As the return of Premier League football draws closer, Mikel Arteta has spoken on how “special” it will be for him to face Pep Guardiola.
Arsenal face Manchester City in one of the two games that will serve as the curtain-raiser for the remaining part of the campaign. The 37-year-old spent four years at City as Guardiola’s assistant before moving on to take over from Unai Emery as Arsenal’s new boss.
He has done considerably well since taking over the reins at the Emirates Stadium back in December. With four victories, five draws in his first 10 league games in charge, he has won the hearts of most Gunners fans breeding renewed hope of success at the London club. But the encounter against Man City on June 17 will mark the first time he is going head-to-head against Guardiola as a manager.
Speaking on the meeting with Sky Sport’s Football Show, he said:
“It is going to be strange, I cannot deny that.
“I know everybody there and I spent four magnificent years with those players and with that club.
“But I am really excited as well. I can’t wait to start competing and do what we love most which is to play football.
“It is going to be very special for me but I am looking forward to it.”
The former Arsenal midfielder has a chance to make a name for himself as a manager if he can guide the team back to success both in the League and on the continent. Former manager Emery led the side to the Europa League final in his first season in charge. But the football was not appealing to the fans.
Arteta has been able to win them over thanks to the implementation of lessons learnt while with Guardiola. Facing his former boss will give him a chance to measure himself against the best in the game. Asked if the absence of fans in the stands could affect the outcome of the game by serving as a boost for his team, the Spaniard revealed he hopes so.
“I hope it is. We have a good thing to measure with what is happening in Bundesliga at the moment.
“It is going to help. I think football is passion and energy and when you lose that, things balance much more in my opinion.
“But I know how strong they are and what they are able to do if they are all switched on on the day, so we have to go there and try to win the game.”
For Arteta, a win against City at the Etihad Stadium will make a huge statement about his coaching ability. But perhaps, even more important will be the value of the three points at stake for Arsenal. The team is currently occupying ninth-place on the league table. But it’s facing a battle to catch either Chelsea or Manchester United in fourth and fifth place for a European ticket at the end of the season. Currently just five points behind United with 10 games to go, that’s a realistic goal.
Guardiola and City have their own pride to protect and you can be sure the players will give their best to win the game.