Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has admitted that his relationship with Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta has had to adapt and change over the last three and a half years, but insists the ‘affection’ for his fellow Spaniard will never fade.
Prior to being appointed Arsenal manager in December 2019, Arteta was an assistant coach under Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium for more than three years. In fact, he left his job at City in order to branch out on his own for the first time when the Gunners sacked Unai Emery.
Arteta guided Arsenal to FA Cup glory in his first season in charge and has overseen a project that has put the club into direct competition with Manchester City in this season’s Premier League title race. The Gunners haven’t won the league since 2004 – 19 long years – and hadn’t even been a genuine challenger since 2008 before the current campaign got underway last August.
Once colleagues, Guardiola has explained the nature of their relationship is no longer the same.
“It changed because he’s in London and I’m in Manchester, so we don’t see each other quite often,” the City boss explained. “He’s busy, I’m busy, but the affection and the respect I have with him will remain forever, he knows that.”
On the subject of Wednesday’s huge game, he added: “It is a final against a team who have been the best team in England so far. They’re five points ahead of us and hopefully all of Manchester that day will be blue and can support us. We need incredible noise from the first minute to the end.”
Should Arsenal manage to win at the Etihad Stadium, it would end the recent wobble of three successive draws that has opened the door to City and re-establish them as title favourites. However, if City win, they would cut the gap to just two points with two games in hand.
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Mikel Arteta joined Pep Guardiola’s coaching staff at Manchester City upon retiring as a player at the end of 2015/16 season. The midfielder had been at Arsenal for the previous five years and turned down the opportunity to stay in a role that would have put him charge of the Gunners academy. Arteta also said no to joining Mauricio Pochettino, a former PSG teammate, at Spurs.
The pair first met at Barcelona, when Arteta, recently 41, was rising through the ranks at La Masia and Guardiola, a 1992 European Cup winner, was an established first-team player.
Arteta’s debut for Barcelona B at the age of 16 in early 1999 was as a substitute for Guardiola, whose playing career at the very highest level was ultimately curtailed by injuries. They are believed to have ‘loosely’ stayed in touch, but then Guardiola made contact in 2012 to tap into Arteta’s knowledge, as a Premier League player, on Chelsea ahead of Champions League semi-final.
Although Chelsea surprisingly won that two-legged tie, Arteta, through his detailed analysis, had seemingly done enough to convince Guardiola of his potential as a coach. By 2015, when Arteta was playing for Arsenal against Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, the latter is believed to have proposed they should work together if he were to take a job in England. Within months, Pep was replacing Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City and, with Arteta retiring aged 34, everything helpfully fell into place.
Arsenal legend Ray Parlour joins Harry Symeou and Scott Saunders in the studio to preview Man City vs Arsenal.
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