Neil Humphreys: High-stakes North London Derby for Pochettino, Wenger
Pochettino, Wenger cannot stay if they miss out on top four
Here's a derby that genuinely cannot be lost.
The meeting of the north London stutterers, two inconsistent clubs flirting with the top four, is a big one.
The English Premier League thrives on the oxygen of overexposure, but tomorrow's Wembley encounter between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal really does have far-reaching implications for both managers.
Arsene Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino are at different stages of their careers, but find themselves locked into the same narrative.
Lose the derby. Lose out on the top four. Leave the club.
Wenger's story is more familiar and straightforward. He cannot survive a second season without Champions League football.
Only a fourth-placed finish or the Europa League trophy earns a stay of execution.
Even the board's backing and the signings of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan may not spare Wenger the wrath of disgruntled Gunners.
One Champions League qualification failure can be written off as a blip. Two feels like the beginning of a bad habit.
A defeat at Wembley pretty much wipes out the rest of the Premier League season.
And it wouldn't just be another EPL defeat to go with the seven previous league losses.
It'd be a defeat against them; the oldest of enemies, the team working with a tighter budget, smaller wages and living in temporary accommodation.
Seven points would separate the two halves of north London.
Tottenham have a chance to gleefully kill off Arsenal's Champions League aspirations.
Should Wenger's men fall short again, the only way is retirement, surely.
For Pochettino, perhaps, the only way is Real Madrid.
Spurs' story is a peculiar one in that their narrative is entirely different. Unlike Arsenal's underachievers, Tottenham have overachieved for three seasons.
A win at Wembley would lift them to third, albeit temporarily. They cruised into the Champions League knockout stages, taking four points off Real Madrid and six off Borussia Dortmund and they score, on average, two goals a game across all competitions.
In the current top six, they are sixth in terms of player salaries.
With a restrictive wage structure and a new stadium on the way, Pochettino has somehow kept Tottenham within touching distance of the big boys on a comparative shoestring.
But he hasn't won a trophy.
He hasn't won a trophy in his entire coaching career, an unwanted asterisk that clearly bothers him as much as his critics.
In recent days, the Argentinian has been noticeably snarky in his post-match comments, making bizarre claims about diving in the English game in an attempt to justify his own defence of blatant cheating.
Like Spurs fans generally, he's restless. His career is on a timer. He knows the history books won't judge him as kindly as current opinion.
He's almost 46 and still searching for his pieces of silver.
Pochettino has arguably improved his squad, year on year, but his rivals have improved further and faster, spending the kind of obscene sums that Spurs will never compete with.
As Danny Rose suggested in pre-season, Kyle Walker's dramatic defection will not be a one-off, but the beginnings of an exodus if Tottenham miss the top four.
Harry Kane's current wages means he earns half as much as some of his EPL contemporaries despite being twice the striker.
Doe-eyed loyalty and the admirable innocence of youth must eventually give way to hard-headed pragmatism. Kane's marksmanship deserves bigger targets.
The same could be said for Pochettino.
If Spurs fail to finish fourth and miss out on silverware again, his coaching heroics will quickly be forgotten in a volatile industry.
Reputations can be built across seasons and lost in a matter of months.
The EPL is littered with the carcasses of broken managers. Marco Silva, Paul Clement, Slaven Bilic and Ronald Koeman were all reputable names in coaching. Now they're essentially starting over.
To sustain his reputation, Pochettino has only two viable options. Finish in the top four and perhaps win a trophy. Or leave.
Real Madrid would still want him in the summer. They'll be less interested a year later, however, if the following season proves to be another of anti-climactic disappointment.
A manager's moment in the sun passes quickly. Clubs move on. Pochettino risks joining a long list of gifted coaches who became nearly men at elite level.
So he has more in common with his rival than he might care to admit.The clock is ticking for both managers.
Wenger is hoping his career won't be grounded, but Pochettino is still waiting for his wings.