Pep Guardiola insists he has had no significant influence over Mikel Arteta’s fledgling managerial career.
Arteta spent three and a half seasons working as one of Guardiola’s assistants at Manchester City before leaving to take the top job at Arsenal in December 2019.
City travel to Emirates Stadium on Sunday looking to extend their record-breaking winning run of 17 matches in all competitions.
Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Benfica in the Europa League means Arsenal have only won once in their past five games but Guardiola nevertheless expects a tough test from his former understudy, who he does not believe has been getting much luck of late.
“What I see the last month or two months, every game Arsenal plays better than the opponent,” he said.
“Our dream as managers is to deserve the results. We play to deserve what we want to get. Sometimes you lose or you win, you cannot control.
“What we want to deserve he is doing and in the games over the last month, always they are better than the opponent – analysis in terms of controlling the game, creating more chances and conceding few.
“We must have an incredible performance to play as good as possible with the ball and run a lot in the right tempo to get the ball because they have an exceptional build-up already.
“In the final third they have incredible energy with [Emile] Smith [Rowe], [Bukayo] Saka and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang.
“In the future they will be a real contender to fight for the titles.”
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 1, 2020
Despite such ambitions being a constant of Guardiola’s career, he does not feel his influence is prominent in the work of a man who overcame him in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.
“He doesn’t need help. He is more than well prepared than to get help from me,” he said.
“He is an important person in my life. We had a lot of contact in or period here in Manchester
“Everything going well for him makes me happy.”
Guardiola added: “No, I didn’t inspire him. What he knows he knows for himself.
“I’m not, absolutely in this case, any influence. What he is doing is all the credit for him and his backroom staff.”
A look at some of the Opta data behind the two teams’ performances this season backs up Guardiola’s assertion that Arteta is not simply building a replica of City in north London.
City’s patient build-up play is a hallmark of Guardiola’s style and their 582 open-play sequences with 10 or more passes is almost 100 more than the next highest team in the division on this metric (Chelsea 493).
Arsenal are fifth in terms of such passages of play behind Liverpool and Manchester United, although their 338 is a significant drop on the numbers City’s domination of matches has allowed them to rack up.
Similarly, when it comes to build-up attacks – sequences of 10 or more passes that end in a shot – City are top of the pile with 141, while Arsenal’s 73 is once again fifth best.
When Guardiola teams are playing well, it generally follows that they are pressing very well. For high turnovers – those sequences that start 40 metres or less from an opponent’s goal – only Liverpool (227) fare better than City (224) this term.
Arsenal are 10th in the league with 160, while they allow opponents 13.7 passes per defensive action on average, compared to City’s 11.9, which further suggests a more aggressive pressing approach from Guardiola’s men.