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Jose Mourinho vs Mikel Arteta – Who Has Done A Better Job?

Arsenal vs Tottenham Match Day Image
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It’s been over 14 months since there was a changing of the guard in North London. On the 20th of November 2019, Jose Mourinho was announced as the new manager of Tottenham Hotspur, replacing Mauricio Pochettino who had taken the club to a Champions League final just 6 months earlier. Exactly one month later, Mikel Arteta replaced Unai Emery as the manager of Arsenal Football Club after a poor string of results saw the Gunners languishing in the mid-table.


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14 months on, it has been a rollercoaster ride for both managers and clubs and the best way to describe the situations they both find themselves in, is a work in progress. Mourinho was brought in for his instant results and penchant for winning trophies but has failed to deliver on that front until now. Tottenham’s form in the league has ebbed and flowed and it’s unlikely they will finish in the top four this season but they do have a chance to win some silverware. Arteta did build some credit with his FA Cup success in 2020 but had a horrendous start to the 2020/21 PL season where Arsenal are still stuck in limbo in 10th place.


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The Gunners face off against their North London rivals Tottenham this weekend in what is a do or die clash for both sides. A defeat would seriously dent both sides European ambitions for next season while victory can be the perfect springboard to success for the run-in. Ahead of this exciting encounter, we take a deep dive to understand which manager has done a better job so far and understand what lies ahead for the North London Clubs.



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At times both managers have struggled to get the gears turning in perfect cohesion in attack. Both have adopted a more defence-first approach and have looked to build a solid base rather than going gung-ho with the attack. That being said, Jose does have better-attacking talent and has had more success in front of goal than Arteta. 

Tottenham have scored 46 goals in the league this season compared to only 35. However interestingly if you look at Expected Goals data, the difference is not as stark. (xG explained) According to data from FBref Tottenham have created 34.7 Non-Penalty xG this season and Arsenal have created 33.8 Non-Penalty xG. What this means is that both teams have created a similar number of chances but Tottenham has just been extremely efficient and lucky in front of goal.


Defence is historically the bread and butter for Jose Mourinho’s sides. According to reports, the only thing he focuses on during training is defensive positioning and team structure without the ball. As it turns out Arteta has also been more Mourinho than Guardiola in this regard and his first task at Arsenal was to fix the defence rather than the attack.

The defensive numbers for both sides are similar with Tottenham and Arsenal sharing the fourth-best defensive record in the league this season with 28 goals conceded each. The expected data also matches up with Arsenal and Tottenham conceding 32 and 31.5 xGA (Expected Goals Against) respectively indicating they have given up the same quality of chances so far this season.


While Mikel and Jose were not personally involved in choosing the transfer targets, they would have had some say in the new recruits brought to either club in the summer and it is interesting to note how the newcomers have fared so far at either club.

For Jose and Tottenham, it has been a case of hit and miss. Players that have been signed since Jose arrived included Steven Bergwijn, Gareth Bale, Sergio Reguilon, Joe Rodon, Joe Hart, Matt Doherty, Pierre Emile Hojbjerg and Carlos Vinicius. Out of that lot, the only players who have nailed down a starting spot in the team are Hojbjerg, Reguilon and in the last few weeks, Gareth Bale. Otherwise, Bergwijn and Vinicius don’t have a PL goal this season and the likes of Rodon and Doherty have struggled when they have played.


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In comparison, Arteta has done a better job than Jose in this department. Apart from Willian who has blown hot and cold, most of Arteta’s signings have improved the team. Thomas Partey, Gabriel, Odegaard, Pablo Mari and Cedric have all either met or exceeded expectations and have raised Arsenal’s level of play.

Player Development


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This is one area where Mourinho comfortably has the wood over Arteta. In Prime Video’s All or Nothing Documentary, Jose said he could take Harry Kane to Messi and Ronaldo levels and in fairness to him, he has delivered on that promise. Kane has 24 goals this season and leads the league in assists with 13. Son has also taken a giant leap under Mourinho and is having his best season under the Portuguese manager. Also, Jose has had a positive effect on players like Eric Dier and Tanguy Ndombele.

In comparison, Arteta has not had the same impact on his Arsenal players and has focused more on the system rather than player development. There aren’t many established first-team players who have improved under Arteta individually apart from Rob Holding and possibly Granit Xhaka.

Youth Development


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Arteta has clearly outperformed his counterpart in this category. Yes, he has had the better calibre of players that have emerged from Arsenal’s Hale End academy but Arteta has groomed them into first-team starters. Bukayo Saka has more goals than all teenagers in the league combined, Emile Smith-Rowe has 6 assists in all competitions and Gabriel Martinelli, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson have all received some game-time. 

Mourinho on the other hand has preferred to use his experienced campaigners even in the Europe League games and not one single player under the age of 21 has played more than a minute of PL action for Tottenham this season.

What Next?

So where do Arteta and Mourinho go from here? Mourinho was brought in for his win now philosophy and the immediate results. In fairness to him, he has helped Tottenham qualify for the league cup final as well as the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and the last 16 of the Europa League. Tottenham could end their trophy drought under Mourinho which would count as a success. Unfortunately, Tottenham will not be making the Top 4 this season and are far behind the pack when it comes to title aspirations.

Arteta on the other hand was not brought in for the here and now and is more of a long-term project for Arsenal. While the Gunners did struggle at the start of the season, with Arteta they have shown Top 4 form since boxing day and there are signs of progress.

Ultimately if you compare both North London Clubs since either manager has arrived, they have arguably remained in the same place. The question that needs to be asked is what can they do from here and how have they set up the team for future success. And in this congested season, while every game feels like an important one, this North London Derby seems to matter more than most. A victory would vindicate the progress each manager has made but defeat could puncture the hopes of improvement and force both clubs to rethink their future.