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Mikel Arteta is closer to achieving his vision of ‘New Arsenal’ than Pep Guardiola is to his of ‘New City'

Mikel Arteta is closer to achieving his vision of ‘New Arsenal’ than Pep Guardiola is to his of ‘New City'

Arsenal travel to the Etihad this Saturday having beaten Man City 2-0 in the FA Cup semi-finals in July.

ARSENAL took a leap of faith. While there had been whisperings from the Etihad Stadium that Manchester City had a great manager of the future within their ranks, Mikel Arteta was appointed Gunners boss without a managerial track record to base a decision on. This is his first full season as a head coach in his own right having spent three years as Pep Guardiola’s right hand man.

Without Arteta by his side, Guardiola’s fortunes have taken a downturn. City finished 18 points behind runaway champions Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table last season and have won just one of their opening three fixtures this season. Arsenal, on the other hand, have won three from four with their only defeat coming away to Liverpool.

Of course, there’s no way to know for certain that Guardiola’s recent troubles are in any way attributable to Arteta’s exit, but with the master once again set to meet the apprentice this Saturday’s clash at the Etihad Stadium presents both with an opportunity to assess where they are in their current projects.

So far this season, it appears Arteta is much closer to achieving his vision of ‘New Arsenal’ than Guardiola is to his of ‘New City.’ This was evident in July’s FA Cup semi-final when the Gunners outmanoeuvred Manchester City in a 2-0 victory, and it has been evident over the first few weeks of the new season.

Guardiola has yet to face a task as daunting as they one currently on his hands. At both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, he moved on before any rebuild job. The 49-year-old is a proven winner in Spain, Germany and England, but for all his undeniable brilliance Guardiola has still to prove he can construct a team from the ground up. 

Nathan Ake, Ruben Dias and Ferran Torres arrived over the summer, but Guardiola has yet to demonstrate any sort of vision of what to do with them. He has switched between a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 shape, and between a midfield two for the 5-2 demolition at the hands of Leicester City and a midfield three for the 1-1 draw against Leeds United, when City still lacked control.

A number of questions were posed of Manchester City over the summer, with David Silva leaving after the expiration of his contract and Sergio Aguero still sidelined through injury, and Guardiola has so far failed to come up with many answers. It’s still early in the season, but the sight of City slumped in 14th place is proof of this.

Most concerning is how City as a team no longer appear steeped in Guardiola’s ideological principles and values. Their high press isn’t quite as high as it used to be, their intensity not quite as intense. Arsenal, in contrast, have bought into Arteta’s methods quicker than even the Spaniard could have hoped for. 

Arteta has won hearts and minds at the Emirates Stadium with last season’s FA Cup triumph a teaser of what more he could achieve in North London. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has signed a new long-term contract, Gabriel Magalhaes and Thomas Partey have addressed problem areas in the squad and the three-at-the-back system Arteta has implemented seems to be a good fit. Not for around a decade has the outlook been so bright for the Gunners.

City might still be favourites to claim all three points this Saturday, by virtue of their greater individual quality, but if there’s to be one team closer to fulfilment at the Etihad Stadium it’s likely to be Arsenal. The Gunners can’t yet know if their leap of faith has truly paid off. They are, however, walking forward while Manchester City appear to be stood still.





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Graham Ruthven
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