Sp*rs may have a terrible record away from home in the North London derby – just one win in their last 30 matches – but Mikel Arteta isn’t underestimating our neighbours, who are unbeaten in the league under new manager Ange Postecoglu.
Unlike predecessors Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, the no-nonsense Australian has set about winning hearts and minds at the other end of the Seven Sisters Road and there’s a feelgood factor around the club that few expected following the departure of Harry Kane for Bavaria.
With both teams riding high in the table, everything is teed up for a firecracker of a game on Sunday.
“It’s a new challenge, a new opportunity,” said Arteta in his pre-game press conference on Friday.
“Obviously, they have a new manager that has done really, really well and I think he’s changed the vibe and everything around the club. And they have a different style [of play] as well, so we need to adapt to that, be ourselves and produce the performance that we need to beat them.”
Postecoglu moved to N17 after two trophy-laden years at Celtic and was recently shortlisted for the FIFA Men’s Best Coach Award. Having inherited a squad that looked like they’d rather be anywhere but Sp*rs, his opening months in the job have been about rebuilding confidence.
“I really like him,” said Arteta. “I had players and I know players that have had him and they always speak really, really highly of him.
“Obviously that’s not a coincidence and you can tell straight away that he’s fitting in in the right way. That’s the beauty of this league, that we have top, top managers, top competition and every game is very difficult.”
Kane’s recent move to Germany means it’s 99% likely he won’t score a penalty against us on Sunday. Having netted 14 goals in 19 matches against us, his absence is certainly a relief even if Arteta thinks Sp*rs have adapted well.
“They have many other qualities and many other players that they can create and make a difference in the game,” he said. “Probably for them it’s obviously a big change but I think they have adapted really well to it.”
He added: “He’s a special player, everything was going through him. He was the one that glided everything together and they did it in many different ways from many different areas of the pitch.
“Now it’s a bit different, I think they have a different style from the last two coaches as well. For sure, they have some specificity in some movements that they make with certain players, so I think it’s a very different team.
“We just focus on the team that they have and especially what we have to do to play the best possible way to create problems for them. That’s what we’re going to try to do on Sunday, to create problems for them and that’s what we’re going to try to do on Sunday.”