It’s all about going backwards for Tottenham and Christian Romero.
Follow Arsenal live in Sunday’s north London derby Sky Sports Premier League, this is not the situation the Spurs envisioned at the start of the season. Last year, the two teams were separated by two points. Now they are a little chalk and cheese.
Arsenal have been very consistent throughout the Premier League campaign. On the other side of the divide, you never know which version of Antonio Conte’s Spurs team you’ll get each week.
Spurs will have to deal with the context of being 14 points adrift of their rivals heading into Super Sunday, but that doesn’t matter much to Romero.
“I think we can come back from this far,” said the centre-back Sky Sports in an exclusive interview. “But we have to use everything we have and work hard.
“If you’re top of the league, you deserve to be there and they’re there. But we want to be there ourselves. We know we have a lot to improve on, but we’re thinking about ourselves and working hard. them.”
Romero knows that despite all the signs against you, you will come back desperate. The 17-year-old centre-back almost quit the game altogether after freezing at boyhood club Belgrano as they battled relegation from Argentina’s top division.
“I didn’t play well for a few games, and then the hierarchy said some horrible things about me,” Romero recalled.
“It was a very difficult period. I was very young, it was my first year playing as a professional. After that I spent about 18 months in the reserves, always on my own, always playing in the reserves.
Romero tried to leave, clubs in Europe were interested in the young defender, but Belgrano refused to let him go. It was the final straw in a blossoming career.
“I said [to the hierarchy]: “I don’t want to train anymore. I’m going to quit football. I’m going to go to another job with my dad or go to another job,” he recalls. “It’s all because of the obstacles in my career.
“I didn’t go to practice for two or three days because I wasn’t feeling well. Then the athletic director came to me and said, ‘Okay, go ahead.'”
Look at Romero now. Not an established Premier League player with Tottenham, but a winner alongside Argentina. Copa América, Finalissima, World Cup: everything is in the bag. You wonder what the Belgrano hierarchy think of Romero’s success at the moment.
“At the end of the day, those things are worth it to make everything in your head stronger,” he says when asked if he thought about that moment when he was lifting the World Cup this winter.
“If I hadn’t gone through it, I would have been in a worse situation. It was a really good time for me growing up. It’s a good memory for me now.
“Playing here in the Premier League, being in the Argentina national team, winning with the Argentine national team. These are all things from the past.”
But there are still some critics – more of his temperament than ability. For example, Argentina’s exploits to win the World Cup have been called into question, especially their wild celebrations against Holland and France.
Two incredible images stand out: Romero joining his international team-mates in winning over his Dutch colleagues seconds after winning the quarter-final on penalties, and Romero shouting in the face of hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe after Lionel Messi beat Argentina 3-2. reached the final.
Asked if people have made too much of Argentina’s abuse, Romero is quick to respond. “Yes. Because people are just looking at the pictures.
“People don’t think about what’s already been said for us. Against Holland, they were talking too much before they got on the pitch and we were annoyed by that.
“They said we don’t have respect, but that’s not true. You know what’s going to happen next.”
Asked about the incident with Mbappe, Romero said: “The same thing happened against France. Messi scored. [Argentina’s third goal] and it all came out. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it all came out.”
Now Romero faces another big game on Sunday, the biggest game on Tottenham’s calendar. Don’t be surprised if the Argentina defender gets emotional again.
Asked where his aggressive playing style came from, Romero said: “It’s always been there. It just is.” “Most importantly, it’s inside me.
“I think there are people who think I’m doing it wrong. Aggression – I think – is a bit of an exaggeration. The way I’ve played has led me to where I am, it’s one of those things.”
Romero, speaking Italian in this interview, does not mention the name of Arsenal once. He frequently mentions Tottenham, Belgrano and former clubs Atalanta and Genoa.
But when describing Mikel Arteta’s side, this is it “loro” (are they).
“If I have one thing to say about them, it’s that they have a strong team,” Romero said. “The players and the manager have been together for a long time.
“They’ve hit a milestone with a facility they’ve been building for years and we’re seeing them do well. For us, we’re still in a position to grow.
“This game is important. We have to win it. We need a result. It will be difficult, but I believe in our team. Between us, we are always motivated. It’s not only the derby, but it’s a very important game.
“The Premier League is difficult, there are many strong teams where you have to play 100 percent. Otherwise, you cannot play in this climate.
“We know this season has been a bit up and down, we have to say that, but we hope to win. We will do everything to win this game at home.”
Watch Tottenham v Arsenal live on Sky Sports Premier League this weekend, kick-off 4.30pm