Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Mikel Arteta returns to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday less than three months after leaving his role as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City to take the manager’s job at Arsenal.
The Gunners are unbeaten in eight league matches in 2020 as Arteta attempts lead Arsenal back into the Champions League next season after a three-year absence.
Victory in Manchester for the visitors would cut the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to five points and on Manchester United in fifth to just two.
Fifth-place could be good enough to qualify for the Champions League if City’s two-season ban from European competition is upheld at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
And Guardiola believes that his friend and former colleague possesses all the secrets that could help Arsenal to a rare away win at City.
“Mikel knows perfectly the way we feel and the way we want to play,” said Guardiola. “He knows every single player –- their strong points and weak points.
“He has more information about us than I have about the Arsenal team, but that is normal.
“We spent a huge amount of hours working together, on thoughts and ideas and solving problems.
“He knows exactly the way we love this game and the quality of the players. I can imagine a little bit what he thinks but I’ve not been in his locker room and I don’t know his players.”
Guardiola often talked of Arteta as his potential successor if and when the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach leaves Manchester.
But he admits that he could not stand in the 37-year-old’s way when the job at Arsenal came up.
“I didn’t give him any advice as he was completely prepared for it,” added Guardiola.
“What I said to Mikel is ‘Do you want to do it? Do you feel it? Then you have to do it’.
“He loves Arsenal, he was there many years and it was a dream from day one for Mikel to go back there.”
The match at the Etihad will go ahead with fans allowed into the stadium, but with the numbers of people being diagnosed with coronavirus increasing day-by-day, it seems only a matter of time before Premier League matches are forced behind closed doors as has happened around Europe.
Guardiola accepts that situation is likely to happen but does not believe it should be a long-term solution in the remaining three months of the season.
“If it’s a short time like one game, then OK, but if it’s longer football must be suspended,” Guardiola continued.
“There is no reason to play without the people. This game is for the people.
“It’s like an actor going to the theatre when nobody is there. Who are you acting for that night? It’s for the people.”
Two of this midweek’s Champions League fixtures are behind closed doors, along with five Europa League ties on Thursday and already two of next week’s Champions League games, with City waiting to find out whether spectators will be permitted to attend their game at home to Real Madrid next Tuesday.
“We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks,” says Guardiola.
“Maybe attendances going down solves the problem, then OK, we will continue with the games.
“Now Barcelona-Napoli is behind closed doors, Bayern Munich-Chelsea too.
“I think it’ll happen soon here. But if it happens for four, five, six games it makes no sense.”
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