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Battle of managers only has one winner

In Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho, both Arsenal and Spurs hired new managers this season. In the battle of who is better, there is only one winner.

The North London Derby returns this Sunday. It represents an interesting time of comparison for both clubs. Falling behind the other teams in the traditional top six, both facing the prospects of failing to qualify for the Champions League, desperately needing to retool the squad with limited finances, all why having only replaced the manage this season, there is not much reason for hope for either team.

However, while both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur face uncertain and rather underwhelming futures, there is one source of positivity and encouragement for the former that the latter cannot share in: the manager.

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In November, Spurs made the shock decision to not only sack Mauricio Pochettino, their greatest manager of the Premier League era, but to hire Jose Mourinho as his replacement, an increasingly out-of-date sore loser who failed at his most recent job, Manchester United.

Mourinho, it was believed, was meant to bring a winning mentality to a team that was unable to get over the hump under Pochettino. For all of their progress made thanks to the Argentine’s guidance, they never won a trophy. Mourinho, for all of his faults, is a proven winner.

Arsenal took a very different approach to their new head coach. They fired Unai Emery a month after Pochettino departed. Emery was never as popular or successful as his north London counterpart, eventually departing after a little under 18 months in the role. His successor, Mikel Arteta, could not have been more inexperienced.

A former Arsenal captain, Arteta only retired from playing three-and-a-half years earlier. He spent that time as the assistant coach at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. He had no experience of being a full-time manager. He and Mourinho could not represent two more different hires. And yet, based on their early results, when it comes to a battle between the managers, there is only one winner.

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To provide a very simple illustration. Pre-Arteta, Arsenal averaged 1.32 expected goals for per game and 1.52 expected goals against per game. Post-Arteta, they average 1.36 expected goals for per game and 1.41 expected goals against per game. Marginal improvement in both categories. Moreover, if you take out the three games they suffered significant sending offs (Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester), those numbers improve further: 1.49 expected goals for per game and 1.12 expected goals against per game.

Spurs, on the other hand, have a 0.07 expected goals for decrease per game and a 0.20 expected goals against increase when comparing the pre and post-Mourinho eras of the season. They also concede a higher number of big chances and create fewer big chances. These numbers do not tell the whole story, but they do paint a picture as to the improvements that Arsenal have made under Arteta and the lost ground that Spurs have suffered under Mourinho.

Next: Arsenal Vs Spurs: Predicted starting XI

Neither of these teams have much hope for the future. But of the two, it is Arteta who provides at least some encouragement of what is to come. In the battle of the managers, there is only one winner, and he belongs to the red half of north London.

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