0109 GMT December 12, 2019
Pochettino and Wenger go head to head at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday with Tottenham three places and four points ahead of its local rival, having finished above Arsenal for the first time in 22 years in the previous campaign, the Guardian reported.
Pochettino is undefeated in six league contests against Arsenal since taking over at Spurs in May 2014, but he refused to believe his team is favorite to win or that Wenger is a busted flush having come under more criticism from his own supporters, as well as outside observers, in recent months.
“In football history he’s one of the great managers, the same level as [Sir Alex] Ferguson,” Pochettino said.
“He will always be a special manager. To keep motivation more than three years is difficult. Five years, you must be very good, very good if you’re 10 years. When you talk about 20 years it’s amazing. Everyone who talks about him needs to show respect. Some days you’re good, some days not so good. But [show] respect.
“Wenger was an innovator, ahead of everyone, like Ferguson. It’s difficult to innovate but you must try to create a project under your ideas and philosophies to take you ahead of other clubs. They were ahead. That’s why my respect and admiration is high.”
Asked if his kind words for Wenger were part of a pre-match strategy aimed at softening up the 68-year-old, Pochettino replied, “I tell the truth to you. Why show different emotion if you don’t believe that? I need to be honest and fair. He is my enemy because he is Arsenal manager but he is my colleague too. What he is doing at Arsenal and as a manager – I would like to be like him one day; 20 years at Tottenham.”
That will come as great news to Spurs supporters and the club’s hierarchy given the manner in which Pochettino has enhanced the team since arriving from Southampton.
Tottenham has secured third- and second-place finishes in the Premier League under the Argentinian and this season secured progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League with two group games to spare and having beaten Real Madrid 3-1.
Pochettino signed a new five-and-a-half-year deal in May and recently said he would sign a 15-year contract if it were offered to him by the chairman, Daniel Levy, having been linked with a move to, among others, Manchester United.
The 45-year-old’s immediate focus, however, is on securing Spurs’ first win at the Emirates since a 3-2 triumph in November 2010, when Harry Redknapp was manager.
Their chances have been boosted by the return to first-team training on Thursday of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Harry Winks, all of whom missed England’s recent friendlies against Germany and Brazil because of knee, hamstring and ankle injuries respectively.
Hugo Lloris also returned to training having missed the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace before the international break with a groin strain.
“I hope we can count on them for the game,” said Pochettino.
“We need to decide between the medical staff, sports science staff and us. But I am happy. If they cannot play on Saturday I’m sure they’re close for Tuesday [a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund] or next weekend [a Premier League match against West Bromwich Albion].”