The north London derby at White Hart Lane always seems to have a bit more of a kick to it when it comes after the Christmas period. It is usually the time when Arsenal finally kick into gear and Tottenham's early promise begins to vanish. Both managers have much to lose this time around, but Mauricio Pochettino will be more than aware of the pressure that sits on his shoulders.
Failure is not an option for the man who will be presiding over him in his usual position, watching over proceedings like Sauron's all-seeing eye, making sure his plan for global domination is going according to plan.
Daniel Levy is probably the most famous chairman in the Premier League; quite an achievement for a man who rarely does interviews. He has cut out a reputation as a formidable businessman. He did not want a reputation, it just comes with the role.
The Mail journalist Neil Ashton recently wrote an interesting piece detailing how he lives for the transfer window. When the transfer window is closed, he is usually at the club's training ground, working on proposals for Tottenham's new stadium.
His calculated approach to negotiations means he usually gets his way. His bald head and reportedly chronic personification of calmness draws comparisons with Dr No. Those on the red side of north London would say it was more like Dr Evil.
The stadium is a long-term issue and the transfer window opens and closes. For now, nothing seems to compare to his relentless pursuit of making Tottenham Hotspur a regular Champions League contender. He has been thwarted by those pesky Gunners in almost comical fashion for years.
It is an obsession that has seen him go through 12 managers since the turn of the century. If things aren't going his way, there is always someone else out there capable of turning things around. Levy has never been afraid to pull the trigger, noted most recently by the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas after only 18 months in charge. That ominous reputation will be hanging over Pochettino as his side take the field against their most loathed rivals.
The race for fourth place is delicately poised with a stubborn Southampton occupying it on 42 points. Arsenal sit precariously close on equal points with Tottenham just two points adrift. A win gives either side the upper hand in the race for the prize of Champions League football, estimated to be worth as much as £60 million, but a loss would seemingly cut Spurs adrift.
Qualifying for the Champions League is seen to be the minimum expectation for Levy rather than the ultimate target. Should Tottenham succumb to a second consecutive defeat to Arsenal on their own turf, it would leave Pochettino struggling. With the squad already having to cope with the Europa League and a Capital One Cup final, closing a five point gap may be a bridge too far.
An inextricable link
Levy has connected himself to Spurs in such a way that their success is inextricably traced back to his actions. If Tottenham do badly, Levy's reputation is damaged. If Tottenham do well, he is the mastermind that made it happen. His ego has already taken enough of a beating and failure no longer seems like an option.
A loss to the Gunners could effectively be the beginning of end for Pochettino. Levy has worked too hard to get Tottenham into this position for him to reap no fruits from his labour. It will come down to whether the chairman is happy to accept a few more seasons of being the bridesmaid to Ivan Gazidis down Seven Sisters Road or whether saving face is still king in his world.
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