Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal’s rivalry with Manchester City for major trophies will not change his friendship with Pep Guardiola.
Arteta spent three seasons working as an assistant to Guardiola at Manchester City, before leaving the Premier League champions to take charge at Arsenal in 2019.
The Spaniard has turned the Gunners into Premier League title challengers this season and the north Londoners lead the title race from his former side after a brilliant start to the campaign.
The two teams will go head-to-head for the first time this season in the FA Cup’s fourth round on Friday evening and ahead of a huge clash, Arteta discussed the new dynamic between himself and his former mentor.
“I always hoped that [a title challenge] was going to be the case one day, and it’s happening this season but that’s not going to change any friendship or the moments that we have, how important he is in my life or how important he is in my profession,” Arteta told his pre-match press conference.
“We are both willing to win and defend our clubs in the best possible way, and that has always been the case since day one.”
Arsenal’s success this season has been unexpected with few having anticipated a title challenge before a ball had been kicked. Arteta was asked if his side are ahead of his expectations in terms of development after a club-record start to the season.
“I don’t know but this league brings you incredible challenges. You have the best coaches in the world, and the best coach in the world, and to be at that level you have to find other things to try and compete with them and that’s where opportunities come as well. We are on that pathway but understand that we haven’t done anything yet and there are still a lot of things to improve.”
Oleksandr Zinchenko has been a crucial part of Arsenal’s success this season after joining the club from Manchester City last summer. The four-time Premier League title winner will face his former side for the first time this evening and Arteta discussed the Ukrainian’s impact at the Emirates.
“He’s a player that gives us everything we want in that position, and gives us versatility. He gets a lot of attention as well and fills a lot of spaces, and that for us is really important.
“I would especially highlight his mentality; what he has brought is a real desire to win and make something special with this team, and the experiences that he’s had in the past are very helpful for us to do that.”
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