Spirits are excessive in north London.
Arsenal got here near catching champions Manchester Metropolis final season and have began this one like they’ll push them once more. They’ve a bunch of gamers all people loves and a supervisor with whom they’ve been on an emotional journey for nearly 4 years now, the method having been trusted.
But Tottenham Hotspur have been above them within the nascent league desk going into the weekend. Harry Kane has left however they’ve a minimum of rid themselves of the looming cloud that was the prospect of Harry Kane leaving. They’re enjoying extraordinary soccer beneath a brand new supervisor who, by way of nice teaching and piercingly efficient oratory, has the fanbase consuming from the palm of his hand.
Actually, when was the final time each Arsenal and Spurs have been, as a collective, comfortable on the identical time?
Perhaps throughout that quick — and on reflection fairly bizarre — spell early in Unai Emery’s reign when some giddy Gooners sang, “We’ve obtained our Arsenal again”? That was the final full season of Mauricio Pochettino down the street, and although the cracks had began to look, Tottenham nonetheless reached the Champions League remaining, and everybody was nonetheless fairly besotted with their supervisor.
Earlier than that? Perhaps when Spurs have been entering into the Champions League across the begin of the 2010s, however even then, the rumblings of discontent that might get louder within the latter days of Arsene Wenger’s reign have been taking maintain at Arsenal.
No, it’s not usually these two bitter rivals are concurrently content material. They’ve normally been two completely different strains on the graph, by no means fairly trending up on the identical time. However going into this weekend’s north London derby, they each very a lot are.
It’s fascinating to think about that the managers of those two have been primarily given the identical activity: to revive ailing golf equipment, who have been at low ebbs of various natures once they arrived. However extra fascinating is the very alternative ways each of them have gone about doing it.
Ange Postecoglou has rapidly developed a status as each Tottenham fan’s uncle — likeable, cuddly even, though he’s truly not that cuddly in any respect. He makes some extent of not getting too near his gamers, so he can retain some emotional distance with regards to making massive choices. At earlier membership Celtic, the place he received the Scottish title in each his seasons in cost, he would make some extent of consuming lunch in his workplace, fairly than with the squad, for this very cause.
However he speaks like a human being, rigorously strolling the cheese-wire-thin line between realising how necessary soccer is however concurrently how unimportant soccer is.
He has spoken brilliantly this season about head accidents and psychological well being, however arguably most spectacular was his response to a comparatively throwaway query after final weekend’s win over Sheffield United, about making certain that Spurs followers don’t get too carried away and tempering expectations.
— THFCReport (@THFCReports) September 15, 2023
“No, no — let ‘em go, let ‘em take pleasure in it,” he stated, after two objectives deep in added time turned an annoying house defeat to a promoted membership who had taken one level from their first 4 matches right into a 2-1 victory. “My position isn’t to burst any bubbles: allow them to get excited, allow them to get forward of themselves. That’s the fantastic thing about being a supporter. They undergo sufficient ache, you need to allow them to take pleasure in it. In the event that they assume we’re going to be world-beaters, nice — it’s as much as us to match these expectations.”
It’s fairly potential all of that is fairly cynical and designed, that Postecoglou is enjoying to the extra romantic aspect of Spurs followers, making an attempt to change into the strolling embodiment of that Danny Blanchflower line from the membership’s previous — “the sport is about glory… about doing issues in type, with a flourish.” To dare is to do, and all that. However it does all really feel real, and suits with what has occurred in his earlier jobs.
Arteta’s method is completely different — much less your uncle and extra a distant however glorious instructor; barely troublesome to heat to on a human degree however undeniably good, so it’s onerous to not respect him. He has perfected the artwork of speaking so much with out saying a terrific deal, all the time with half a smile on his face, a smile that claims, “I do know the reply to your query, however I’m not going to let you know.”
Ange Postecoglou, an unimaginable supervisor defying odds and expectations… however extra importantly a terrific human being. What a testomony to our soccer membership.
A incredible second 🤍 pic.twitter.com/pydB1UeL03
— Spurs Track Sheet 🎶🏟 🤍💙Dwelling of Tottenham Chants (@SpursSongSheet) September 20, 2023
Sometimes one thing extra uncommon slips by way of the facade, like that bizarre comparability from the opposite week when he drew parallels between courting his spouse and summer season signing Kai Havertz settling into his new position. Then there was the reply he gave about his twin goalkeepers coverage after the win away to Everton final weekend, or the eccentricities displayed in Arsenal’s All Or Nothing documentary sequence, a few of which labored and a few of which have been simply fairly foolish.
However as a rule, Arteta sticks to the concept his soccer is a ‘have to know’ factor: he is aware of, we don’t have to.
He seems to deal with soccer as a science, one thing with a definitive reply, which can clarify why he’s been tinkering with issues this season, the soccer equal of holding a check tube as much as the sunshine and dropping in a pipette of Havertz, or stirring up a bit Declan Rice in a petri dish. It doesn’t essentially make the best way Arsenal play unattractive or unenjoyable and even unlikable, it’s only a completely different method of doing issues.
Arteta beneath Arsenal appear mounted on the vacation spot, whereas in the meanwhile for Postecoglou’s Spurs, it’s extra in regards to the journey.
That is partly as a result of we all know extra about what the vacation spot seems like for Arsenal, and since Arteta has been in his job for for much longer. Spurs are simply in the beginning of all this, so that they don’t fairly know the place they’re heading but.
However even right here lies a distinction in the best way they’re doing issues.
Arsenal followers have been requested to belief the method, the implication being that the method wasn’t going to be gratifying however the outcomes down the street could be value it. Postecoglou’s perspective appears to be in regards to the course of and the end result belonging to the identical factor, that it ought to all be taken collectively and appreciated wholly.
It isn’t in regards to the journey. It isn’t in regards to the vacation spot.
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) January 26, 2023
Will it matter if neither aspect emerges from this season with something tangible to point out for it? Perhaps. Most likely extra so with Arsenal.
However what each groups are exhibiting us in the meanwhile is that you just don’t want tangible rewards to be comfortable.
They each be ok with their groups, with a smattering of likeable and genuinely good gamers, led by managers who in a method or one other ‘get it’. Trophies, league positions, measurable success — all of this issues, however not as a lot as having fun with each particular person sport for the expertise.
With out wishing to sound like some type of wellness blogger, it’s about savouring the second, the journey fairly than the vacation spot (or, as Arteta says in his workforce discuss in All Or Nothing, the corporate). Each golf equipment are doing that in several methods proper now.
Will it final past the primary north London derby of the season this weekend? Most likely. Such is the pressure of optimism on each side of the north London divide proper now, even shedding a sport to them isn’t more likely to dampen it an excessive amount of.
(High images: Getty Pictures)
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- Arsenal vs Tottenham: Arteta, Postecoglou and their completely different routes to revival
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