Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola believes “Arsenal are back” to their best as the two title rivals prepare to do battle on Sunday.
A dominant force of English football in the past, Arsenal endured a fall from prominence towards the end of Arsene Wenger’s time in charge but made a massive jump last year under Mikel Arteta, pushing City to the limit in the title race.
Just one point separates the two sides at this early stage in the season and so Sunday’s game could provide whoever comes out on top with a massive boost in their quest to get their hands on the Premier League title.
“They were the biggest rival last season,” Guardiola said of Arsenal. “In the past they were not there, but they arrived now and will stay there for a long time.
“Arsenal are back. When I was a young boy and starting as a manager at Barcelona, I know they fought Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team. Then for many years they were not there but now they’re back. They are a contender and when you see in the calendar it says you go to the Emirates, [you know] it’s a tougher one.”
During Friday’s press conference, Arteta admitted he is braced for a potential tactical surprise from Guardiola, who famously deployed Bernardo Silva as a left-back last season to boost his chances of victory.
“He does that in big moments and in big games,” Arteta said of his mentor. “He’s done it this season against different opponents, different things.
“That’s a big quality of them because they can change it. Not only before the game. They can do it during the game, they can do it at half time, that’s the strength of a team that can dominate these things.”
Despite the tension heading into the game, Arteta urged his players to keep their heads and see the bigger picture.
“It would be a big boost energy and confidence-wise but apart from that and the three points – nothing else,” he stressed.
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