Arteta will speak to his City counterpart after weekend but he hopes it is not after finishing second

Arsenal manager says he watched Tottenham’s game against City on Tuesday at home and it amounted to ‘almost playing the game’ with Spurs

Mikel Arteta pondered the question for a split second, then responded. Had he been in touch with Pep Guardiola this week to discuss Sunday’s denouement of the Premier League title race? “No, no,” came the emphatic answer.

The Arsenal manager remains on good terms with his Manchester City counterpart, who gave him his first opportunity in coaching back in 2016 when Arteta turned down offers to earn his stripes in Arsenal’s academy under Arsène Wenger or link up with his old friend Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. But, make no mistake, when the two Spaniards finally catch up on the phone after the season – as has become tradition since Arteta’s return to manage Arsenal in 2019 – Arteta would prefer not to have finished in second place again.

“We talked on the phone, very normal, but it is not analysis,” he said of their most recent conversation last year. “We talk about other stuff.”

In an interview with the BBC to mark being awarded the prestigious Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic from the king of Spain this week, Arteta spoke about the “unbelievable chemistry” he had with Guardiola “and not only on the football side”.


“People would talk about the tactical side, [but] he was on the human level,” he said. “You just looked at him, just laugh and connect, and then there was the eye contact. The meaning on that eye contact was clear of what we had to do or what we were thinking in that moment. We were very lucky.”

After a season in which a youthful Arsenal side have taken the title race to the final day it would be no surprise if both wanted to switch off for a few weeks. Yet it is perhaps a legacy of the ruthlessness Arteta learned during three years as Guardiola’s assistant that he is unlikely to spend long feeling sorry for himself if his former manager David Moyes and West Ham are unable to do Arsenal a massive favour by drawing with or beating City on Sunday.

Liverpool came back from the disappointment of accumulating 97 points and being runners-up to City in 2019 by becoming champions for the first time in 30 years the following season. Arteta, asked whether Arsenal could take inspiration from that, said: “As in any sport you want to win. If you don’t, okay, what can you improve to be better and try again? And be ruthless with that assessment and try to be better.”

Arteta watched Tottenham’s game against City on Tuesday at home with his family, and said it was an emotional experience that amounted to “almost playing the game with” Spurs. But he insisted that despite the sliding doors moment when Tottenham’s Son Heung-min missed a golden opportunity to equalise and give Arsenal the advantage, even being in this position had shown the progress his side have made since surrendering the title advantage to City last April.

“If I had to pick a player in the Premier League for that moment it probably would be him,” he said of Son. “My kids were running around the table and going like this [puts his head in his hands]. You can imagine. That is magic as well, to have the opportunity to be living it, next to your family and next to your colleagues. Being part of that. Don’t forget that [last season’s title race] was done with seven or eight or 10 games to go.”

Arteta added: “When it gets really tight and when it gets emotional, in that emotion lots of things can happen when games become chaotic. Things happen that normally don’t happen, and within that chaos the magic can happen as well. We have seen it many, many times. I think the magic is already happening because this is what everybody wants. Every football supporter, every fan, wants to live it and for it to go to the last game, to the last minute in the Premier League at this level. It’s the most beautiful league in the world by far and you have two teams and on top of that you have other teams fighting for other things. This is what we want and why it’s the most competitive league in the world.”

Arteta has experienced what it is like to win a Premier League title on the final day after being on the bench alongside Guardiola for City’s 4-1 victory over Brighton in 2019, having also won it the previous season. He spoke fondly of those memories before the date with destiny against Everton at the Emirates on Sunday, although there was no hiding the sense that it would taste much sweeter this time around if Arsenal upset the odds.

“It is a great moment and it is the unpredictability – it is like a drug,” said Arteta. “You are there and you still have to earn it, and you want it so much and there are a lot of factors that can change things around very quickly, but when you do it it’s phenomenal. It will be for sure one of the best days of my life on the sporting side. That was a big dream I didn’t manage to do as a player and I had another one as a manager. If I can do it and with the people who work here every single day, that will be some day.” – Guardian