Mikel Arteta has denied he came close to joining Mauricio Pochettino’s staff at Tottenham, even though the Arsenal boss considers the Argentinian a “football father”.
The Spaniard is preparing to face Spurs on Thursday evening in a north London derby which could confirm a return to the Champions League next season for the Gunners.
It would cement an impressive turnaround under Arteta following a tough 2020-21 campaign that saw the club miss out on European football entirely.
Arteta is looking to burnish the reputation he has at Emirates Stadium, where he spent the end of his playing days before joining Pep Guardiola on the Manchester City coaching staff.
He was asked about having once been tipped to cross the divide and join rivals Spurs, when they were led by current Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino.
That was a reported possibility in 2016, but the Gunners boss has poured cold water on the suggestion it could have happened, albeit reinforcing the point that he shares a close bond with the former Tottenham manager.
“No,” Arteta said when asked if there was truth to the rumours. “My relationship with Mauricio comes from when I was 18 years old.”
As a teenager, Arteta went on loan from Barcelona to PSG, and Pochettino was a team-mate.
“I have always said, for me, he was like a football father,” Arteta said. “I have an extraordinary relationship with him. But unfortunately, he was a coach at Spurs, and I was here at the time. That relationship hasn’t changed, but that isn’t the case.”
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 12, 2022
Arteta touched on the relationship between his team and their fans following this season’s resurgence, saying he hopes a derby victory will strengthen their bond.
“The players want to show them gratitude for the way they have performed with the team,” he added. “That would be the answer – to say thank you.
“We’re in this together, and now the journey is going to change us, and I think we are going to be more excited about the future.”
Arsenal can secure Champions League football with victory over Spurs, while a failure to win for Tottenham would also assure Chelsea of a top-four finish.
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