Mauricio Pochettino compares Arsene Wenger to Lionel Messi

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Mauricio Pochettino can become an even bigger hero at White Hart Lane if he guides Tottenham to victory over Arsenal in Saturday's high-stakes north London derby.

With the Premier League title likely to go to either one of the local rivals, it promises to be one of the most intense and important derbies in English football history. The pressure on Pochettino and his counterpart Arsene Wenger will be immense and neither will want to give the other an inch.

Well, not really. Pochettino, the personification of calm, has openly spoken of his admiration for the longstanding Arsenal manager, even comparing him to football supremos Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona.

Speaking about Wenger's 19-and-a-half years in charge of the Gunners, Pochettino claims his counterpart should be considered one of football's great names alongside the Argentina legends and former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

"It is about the special capacity that Alex Ferguson had and now Arsene Wenger," he told reporters.

"I don't know if the capacities of the managers has changed or football has changed, it's difficult to say. Maybe they are special people. Maybe Ferguson and Wenger are special people who are capable of keeping their job for so long. Maybe we aren't too special.

"It's like Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi. It's difficult for some players to appear every season like them, no? Maybe when we think of special people like Ferguson or Wenger, maybe it's not the clubs who are special, maybe the managers are special to keep their jobs."

Split opinion

Pochettino's comments may fall uncomfortably amongst the Spurs faithful but it is likely many Arsenal fans would also be inclined to disagree, at least at this moment in time.

Wenger is under pressure to deliver Arsenal's first Premier League title in 12 years. While they remain in contention – six points behind Leicester City – a dismal run of just two wins in their last seven games has seen fans calling for change.

Their latest defeat, a 2-1 reverse to Swansea, inspired raucous booing from the Emirates crowd in what Thierry Henry described as the angriest he has ever seen Arsenal fans.

In his column in The SunSun, he wrote: "I have never heard the Arsenal supporters as angry as they were at the Emirates on Wednesday night when their team lost at home to Swansea.

"They were less patient than I have ever known, booed one of the manager’s substitutions and groaned every time a pass went astray or a tackle was lost.

"The stick that Arsene Wenger has been getting is not personal. People judge what they are seeing, although some maybe go too far in the way they express their unhappiness."

Arsene Wenger's pre-match press conference:

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Mauricio Pochettino
Premier League
Lionel Messi
Arsene Wenger
Tottenham Hotspur

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