Unai Emery has admitted that Tottenham are better than his side at present, as the Spaniard prepares to take charge in his first north London derby as Arsenal head coach.
The 48-year-old is untested as yet against the Gunners’ fiercest rivals as the boss of his new side. However, Emery is set to go head-to-head with old friend Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs team in a tantalising clash at the Emirates on Sunday.
Emery has led his side on an 18-match unbeaten run, with Arsenal undefeated since their second game of the season away to Chelsea. However, the Spaniard faces one of his toughest tests to date on Sunday, and admitted, via Sky Sports: ‘At the moment, Tottenham is better than us.’
Recalling his history in derby encounters, former Sevilla boss Emery said: “The Seville derby is very, very passionate. I lived different derbies like Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao, like CSKA Moscow v Spartak, PSG v Olympique Marseille.
“Sevilla v Betis is with the passion because they are two teams with very big and passionate supporters and here in England I think I am going to live Sunday the first derby and think it is similar with the passion.
“Sometimes in the history, Sevilla is better and sometimes Betis are better. I think here it is the same. At the moment, Tottenham is better than us in the table and better than us last year but in history Arsenal is better at other moments than Tottenham.
“I think we are going to live with two [sets of] supporters and I think it will be a very good atmosphere.
“The first match is in our stadium and with our supporters and we want on Sunday to give them the best performance and can give them our energy and our things on the pitch to help them push us.”
Sunday’s clash may be the first time Emery has experienced a north London derby, but the Spaniard is no stranger to the man who will be in the opposite dugout on Sunday.
Emery admits that he and Pochettino are ‘very good friends’ following their coinciding spells in La Liga, in which the now-Spurs boss was in charge of Espanyol until 2012.
“His career is very, very consistent,” Emery said of his Argentine counterpart.
“His structure in every team is very clear and also with good performances, usually he was working in Spain and then at Southampton and also at Tottenham with young players and usually every young player improve with him or with his staff.
“I think he is deserving in his career like the best, with the likes of [Pep] Guardiola and [Diego] Simeone, he is a very big coach.”
Sunday’s north London derby comes with not only local pride at stake, but also with much to play for in the Premier League table.
Hosts Arsenal are just three points behind their arch rivals in fifth, meaning that victory over Tottenham on Sunday would be a huge step towards regaining their spot in the top four.