Mikel Arteta, Mauricio Pochettino and the ‘love’ at the heart of a fractious rivalry

Mikel Arteta faces Chelsea having just beaten Manchester City for the first time

Those close to the Argentine insist he still looks back at 2017 somewhat forlornly, because he knew that was the point that he needed to make Sir Alex Ferguson-like changes to his Spurs team. He wasn’t able to and the squad instead went stale.

Arsenal are anything but stale right now. Arteta has instead specifically made signings like Kai Havertz in order to give the team more vitality and tactical variety than last season, where their otherwise impressive surge was too reliant on a primary XI.

They now have much more options, and much more momentum than Chelsea. There is the possibility Arsenal assert their superiority on Saturday, in a way that has become custom in the last few years, which would also represent such a reversal of years of the rivalry. For a long time, Chelsea just found a way to beat Arsenal. No more.

The wonder is whether Chelsea are actually ready to halt it this Saturday. There are finally signs that Pochettino’s distinctive tactical approach is beginning to impress upon his own young squad. That is of course part of a much grander project, that essentially takes the Spurs model to a further extreme. If Arsenal have a higher ceiling, Chelsea are operating on a completely different scale.

Mauricio Pochettino has overseen three wins in a row with Chelsea

They are willing to sign far more young players for much higher prices, believing they can exploit football inefficiencies in a way that both Spurs and Arsenal leant towards but didn’t go anywhere near that far. t is bold, and risky, but that’s the point.

As to where the points will go this weekend, that arms race does leave Arsenal in a much better position than Chelsea right now: Arteta’s team looks close to completion, Pochettino’s is only starting out. Both nevertheless look like they need forwards as focal points above anything else and the remaining gaps allow an element of unpredictability to this.

Arsenal should win. Chelsea could be getting themselves together.

They aren’t yet close enough for this first ever match to affect their close friendship.

The “love” will remain, even if it won’t be seen on the pitch.

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