Arsene Wenger's place as King of character in North London is under threat from Mauricio Pochettino

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 04 November 2016, 11:47

The North London derby takes centre stage this weekend as Arsenal (2nd) host fierce rivals Tottenham (5th) in a crunch clash. Regular columnist Andy Dillon (@andydillon70) looks at the personalities of the two gaffers in opposing dugouts.

HIGH NOON looms in North London on Sunday.

The twice-yearly showdown between Arsenal and Tottenham and a new rivalry emerging from between the traditional battle lines of two great clubs.

Forget bragging rights, three points, victory over the old enemy - there is even more at stake for the two managers at the epicentre of one of football’s great duels.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has been known for years as one of the great survivors but also one of the great characters in the game.

Like him, love him loathe him, there’s no denying that Frenchman Wenger’s dripping honey voice and assured tones make him among the most quotable in the business.

But across the great divide comes Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentinian is now so comfortable with his English that his press conferences are considered the best ticket in town for journalists.

Young, vibrant and funny, Pochettino is turning Spurs into the fun club of London football and it’s winning them a lot of fans if not many matches at the moment.

Character is a crucial element in a successful team any manager will admit. The Spurs players are struggling to string a pass together at present, especially in the absence of injured Harry Kane.

Keeper Hugo Lloris admitted as much in the aftermath of Wednesday’s Champions League defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, saying Spurs ‘could not be in worse shape’.

Yet there could be no better man at the helm driving them on to turn things around than Pochettino - particularly in Sunday’s midday match against Arsenal; a game where personality and strength of mind is as important as talent during 90 breathless minutes.

Just a few weeks ago Pochettino revealed to journalists how he sat down midfielder Mousa Dembele for some wise words as the Belgian prepared for his return after a six game gouging ban.

Pochettino stuck to the rulebook on how his players must behave like professionals, then admitted once Kung-Fu kicking an opposing striker in the EAR in a wild, airborne attack while playing for Paris St.Germain.

The revelation and the detail was captivating. The honesty refreshing.

Tell me any Tottenham player reading that would not have more respect for his boss showing a human side and confessing to his own shortcomings.

Man-management at its simplest and best. Wenger has the ability to bewitch journalists with his extraordinary knowledge and level of interest in his players.

Only recently, discussing things about Theo Walcott’s career that Theo Walcott probably didn’t even know.

His failure to see his players commit crimes on the pitch are laughable and legendary. As a result Frenchman Wenger has had the monopoly on personality in North London since Spurs ditched Harry Redknapp four years ago.

Maybe Pochettino has sat and watched Wenger in action and learned from it.

It may even sound trivial - but it was Wenger himself who said that football teams reflect the personality of their managers.

This is why Tottenham’s current setback is just a blip.

Pochettino is now at home with the English culture, the language, the way of life and the football.

And if his confidence in front of a microphone gives his team even half a yard head start on Arsenal this Sunday he’ll take it.


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