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Pep Guardiola impressed by Mikel Arteta’s progress at Arsenal

Pep Guardiola believes his former assistant Mikel Arteta is turning Arsenal into Premier League title contenders.

Guardiola’s Manchester City head to Arsenal on Sunday after securing a 17th consecutive win in all competitions at Everton on Wednesday and opening up a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Just two months ago City had won a Carabao Cup tie 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium, and the post-match inquest focused on whether Arteta would keep his job as Arsenal manager with the struggling Gunners 15th in the Premier League.

Mikel Arteta File Photo
Mikel Arteta has improved Arsenal’s fortunes in the last two months (Peter Cziborra/PA)

But Arsenal won their next league game, against Chelsea on Boxing Day, and climbed into the top 10 on the back of last weekend’s 4-2 victory over Leeds.

“What the two months shows is that all managers need time,” City manager Guardiola said.

“He (Arteta) is not an exception, but when I see the last two months every game Arsenal plays they are better than the opponent.

“Sometimes you lose games, you cannot control it. But they have been better than the opponent, in terms of controlling the game and creating more chances and conceding fewer.

“We need an incredible performance to play with the ball and run a lot in the right tempo to get the ball because they have an exceptional build-up in the final third.

“They have quality and incredible energy in (Emile) Smith Rowe, (Bukayo) Saka, (Pierre-Emerick) Aubameyang with the runs in behind, and they have the players with the quality in the middle to make the process quite well. Early in the future they will be a real contender to fight for the title.”

Arteta spent three years coaching at City between 2016 and 2019 before leaving for north London.

But Guardiola played down the influence he has had on the career of his fellow Spaniard.

“I didn’t inspire him,” Guardiola said. “What he knows he knows for himself.

“I’m not in this case absolutely any influence. What he is doing, the credit is for him and his staff.

“He doesn’t need help. He’s more than well prepared than to get help from me.

Arsenal v Manchester City – Carabao Cup – Quarter Final – Emirates Stadium
Aymeric Laporte, third from left, scores in Manchester City’s 4-1 Carabao Cup win at Arsenal in December (Nick Potts/PA)

“But of course he’s an important person of my life, everything he did for me in Manchester made me happy.”

City – who have distanced themselves from claims they are negotiating with Lionel Messi over a summer move to the Etihad – are waiting on the fitness of Ilkay Gundogan.

The in-form Gundogan, who has scored 10 goals since Christmas, missed the 3-1 win at Everton with a groin injury but joined in part of Friday’s training session.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Etihad Stadium
In-form midfielder Ilkay Gundogan could return for Manchester City against Arsenal after injury (Rui Vieira/PA)

Guardiola confirmed that City will continue to take the knee before matches after Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha labelled the gesture “degrading”.

“We are not going to just resolve the problem by taking the knee before the start of the game,” Guardiola said about the fight against racism.

“But it is a gesture and we have to do more of that. Everything we can do better and better – more gestures, more actions, more punishments – this is the only way to eradicate it.

“This is a gesture for the new generations in the schools of equality, that everyone is the same.”

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