Pep Guardiola says he did not inspire Mikel Arteta and lauded his former Manchester City No 2 for the job he is doing as Arsenal manager, feeling that the Gunners will be future Premier League title contenders.
Arsenal have not won the league since 2004 while City have won three of the last seven, and look likely to land the 2021 title after opening up a 10-point gap at the top of the Premier League after their 3-1 win at Everton on Wednesday.
That was their 17th straight win in all competitions while the Gunners, who won last season’s FA Cup under Arteta, have picked up only one victory in their last five following their 1-1 Europa League draw with Benfica.
Speaking ahead of City’s trip to the Emirates on Sunday – live on Sky Sports Premier League – Guardiola heaped praise on his former assistant and felt that Arsenal could once again start challenging for titles in the “early future” under Arteta.
“I did not inspire him [Mikel Arteta]. What he knows he knows for himself,” Guardiola said on Friday. “I am not any influence. What he is doing, all credit to him and his backroom staff.
“All I can say is the last months show me that all managers need time and he is not an exception. What I see in the last two months every game Arsenal played is better than the opponent.
“Tomorrow we will have an incredible performance. They have an exceptional build-up, they have quality and they have energy. They have [Bukayo] Saka, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and all the players with the quality in the middle.
“In the early future they will be real contenders to fight for the titles. Most of the time [when Artrta and I worked together] we took decisions together and I took decisions with the influence of Mikel.
“I don’t know if I influenced him – he has to answer this.”
Guardiola told his players not to look at City’s forthcoming schedule but to embrace the “beautiful challenge” after watching his side go 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
City have won their first 10 top-flight matches in 2021, the longest ever winning run by a team from the start of a calendar year in top-flight history.
Man City look to topple Arsenal record
Manchester City haven’t trailed for a single minute in any of their last 16 Premier League games, since a 2-0 reverse at Tottenham. The only team with a longer run of games without falling behind in Premier League history is Arsenal between December 1998 and May 1999, who City face next.
Guardiola maintained that he will need to call upon all of his players during a hectic schedule in order to battle on multiple fronts.
“If we want to win titles, we’re going to need the entire squad,” Guardiola said. “What pleased me [against Everton] was the solidarity even from the guys who didn’t play.
“From Benjamin [Mendy] in the stands, from John [Stones] and Alex [Oleksandr Zinchenko]. Everyone is a part of this. We have an incredible schedule ahead and we’re expecting a long week.
“We’ve not had a full week to train since the beginning of the season almost, so we’re going to need everyone. We go into every game trying to get the points and with a good performance. This is what makes me grateful to have these players.
“Winning 10 straight games at the start of the calendar year is nice but next is Arsenal. Tonight we celebrate but tomorrow afternoon we will start to think about Arsenal.
“It’s better you don’t see the schedule, otherwise you get depressed. But at the same time, it’s a beautiful challenge.
“We will come back here in a few weeks to try to get to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and we’ve seen how hard it will be. It’s not worth looking at the schedule. Just the next one, and that’s Arsenal.”
City have told Sky Sports News that no approach has been made to Lionel Messi, despite the forward entering the final four months of his Barcelona contract.
A City spokesperson says that there have been no offers made, either in the summer, or since, and there are no talks.
This follows reports in The Sun on Thursday suggesting City were ready to offer a new package to lure the Argentine to the Etihad.
The Premier League leaders were understood to be the frontrunners to sign the 33-year-old last summer as he demanded to leave Barcelona during a bitter contract dispute.
Messi reluctantly ended up staying at the Nou Camp after Barcelona’s former president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted his €700m release clause had to be met for him to leave.
And despite being out of contract at the end of the season and now free to negotiate with other clubs, the forward told a Spanish TV station he would make a decision over his future in the summer.
French champions PSG also remain possible suitors with a long-term aim to eventually finish his career in Major League Soccer.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s current contract, signed in 2017, was also leaked last month by Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
The paper said the Argentine forward’s deal is worth €555m (£492m) and includes fixed incomes and extras that could reach nearly €138m (£122m) each year.
It went on to claim it was the most expensive ever awarded to an athlete, stating it had “ruined” Barcelona by causing their current financial crisis.
Barcelona have denied the leak came from the club’s board and have threatened legal action against El Mundo.