José Mourinho has said Tottenham’s position at the top of the Premier League means more than local pride is at stake in Sunday’s north London derby.
Spurs lead Liverpool on goal difference with more than a quarter of the season completed, having spent more time at the summit over the past fortnight than during their previous 10 campaigns combined. Arsenal are eight points behind their neighbours in 14th spot, having struggled for consistency under Mikel Arteta, and Mourinho acknowledged that Tottenham’s focus is on the bigger picture.
“It means more when we are not in the position we are now,” he said. “Because now we are in such a good position it is a little bit different. Because we want the points we are not just like: ‘We want to beat Arsenal because to beat Arsenal is the only good thing we can give to our fans.’
“It happened last season when we played Arsenal in the last part of the season. It was about winning against Arsenal to give something good, to have a good feeling.
“But we never forget the fact there are historical rivalries and what it means for the fans. Even for people that were not born at Tottenham, and many of us are in this situation. When you arrive at the club you understand the culture, you learn the culture and you share the values with the fans.”
Tottenham’s manager, who also said the club could not afford to pay the salary Willian receives at Arsenal, expressed dissatisfaction with the number of Premier League fixtures yet to be rescheduled.
Because of Manchester United’s and Manchester City’s involvement in European competition in August leading to a delayed start to their seasons, they, along with Aston Villa and Burnley, have played a game fewer than everyone else – and in Villa’s case that will soon be two because their match against Newcastle scheduled for Friday was postponed. Mourinho said he had been trying to find out whether the matches will take place before the halfway point of the season, which he feels they should.
“It’s difficult to accept that because it can affect the competition,” he said. “But I was trying to know. I was trying for an answer this week and no one can give me that answer. By the way, we played four matches in one week and nobody was crying or supporting us about it. And now my colleagues, when do they play these matches?”