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Friday 22 September 2017

Pochettino demands derby steel

Mauricio Pochettino wants his players to relish the derby atmosphere
Mauricio Pochettino wants his players to relish the derby atmosphere

Mauricio Pochettino has experienced the hatred of rival supporters on derby days throughout his career and now he wants his Tottenham players to relish the pressure as he did.

The 42-year-old is enjoying a growing reputation in management having been a combative central defender during his time as a player - with 20 Argentina caps going alongside spells at Newell's Old Boys, Espanyol and Paris Saint-Germain.

Having moved to White Hart Lane from Southampton in the summer, Pochettino will take charge of his first north London derby against fierce rivals Arsenal on Saturday with memories of previous local battles still etched on his mind.

His time with Newell's certainly provided the scariest of moments when they came up against Rosario - but Pochettino insists he enjoyed the challenge of performing behind enemy lines and wants his players to do the same at the Emirates Stadium.

"It was always difficult to arrive (at Rosario's stadium)," he said.

"You needed to arrive with all the (coach) windows closed, everyone lying down on the floor, because it is dangerous. You need to be brave. In this kind of game, you need to be brave to get the victory. Not only outside, but on the pitch.

"You also need to be brave to play in Marseille if you play for PSG - when we arrived at the airport it was always with the private security.

"It (playing Arsenal) is not another game, it's impossible it's another game, I know the feeling of our supporters, we need to relay this feeling on the pitch.

"It's our responsibility to fight in every ball. If we fight the result may arrive for us but we need to fight in the game. Our supporters expect that of us."

Far from being glad to see the back of such days, Pochettino would happily lie on the floor of Tottenham's team coach as it rolls into Arsenal on Saturday if it meant getting the best from his players.

"I would like to!," he said when asked if he expected to be ducking for cover at the Emirates. "It's my habit, it's not strange for me. I'm more strong with hostiles situation, I like it."

Spurs have a poor record at the home of their nearest rivals, with just two wins in the Barclays Premier League era to show for their efforts.

But Pochettino has already defied the odds as a manager in a derby - leading unfancied Espanyol to a memorable Primera Division victory at Barcelona in 2009.

"When I arrived as Espanyol manager, Espanyol was in last position and Barcelona was top of the table," he explained.

"We go to play in Camp Nou, all people said: 'okay Espanyol is dead, has no chance.' - It was 1-2 for us, for 27 years, Espanyol, had never won away. It was a very good start for me."

Pochettino has previously revealed his admiration for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger but it will be midfielder Mikel Arteta, a man Pochettino calls a 'brother', who he is looking forward to seeing at the weekend.

"I was captain at PSG, he came from Barcelona," said the Tottenham head coach.

"He was like my brother. I love Mikel Arteta, I know he is in another side, the big sporting enemy but I love Mikel because he is a great person."

Another man ready to put friendship aside is new Spurs midfielder Benjamin Stambouli.

The 24-year-old has been getting up to speed on the north London rivalry after moving to White Hart Lane from Montpellier on transfer deadline day and will not be swooning over the former French players who have graced Arsenal in recent years.

"I am learning a lot about north London," he said.

"It is a very important game against Arsenal. I know now that they are the enemy. I used to be friends with Olivier Giroud, but now he is no longer my friend - it is finished!

"Other players say to me that I will really find out what it is to be a Spurs player when you play against Arsenal. I cannot wait for the game and am ready to play because I want to experience that atmosphere.

"For sure I know a lot about Arsenal. A lot of people spoke about them back home because of all the French players who used to play for them. But now I belong to Tottenham and all I want to do is beat them. I won't be thinking about Thierry Henry or Patrick Vieira - I just want to beat them."

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