Paul Merson played for Arsenal for a number of years and would have witnessed first hand how intense their rivalry was with Tottenham Hotspur.
Paul Merson has controversially stated that Tottenham vs Arsenal is no longer the ‘biggest game’ for players, as he thinks they prefer and look forward to playing the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United.
The former Arsenal player was responding to whether Mauricio Pochettino would take the vacant managerial post at the Emirates Stadium, as he seemingly suggested it would be fine because the rivalry is no longer as big as it used to be.
Pochettino was sacked by Spurs last month, whilst their North London rivals followed suit by parting ways with Unai Emery, as a number of big-names have been touted for the job, including that of the ex-Tottenham boss, as reported by The Telegraph.
Speaking to The Debate on Sky Sports (02/12/2019 at 10:40 pm), Merson stated that if he was Arsenal he would go for Pochettino because Tottenham is no longer their ‘biggest game’ from the players perspective.
On Pochettino being a candidate for Arsenal: “I would [go for Pochettino],” Merson told Sky Sports. “I think them days are long gone of Arsenal-Tottenham. It’s not their biggest game anymore.
“If you ask the Arsenal players and the Tottenham players, I think they would rather beat Chelsea or Man United. You ask the foreign players [of Arsenal and Tottenham] they have grown up watching Man Untied, and teams like that. They want to beat Man United.
“Tottenham and Arsenal isn’t the biggest game anymore. For the fans it is, but it’s not for the players. If I was Arsenal, I would get Pochettino. Would he go? I don’t know.”
It is a big claim by Merson, but judging by the North London derbies that have been played in recent seasons, it doesn’t seem as though the players treat games against the likes of Chelsea or Man United with more importance than Tottenham.
Spurs will travel to Old Trafford on Wednesday night to take on Manchester United, as Jose Mourinho is set to come up against his former club for the first time since they sacked him last December.
As for the managerless Gunners, they will host Brighton on Thursday, as a defeat for them could see them fall four points behind Mourinho’s men.