Mauricio Pochettino says he would not swap the progress made during his time at Tottenham for the trophies Arsenal have won in the same period.
Pochettino has overseen a consistent improvement at Spurs since his arrival in 2014, leading the club from fifth place to third and then second in the Premier League table.
Last term the Lilywhites finished above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years, qualifying for the Champions League for the second year in a row while dumping the Gunners out of Europe’s elite club competition.
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Silverware continues to elude Pochettino while, since his move to White Hart Lane, Arsenal have won the FA Cup twice. But, speaking ahead of Saturday’s north London derby, the Spurs boss insisted he would not swap achievements.
“No, because Tottenham is Tottenham and Arsenal are in another stage of their project,” he said. “I don’t care where they are. After three and a half years I think we achieve a lot of things.
“I would like to achieve more – to be first and not second, and win cups rather than being runners-up – but we are in a different process, a different project.
“I admire all that Arsene Wenger has made at Arsenal, but we are at a different stage of the project. They’re different clubs, different philosophies. I’d never change for another, of course.”
Pochettino has repeatedly made it clear that he values success in the Premier League and Champions League above domestic trophies.
It is therefore unsurprising that he would be more interested in his side’s position in the table, the victory over reigning European champions Real Madrid and an already-secured place in the continental knock-out stages than emulating Arsenal’s FA Cup successes.
Pochettino stressed the point again ahead of the showdown at the Emirates: “If we are focused on trying to win cups, I think that project is not useful for the club,” he said.
“If we can win the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, fantastic – but our principal objective is to win the Premier League and put Tottenham in a position to win the Champions League.
“You have the chance, because the draw is good – like at different big clubs – that you arrive at the final [of a domestic cup] and maybe you win. That has happened not only at Tottenham but at Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea.
“If you make a summary of the starting XIs of all the big clubs [in the cups], always they try to use the whole squad. Then you arrive, because the draw helps you, and you win.
“But you know better than me, the Premier League and Champions League is a massive challenge for the big clubs, and these types of trophy are the real trophies.”
Tottenham cross north London on Saturday having failed to win at the Emirates for almost exactly seven years, with their last triumph coming on November 20 2010.
Indeed, they have struggled generally away against their top-six rivals under Pochettino, only winning one out of 16 matches at Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
However, when Pochettino was asked about the importance of emerging victorious at the Emirates, he stated that his side have questions to answer and a need to prove themselves in every match.
“Of course always it’s important, but it’s the same question as before Real Madrid: is it important to win or be competitive at the Bernabeu?” he said.
“Then it was the same against Liverpool, because we never won against Liverpool, and then to beat Real Madrid – because that would be a massive statement. Now again, it’s the same against Crystal Palace and Arsenal.
“It’s a massive game for us but we must assess the team in a long period. After nearly three and a half years the most important thing is we have a team that’s very competitive and can compete with Real Madrid. Then, for me, it’s a game.
“Of course it’s such an important game, a derby, and it means more than three points, but it’s important to keep doing well in a long process.
“It’s important to improve every game and every season and one day to say ‘yes, we can win not only cups but the Premier League and Champions League’.
“On Thursday we had a very good conversation about loss – whether it’s more painful to lose against one opponent than another.
“For me it’s frustrating whenever you don’t win – against Palace or Swansea or against Chelsea or Arsenal. For me it’s the same pain – I don’t like to lose.”
In the build-up to the derby, Pochettino has been speaking to a trio of Tottenham greats – Glenn Hoddle, Steve Perryman and Graham Roberts.
“I try to show respect for our legends and share ideas for the club,” he said. “It’s a good idea from the club to meet them, like Ossie [Ardiles], Rickie Villa, Micky Hazard and everyone.
“I believe they can help me and the club, and I think it’s important because they’re part of the history of the club, and the present too.
“It’s easier for me to meet with Ossie and Ricky as we speak in Spanish. But they have a lot of experience and for us it’s important to know how they feel. They translate properly how our fans are, the philosophy and identity of the club.
“It’s so important for us to know. If we want to build something special but keep our identity, who better than them to translate how Tottenham was, is today and can be one day?”
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