Different managers with their own unique styles and philosophies. Mikel Arteta and Antonio Conte are at opposite ends of their career, with the former only two years into his managerial life and the latter an already established coach with vast success at European level.
Despite those differences, there are many obvious similarities. Both are at the helm of two top four contenders, north London rivals to be precise, and the coming weeks will go some way to deciding what the long-term future holds for two of London’s leading lights.
Conte has distanced Tottenham from Champions League qualification, instead mentioning Manchester United as favourites to secure the spot. He went as far as claiming that it will be a ‘miracle’ if either Arsenal or Tottenham finish above the inconsistent Manchester side.
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“We are not the only team that wants to try to do this miracle,” he said. “There’s also Arsenal that in this moment has an advantage, and then there is United.
“United is the [top] team that in this season are struggling a lot. Last season, it was Liverpool. Otherwise in England, I continue to repeat, you play for other targets. Because there are a top four, who at this moment are stronger clubs than the others, for many reasons.
“And this season it depends on United. At the moment we are among the teams that have to try to stay very close and exploit if someone fails this season. If you ask me about the past, about our possibility to reach a place in the Champions League, I could say to do it’d be very, very, very difficult.”
The contrast in Arteta’s public statements couldn’t be further from what Conte has said. “To be with the top teams you have to win consistently and do it in a convincing way,” asserted the Spaniard. I need even more than that amount of victories (four in a row) because there are teams in this league who do that for 10, 11, 12 or 18 times, so still the margin is pretty big.
“The only matter for me is how we train tomorrow [Saturday] and how we play on Sunday. The rest, this is football and its so unpredictable: nobody knows what can happen. Our only focus is on performing and winning matches.”
Those comments provide a blueprint behind what Arteta has been building at Arsenal over the past couple of years. Whilst it may be a case of Conte playing ‘mind games’ and looking to put pressure on the teams around him, Arteta’s honest language and focusing on each game as it comes represents that transparency of what he has built, brick by brick, at Emirates Stadium.
“Everybody is aligned with the same purpose,” added Arteta. “With the same determination and with the same level of passion to achieve what we want to do. Accepting we are not there, but we want to get to the top very quickly and in order to do that we have to do it together.
“We don’t have any single player or any single member of staff in the organisation that can do it individually, all by themselves so it has to be a collective drive to get that bit extra and one of those main factors, for me, has been the Emirates and our supporters. How much they are giving to the team, it’s difficult to put a number on it but I’m telling you it’s been one of the biggest parts.”
Wherever the Gunners finish come May, the evidence as to what, why and how Arsenal are progressing on and off the pitch is visible for all to see – and emphasises exactly why the club made the right choice to hire the Spaniard to help transform the club.