FOOTBALL RETURNS: Master versus apprentice as City take on Arsenal


Manchester City face Arsenal in their game in hand as the Premier League returns on Wednesday night, hoping to delay Liverpool’s title celebrations.

It’s the first managerial meeting between Pep Guardiola and his former assistant Mikel Arteta, since the latter left the Etihad to take over at the Emirates in December.

Where they stand

Defeat for second placed City would hand Liverpool the chance to win the Premier League at Goodison Park on Sunday evening.

Victory for the Gunners, meanwhile, would move them above North London rivals Spurs, into the mix for Europa League places, two points behind Manchester United in a possible Champions League berth and within five of fourth place Chelsea.

The European spots available are of course pending on the outcome of City’s appeal to UEFA and the delayed 2020 FA Cup.

Arteta’s men won three consecutive home matches just before the coronavirus lockdown and have lost less games (six) than the Sky Blues (seven) this season, but find themselves languishing in ninth due to a league-high 13 draws so far.

That’s contributed to a tally of just 14 points in 13 matches (2-8-3) away from the Emirates, but the visitors would probably be happy to come away from Manchester with a point on Wednesday night.

The hosts have picked up 29 points (9-2-2) and scored 33 goals in their 13 home league matches so far this season and won their last six in all competitions against Arsenal, including 3-0 in the reverse fixture back in December. Just five days after City’s rampant display at the Emirates, Mikel Arteta stepped down as Pep Guardiola’s number two, two become the Gunners’ boss

City and Arsenal will face off behind closed doors (credit: Manchester City)

Team news

Gunners boss Arteta declared his squad that trained were fully fit when speaking to the media via a Zoom call on Monday afternoon, but they’ll be without long-term absentees Lucas Torreira (ankle) and Callum Chambers (knee), as well as Cedric Soares (nose).

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, subject to recent transfer speculation with just a year remaining on his contract, should spear-head Arsenal’s attack.

The Gabonese striker is currently second in the race for the golden boot, on 17 goals, with City’s Sergio Agüero third on 16.

Guardiola should have a full quota of players to pick from too, with Leroy Sané now available for selection following his knee injury and Aymeric Laporte also back in training.

Kevin De Bruyne has the Premier League’s most assists – 16 – and his imperious form has made him a strong contender for this year’s player of the season award.

Kevin De Bruyne (credit: Premier League)


Speaking to, Arteta exuded respect for his mentor.: “He [Pep Guardiola] was an influence for me since I was 15-years-old and we met at Barcelona, both as players.

“In my coaching career and my personal life, he has an enormous influence. If I have to talk about the person he is, his values, the way he has treated me and how he deals with the players and the staff around him, it’s phenomenal.

“As a coach, I have learned so much from him, we have spent some amazing moments together, some difficult ones as well, but the experience next to him has been incredible.”

On the friendlies against Championship sides Charlton and Brentford, he continued: “It was a really nice practice for us to get a little bit of a feeling in what it is to compete again in a match, how it feels to play without any crowd and the protocols that we have to go through in order to be in a safe environment to compete.

“Physically we haven’t played a game of football for three months and we wanted to give the players some minutes. We managed to do that without any injuries so it was a really positive test.”

Mikel Arteta speaks to his Arsenal players in the friendly defeat to Brentford (credit: Getty)

Guardiola also lavished praise on his former assistant,: “I’m excited to see [Mikel] again – one of the nicest people I have ever met.

“The game belongs to the players. We know each other and he knows everything of us. He was an incredibly important part of our recent success. He helped us be who we are.”

The City boss was also philosophical about the current circumstances. He added: “What is important is the health of people. But in the end, the Premier League decided that we have to play.

“We are going to play and we will adapt as quickly as possible. Tomorrow we will see the level of the team and from there we will see what we can do better.

“All the teams have had just three weeks, three and a half. It is what it is. Everyone suffered during this situation – personally and economically, and we have to adapt.”



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