Pep Guardiola has never had doubts about Mikel Arteta getting Arsenal back to where they want to be. Not last season when they failed to qualify for Europe, not when they started this season with three straight defeats including a 5-0 thumping at the Etihad, and not when they began 2022 by losing to Manchester City in the league before exiting both domestic cup competitions.
Whenever the City boss has been asked about Arteta being under pressure, the message has always been the same: give him time and he will thrive. It may perhaps be unsurprising given their relationship, but Guardiola has gone out of his way to back his friend and former colleague even when it has not been the popular thing to say or do.
Right now, Guardiola’s verdict is looking pretty good. Arsenal are fourth in the league after five straight wins and are looking up at Chelsea rather than down at Manchester United, who they are a point ahead of with three games in hand.
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The last time Arsenal won five in a row (albeit in all competitions) they faced City at the Emirates and should have won. No team this season has caused Guardiola the problems that Arteta did on New Year’s Day, and it was only that the visitors were good enough to stay in the game and then take advantage of an Arsenal collapse that they could come away with three points.
If they play like that against Liverpool on Wednesday night, Jurgen Klopp and his players are in for a hell of a game. At the same time though, usually when Arsenal’s credentials have been tested against Liverpool under Arteta it has not gone well.
Their only win in normal time came in 2020 after Klopp’s team had already been crowned champions, and Liverpool have had the upper hand this season. A 4-0 battering at Anfield was then followed up by a 2-0 win at the Emirates that confirmed their progression to the Carabao Cup final.
An Arsenal win on Wednesday would be the clearest sign yet that Arteta has his young, exciting side going in the direction that Guardiola has always said they would. It would also help the Blues’ quest for Premier League glory.
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City will still have the title race in their hands even if Liverpool win their game in hand, yet after the disappointment of their lead being reeled in and dropping more points this week at Crystal Palace, a reminder that their nearest rivals are also capable of stumbling in the run-in would be a timely boost for City ahead of a big match in the FA Cup this weekend. Guardiola being shown to be right about Arteta would be a bonus.
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