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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Matt Verri

Pep Guardiola reveals moment he realised Mikel Arteta’s ‘love’ for Arsenal before he left Manchester City

Pep Guardiola has revealed it was always clear to him that Mikel Arteta loved Arsenal and would leave Manchester City to take charge of the Gunners.

Arteta spent years at the Etihad as Guardiola’s assistant, moving straight into a coaching role just a few months after he ended his playing career at Arsenal.

The Spaniard was strongly linked with the Arsenal job when Arsene Wenger stepped down in 2018, with the club eventually opting for Unai Emery, though Arteta did take charge 18 months later.

Despite some difficult runs, most recently at the end of last season when Arsenal fell apart to miss out on Champions League football, the club is now arguably in as strong a state as it has been since the move to the Emirates in 2006.

Arsenal sit five points clear of City in the Premier League, with a game in hand, and the title rivals go head-to-head in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday night.

Speaking ahead of that match, Guardiola discussed Arteta’s decision to leave his role at City to take the Arsenal job, a move that came as no surprise to him.

“We felt if one team could offer him (a job) as manager he would leave,” Guardiola told reporters.

“I am not a guy to say: ‘stay with me’. Everyone has dreams. I know he went to his club, a supporter, he was a captain there. He loves the club.

“I remember here when we score goals he jumps a lot except one team. He was sitting there. It was Arsenal. I said, ‘that guy likes Arsenal’! Like here, if I’m training as assistant and Barcelona call me, I go.

“People have to fly when [they believes it is best. To players if they are not happy they have to leave, life it too short.”

Guardiola was full of praise for his former assistant, believing the Arsenal boss made him a better manager in their time working together.

He also insisted that Arteta would have been “the best” replacement at City, had Guardiola decided not to extend his deal in 2018.

“I am pretty sure if I would have left before, he would be here and he would be the best, absolutely,” Guardiola said.

“But I extended the contract, I am sorry, and he didn’t wait, so it could not happen.”

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