North London managers put friendship to one side for derby day only
Emery and Pochettino know each other well from their work in Spanish football
Win, lose or draw the first post-Arsene Wenger north London derby, Mauricio Pochettino does not expect his first invitation into the manager's office at the Emirates tomorrow.
As Pochettino pointed out, it is not in Unai Emery's Spanish culture to drink with his opponents before or after a game. But there will be other opportunities for the Tottenham Hotspur manager and his old friend to catch up, as they are Hertfordshire neighbours.
Pochettino and Emery struck up a relationship while working in Spain, which was strengthened by Emery's recommendation that the Argentine should succeed him at Valencia in 2012. Happy at Espanyol, Pochettino turned down the offer but personally thanked Emery and the pair have remained in close contact ever since.
Asked whether they had had the chance to meet up in London since Emery took the Arsenal job, Pochettino replied: "No, but I know that we are neighbours. I think he knows where I am living, but until now I didn't find him.
"Of course, we are in different clubs and it is a derby we are going to play. In the moment, we are going to compete and we are going to try to find the way to beat each other. But before and after the game, always very good friends.
"We have stayed in contact since Spain, yes. About football. At the end, 99.9 per cent of our life is football and, of course, it is football [we talk about], whether it is in Paris or he was in different clubs.
"Sometimes, he asks me about some players, some teams. We have a very good relationship between our coaching staff, too."
In his eight derbies against Wenger, Pochettino lost only once, winning three and drawing four, so perhaps it is not surprising he was never invited in for a drink with the former Arsenal manager.
"With a lot of managers, we have drinks, in the manager's room, after or before," said Pochettino. "But, no, not with Arsene. Never."
Despite his friendship with Emery, Pochettino does not expect to find a glass of red wine waiting for him tomorrow. "It's not our culture," said Pochettino. "In Spain, it's not normal to invite each other to have a drink. I know if I win or we win, he's not going to be happy or in the mood for a drink. And the same for me."
Pochettino won the first and last meetings between Espanyol and Valencia, but Emery was the victor in four of the other five. Emery saw something he liked in Pochettino and his team and put the former defender forward as his successor when he left for Spartak Moscow.
"The chairman of Valencia called me and said, 'I want you in Valencia'," said Pochettino. "We were talking and he said, 'Unai Emery advised me and told me to pick you, you are the best manager'. But I said no, to stay in Espanyol, and then I called Unai who was in Spartak Moscow and said, 'Thank you very much for recommending me'. I chose to stay at Espanyol at the time. I am loyal."
Pochettino could not recall who took the job instead. When he was reminded it was the former Southampton manager, Mauricio Pellegrino, he joked that maybe Valencia's chairman had heard the wrong name when Emery made his recommendation.
Asked why he thought Emery put him forward, he added: "I don't know. You need to ask him. I didn't ask why. Because if I ask, he is going to say, 'Because you are good in this and this, but I think you need to improve this'. I think there's no point to talk about that.
"You need to say thank you and be grateful when a colleague - and after someone who became a very good friend - does that. It's not usual that a manager recommends another manager when he leaves the club."
Emery offered an explanation of why he rates Pochettino so highly, saying: "We have a very good relationship. Sometimes we meet in Spain and we speak together about football. I think his progression as a coach, first in Spain and then in England, is good. His team usually plays with very good organisation; good players. I think Sunday is a very big and difficult match for us, but I trust in our work also and that our supporters can help us to reach our capacity and win the game."
Pochettino tried to repay Emery's favour by giving the 47-year-old an insight into managing in the Premier League, but had to find out from elsewhere that he had taken the Arsenal job.
"I remember one year ago in Bilbao, when in a congress, he asked me about England and, of course, I advised him, 'Yes, if you have the possibility to come, sure you are going to be right'."
But asked whether Emery had tipped him off about his move to Arsenal before it became public, Pochettino said: "I knew, but not through him."
It seems the old friends act goes only so far, when north London pride is on the line. (© Daily Telegraph, London)