Paul Robinson talks North London Derby, Tottenham & problems at Arsenal
It’s one of the fiercest rivals in the Premier League and this weekend two heavyweights go head-to-head in North London for Tottenham versus Arsenal.
Over the years, Arsenal have often owned the local bragging rights, but could the tide be changing as Tottenham continue to impress under Jose Mourinho?
Ahead of his Tottenham v Arsenal Ladbrokes 5-A-Side selection, we spoke with ex-England and Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson…
On Tottenham v Arsenal
“When I played in this fixture we were always inferior to the Arsenal side we were playing against. They were always stronger than us and it was always tough to get a result against them.
“I don’t think in my experiences I fared well against Arsenal and at that time North London was red, but it certainly isn’t now.
“Just thinking back to that whole experience of the derby, leading up to it, the days leading up to it, the days after it, it’s a really fantastic experience.
“People talk about the fiercest derbies and rivalries, but you’ll do well to come close to the North London Derby. I thoroughly enjoyed playing in them, although we never fared particularly well.
“Playing against Arsenal was always a tough game for me in my career. Whether I was at Leeds, Tottenham or Blackburn, they always seemed to be a team I never did particularly well against.
“It’s never an easy game, this one. It doesn’t matter that Arsenal are struggling and Spurs are top – form goes out of the window. But even the most pessimistic Tottenham fan can’t put Arsenal as favourites in this one.
“Spurs are so far ahead of them in form, in results and quality of squad. Spurs have got a much stronger squad, a much stronger starting XI and I make them clear favourites this weekend. They have been the strongest squad in North London for some time now and Arsenal are way behind them.”
On Tottenham Hotspur
“I’d like to think that we were the catalyst for Tottenham’s success under Martin Jol. He started building a team and from that point onwards we were challenging for European places, we won the League Cup – it stems back to Jol coming in and taking over from Jacques Santini.
“Since then the building blocks have just got stronger and stronger. Mauricio Pochettino just took things to another level and hopefully Jose Mourinho can go one step further and actually win a trophy.
“I think Tottenham have got a real chance of winning the league this season; I’d class them as title contenders. They’ve got a great opportunity and I think Jose knows he’s got a real chance of making history this year. He’s confident in his squad, he’s got that spark back in his eye.
“This is the best Spurs squad I’ve seen in a number of years. They’re competing on all fronts which I think is something Jose wants to keep doing. I do genuinely think they can mount a serious title challenge due to the fact that they’ve got proven winners in the dressing room.
“Gareth Bale is a serial winner, Jose’s a born winner, we know that. Hugo Lloris is a World Cup winner; they’ve got the ability and the staying power to challenge for the title.”
On Jose Mourinho
“I think you judge Jose on this season. We’re always quick in the media and as pundits to judge people over a short amount of time – Mikel Arteta is feeling that now at Arsenal over such a short period of time.
“Jose was brought in for a reason. Pochettino took the team to a certain level and he nearly won something, but nearly wasn’t good enough. The chairman wants to win something. Jose was given the tools, he’s been backed in the transfer market which is fantastic to see, so you can now judge him as Spurs’ manager.
“He’s actually turning a lot of people who questioned his appointment back in his favour. You can see he’s got the twinkle back in his eye. The Jose at Spurs is the Jose who was at Chelsea, not the one that was at Manchester United. The one who was winning big trophies and had the players on his side and winning a lot of friends. It seems like we’ve got that Jose again.”
“I was initially surprised when Mourinho came in, more so at the sacking of Pochettino. I was surprised because of how far Mauricio had taken the club on, but it wasn’t just his form at the start of last season that got him the sack.
“It was the form at the end of the previous season as well. There was a run of performances that weren’t good enough and it’s where he potentially lost the dressing room. It was a brave decision to lose Pochettino, and you’ve got to give Daniel Levy a lot of credit for doing it and bringing Jose in.
“He’d had the opportunity at that time to bring a world class manager, a born winner, into his club and he went and did it. Yes it was a big decision but he deserves a lot of credit for making it, and for backing Jose.”
On what’s going wrong at Arsenal
“I think Mikel Arteta came in and did really well in his first six months or so in charge of the club. He won a couple of trophies which they’d not had in a few years, but I think people are really quick to jump on managers and not give them enough time.
“It was always going to be a huge rebuilding job for whoever took over. Arsene Wenger was there for such a long time, then Unai Emery came in and things didn’t work out there.
“He’s also got the problem that Mesut Ozil is sat there draining £1.2m a month out of the club. There’s a lot of big decisions he has to make.
“I really rate Arteta; I think he’s one of the brightest managers in world football. But he needs to be given time to mould his own squad and give them identity. We’re starting to see it now; we can see what he’s trying to do, but I think defensively they’ve still got problems and things aren’t going to change overnight.
“Getting rid of him just because they’re in a poor run of form would absolutely be the wrong thing to do. Look at Jose Mourinho at Tottenham; he’s in his second year and that project is taking time. It took Jurgen Klopp four years to win a trophy at Liverpool.
“Mikel Arteta was tasked with a huge job. To follow Arsene Wenger was always going to be difficult and when Emery took over the club was in a different state. He never got it right, and Mikel Arteta has had to come in and try and bring his own identity, and his own players.
“It’s remarkable that people think he’s under any kind of pressure; it just shows you how cynical football can be at times.
“In my personal opinion he’s one of the best young managers in world football. Arsenal were not in a good place when Arsene Wenger left. Unai Emery didn’t progress them in any way, shape or form. So somebody has got to come in, pick up those pieces and mould the squad.
“Thomas Partey has been a fantastic signing. He’s missed a couple of games now but when he gets fit again they should build that team around him.
“Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hasn’t been the same player since he signed his contract, simply because he’s not being given the chances to score goals. If you’re playing with a poor team who aren’t creating chances, you’re not going to be able to score.
“He’s not hit the heights of the last two seasons so far, Partey’s already been injured. A few things have gone against Arteta so far. You can see what’s going on from the outside looking in, but I think anyone questioning his job security at the moment is being very, very unfair.”
Match prediction: Tottenham 3-0 Arsenal
“I’m going to go for 3-0 to Spurs. Two goals for Harry Kane and a goal for Gareth Bale in the last 10 minutes!”