GEORGE GRAHAM surveys English football's landscape with the attention to detail of a draughtsman, of someone who knows what it takes to draw up a plan for building success.

The Scot, who won three first division division titles with Arsenal as player and later manager, was a stickler for detail, especially as the general who presided over league championship wins at the end of the 80s and start of the 90s that broke Liverpool's hegemony over the game down south.

He turned 75 on Monday and is in cheery spirits when he speaks on the phone the following day from his home in London. These days he is afflicted by arthritis as a result of his 17-year playing career and he sneezes twice during our chat remarking that he hopes “a cold is not coming on”. Minor sniffles aside, he retains a good nose for the Premier League and when he talks about the job Mikel Arteta is doing at his former club, it is worth stopping to listen.

Arteta admitted earlier this week that his days as manager at the Emirates Stadium may be numbered but he has a willing champion in Graham, who says the younger man is doing just fine in the job, going as far as to say he perceives similarities with his own coaching career. Having retired in 1978, Graham was given a job by Terry Venables at Crystal Palace and later followed him to Queen's Park Rangers. He describes Venables as a “genius” and compares his coaching education to that of Arteta under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

“I like Arteta. When you think about it he's taken them to Wembley, he won the FA Cup. He's done a good job. Arteta's career is very similar to my career. He's worked with one of the best coaches [Guardiola] for three or four years. If he is a good pupil, he should be learning how Guardiola coaches and he should be picking up ideas all the time, with that period that he had under Guardiola. But the only thing I will say is, sometimes you are doing it with lesser players, not as good as the top ones. I think he has done a good job. There's a big hiccup just now but they're losing by the odd goal, they are not getting hammered. He's stopped that.”

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After going it alone as a manager, Graham would enjoy success at Millwall, laying the brickwork for the team that was promoted to Division One in 1988 before a trophy-laden spell at Arsenal where again he did much of the spadework for the defensive structure that Arsene Wenger later built his teams on.

So it comes as little surprise to hear him admit that he is pleased with Arteta's attention to fixing tactical issues at his former club. Certainly he demonstrated his pragmatic side as Arsenal upset Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to winning last season's FA Cup.

Graham's Arsenal teams were the quintessential essence of the terrace chant 'One-nil to the Arsenal'. As Nick Hornby noted in his football classic Fever Pitch: “Complaining about boring football is a little like complaining about the sad ending of King Lear: it misses the point somehow.”

Graham remains unrepentant about his tactics to this day. After years of tiki-taka, the gegenpress and all-out attack, it seems football might be turning full circle. Certainly there is more than a hint of his method in what Jose Mourinho has instilled at table-topping Tottenham this season and it hasn't done them any harm.

“It was my philosophy that you always build from the back,” he adds. “You build a property, you build the foundations and that sets you off on the right track, you get that right first, which I probably did at most of the clubs I was with. I made sure that we wouldn't concede so it gave us an opportunity to get something from most of the games. I think we did very well.”

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While Arteta has tightened things up at Arsenal, Graham admits the statistics don't necessarily show that. The Spaniard has presided over just one win in the last six league games, the latest a 2-1 defeat at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, to leave the Gunners in 14th. Graham says there are positives to be taken, though.

“I'm disappointed in the results more than anything. You can see what they are trying to do. They are trying to score goals. They're not getting beaten by threes and fours so that's a good sign. If you are losing by a lot of goals, that's always a bad sign. He's stamped his authority on the club and the playing side but maybe the problem they have got is 'can they afford to get one or two players who are fantastic and they're going to cost them money – £50m, £60m, maybe £80m. Can they go out and buy a couple of players at 80-odd million? That is maybe a problem.”

Tomorrow, Arteta takes his team on the short hop across north London to face rivals Tottenham Hotspur. As a former manager of Spurs, too, there are few better qualified than Graham – he has been a manager in 28 derbies between the teams – for passing judgment on what it takes to prosper in the fixture.

Occupying the manager's seat at Tottenham these days is the most pragmatic manager the club has had since Graham's time in charge. The Scot was an unpopular figure during his tenure at White Hart Lane between 1998 and 2001 – despite leading Tottenham to the 1999 Worthington Cup – his defensive tactics not deemed Spurs-like enough for the refined palates of the locals. Much as Graham sees reminders of himself in Arteta, he identifies similar traits in Mourinho.

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Asked if Spurs are in with a shout for the title, he says: “Tottenham? Of course, they are, of course they are,” emphasising the Portuguese's credentials and the much-vaunted strikeforce of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son that he has at his disposal.

“Look at the experienced manager they've got. Spurs are surprising everybody. A lot of people have been saying 'Jose's past it now, I think we have seen the best of Jose.' [But] I admire him. Yes, there are periods like at Manchester United where he didn't reach the sky and now he is bouncing back again. Mind you, [Spurs] have got some outstanding players. With the natural goalscorers that he has got in the team and he has been working on the defending, they are well balanced and that's how he got a lot of his success in the past. His teams were well balanced, very well organised and the players were doing so it will be interesting to see how they develop over the rest of the season.”

As for tomorrow, Graham is loath to commit too much to a prediction so instead plays it safe and hints that it will be a draw.

“I think Arteta will come through it [the game]. He's very ambitious. I hope he does. Arsenal is a big club – it deserves to be in my opinion, anyway. They deserve to be in the top four.”