The two managers share a warm relationship despite being on opposite ends of this fierce rivalry, but Pochettino will be looking to give his friend an unpleasant afternoon at the Emirates.
Here’s a look at the tactical talking points for both managers ahead of this crucial Premier League fixture.
EMERY’S BOLD FORMATION COULD CAUSE ARSENAL TROUBLE
Emery’s use of a 3-5-2/3-4-2-1 hybrid against Bournemouth raised a few eyebrows, and not just because there was no room in the set-up for Mesut Ozil.
The formation could leave Arsenal looking light in midfield against Spurs, even with the impressive Lucas Torreira around. With help from Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, Spurs’ central midfielders Moussa Sissoko and Eric Dier or Harry Winks could swarm Torreira and Granit Xhaka.
Much would depend on how well the front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexi Iwobi can strike a balance between dropping deep to help the midfield avoid that result, and pressing Spurs’ backline. In such a crucial game, having that area of doubt could be too big a risk. Will Emery revert to a traditional 4-3-3?
ALLI, ERIKSEN FLEXIBILITY KEY FOR TOTTENHAM
Tottenham’s flexibility was key to their thumping win over Chelsea. That starts with two attacking players – Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
Last Saturday, Alli switched from being a second striker to sitting deep alongside Dier. Meanwhile, Eriksen described his position as a left-sided midfielder with the license to drop deep and help Tottenham build their play.
The duo’s tendencies dovetail nicely with each other. Alli’s ball-winning ability releases Eriksen’s forward movement and his running gives the Dane one more option when looking to create.
That flexibility will come to the fore again on Sunday. By dropping deep, Eriksen can help his defenders and fellow midfielders deal with the Arsenal press, while Alli can harass the impressive Torreira and negate the young midfielder’s influence.
ARSENAL PRESS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
Spurs’ two losses in big games this season have come against top teams in Liverpool and Manchester City who press incessantly. It’s the sort of press that Emery employed at Sevilla, and is trying to instill at Arsenal.
But that is still a work in progress – no surprise, given Emery’s only been in charge for a few months. For example, last week, Arsenal’s front three of Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Iwobi made a combined three tackles and no interceptions against Bournemouth.
Though pressing depends as much on positioning and cutting out passing lanes, the forwards’ ball-winning stats show how much room there is for Arsenal to improve. They’ll need to press harder to impose themselves on Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Spurs as a whole.
SPACE BEHIND FULL-BACKS WILL LOOK INVITING TO SPURS
Given the tendency of Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac to push forward with Arsenal’s attack, Tottenham will have a weakness to exploit regardless of whether Emery employs a back three or not.
The space behind the two full-backs will be perfect targets for players like Vertonghen, Eriksen and Winks, if he plays, to exploit with long diagonals into Alli, Harry Kane, and whichever other attacking player Spurs have on the pitch. Vertonghen in particular loves playing that type of ball.
Tottenham’s own full-backs will also relish that space. Serge Aurier and Ben Davies can either position themselves to be on the receiving end of those passes, or more likely, look to run into that space as much as possible.
After replacing Arsene Wenger in the summer, Emery has started his tenure as Gunners’ head coach with some positive performances and is enjoying an 18-match unbeaten streak heading into his first taste of derby-day in England.
The 47-year-old came up against Spurs boss Pochettino during their time managing in Spain, with Emery recommending the then-Espanyol coach as his replacement when he left Valencia.
Pochettino instead ended up coming to England, firstly with Southampton and now at Tottenham, and has earned a reputation as one of the best coaches in the Premier League.
His side ran roughshod over Chelsea in securing a 3-1 victory at Wembley last weekend – the Blues’ first defeat under Maurizio Sarri – and will be keen to dish out defeat to Emery in his first north London derby.
While Spurs are drawing the plaudits, Emery’s Arsenal will leapfrog their neighbours in the table if they win at the Emirates as the Spaniard prepares to encounter yet another local rivalry at close quarters.
“The Seville derby is very, very passionate,” the former Sevilla coach said.
“I lived different derbies like Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao, like CSKA Moscow v Spartak, PSG v Olympique Marseille.
“Sevilla v Betis is with the passion because they are two teams with very big and passionate supporters and here in England I think I am going to live Sunday the first derby and think it is similar with the passion.
“Sometimes in the history, Sevilla is better and sometimes Betis are better. I think here it is the same.
“At the moment, Tottenham is better than us in the table and better than us last year but in history Arsenal is better at other moments that Tottenham.
“I think we are going to live with two (sets of) supporters and I think it will be a very good atmosphere.
“The first match is in our stadium and with our supporters and we want on Sunday to give them the best performance and can give them our energy and our things on the pitch to help them push us.”
Speaking in the build-up to Sunday’s derby, Pochettino said he and Emery are “very good friends”.
MATCHDAY… DERBY DAY! 🔴— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) 2 December 2018
It’s about north London. It’s about rivalry. It’s about bragging rights. It’s about passion. It’s about drama. It’s about making memories. It’s about creating history.
And most importantly, it’s about winning. Let’s do it - and let’s do it together 👊 pic.twitter.com/fjgLWRjhQI
They will finally meet again after Emery’s roundabout journey to Premier League management – and he has been impressed by what he has seen from Pochettino to date.
“His career is very, very consistent,” Emery added. “His structure in every team is very clear and also with good performances, usually he was working in Spain then at Southampton and also at Tottenham with young players and usually every young player improve with him or with his staff.
“I think he is deserving in his career like the best, with the likes of (Pep) Guardiola and (Diego) Simeone, he is a very big coach.”
Asked if he thought Pochettino could be tempted to leave for the likes of Real Madrid, Emery replied: “At the moment I think he is happy in Tottenham and there is a lot of respect for him from the club.
“Every coach we know how they work but it depends on results and the respect from the team where you are – here in England there is big respect to the coaches in the Premier League and he is doing well in Tottenham.”
Mourinho made six changes to the side that stumbled to a 0-0 draw at home against Crystal Palace last week. Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, and David de Gea – whose contract was extended by a year on Thursday – were the ones to retain their places.
Pogba and Lukaku were dropped for United’s midweek Champions League win over Young Boys, but have been recalled.
Marcus Rashford and Phil Jones started in the midweek fixture, as did Luke Shaw, who was suspended against Palace, and Marouane Fellaini, who scored the winner, with all four in the XI on Saturday.
In-form Anthony Martial drops to the bench, as does Chris Smalling, with Scott McTominay set to partner Jones in defence, while there was also a recall for Ander Herrera. McTominay last played in United’s disastrous 3-1 loss to West Ham in October.
Starting XI (4-1-2-1-2)
De Gea; Young, McTominay, Jones, Shaw; Matic, Herrera, Fellaini, Pogba; Lukaku, Rashford