expectations at Spurs are lower.
With regard to exceeding expectations, Pochettino is a stronger candidate than Wenger. It would have been inconceivable to talk about Spurs as title contenders in August, but with hard work, Pochettino has made that achievable, albeit unlikely.
Work to be done
In fact, both Spurs and Arsenal are in a position where their doubters have serious concerns about their mentality. This is something both Wenger and Pochettino must work on with their respective sides if they are to create a group of players psychologically strong enough to lift the Premier League.
Style of play will also be a key factor that distinguishes the two bosses. Arsenal are famed for their flowing football, but given that Pochettino has had under two years to work with his squad, he has already created an impressive philosophy amongst his young players, and could well build a side capable of the kind of football Wenger’s players have displayed over the years.
Ultimately, Pochettino has urged his side to focus on their own efforts, rather than be distracted by Arsenal’s exploits, but it is little surprise that his success has brought some flattering comparisons with ‘The Professor’. At just 43, the Argentine has plenty of time to live up to those comparisons if he continues at his current rate.
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