• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Arsenal’s intensity key at Manchester City as title drama enters its final act

Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta has urged Arsenal to “embrace the moment” when they face Manchester City in a critical showdown that could define this season’s title race and believes his players have learned from last season’s thrashing at the Etihad.

Arsenal have a one-point advantage over Pep Guardiola’s side in third and lead second-placed Liverpool on goal difference with just 10 matches remaining. Sunday’s meeting comes 11 months after Arteta’s side lost 4-1 at the Etihad as City went on to secure a third successive Premier League title despite trailing Arsenal for most of the season.

But with Arsenal having enjoyed a brilliant start to the new year that has yielded 34 goals in eight successive victories to reclaim top spot from Liverpool, Arteta said that his players must now seize their opportunity at a ground where they have lost their last seven matches.
“We’ve done a lot already to be in the position that we are and now we have to embrace and enjoy the moment and go for it,” he said. “I love the energy [around the Arsenal camp], the smiles, they wanted to train yesterday. We have to embrace the moment. We have to go day by day, see where this can take us.”

Asked whether he thinks Arsenal can now compete with City, who are aiming to become the first team in history to win four successive league titles, Arteta said: “They have raised the bar to levels not seen before in football. You have to keep up with that pace and that is what we are trying to do. We learned from the level. It’s the level we want to be at.

“We have been getting closer in the last two-three years. We need to close that gap and try to be better than them. They have earned the right for everyone to look at them as an example. It has raised our level and demands [us] to try to be like them and beat them.”

Arteta was an assistant under Guardiola at City before taking over at Arsenal, and the two Spaniards’ friendship goes back to their days as players. Sitting in opposing dugouts, however, has meant a change in their relationship. “It has to change, [but] my admiration for him certainly not,” Arteta said of Guardiola.
“My opinion is he is the best coach in the world by a mile and he’s one of the nicest people I have met in football. But our roles at the moment are where they are and it has to adapt to the situation. I would prefer to [beat] somebody else that I don’t have those feelings [of friendship], but it is not a choice. We both want to win. We know each other very well and I will prepare the game to win it.”

Arteta revealed forwards Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and defender Gabriel have not trained since the team returned from the international break, but said that there is a chance they could play. He also supported Ben White’s decision to make himself unavailable for England selection when asked about the criticism the defender has received.