Manchester City have best players in world, says Mikel Arteta
Assistant manager reckons Real Madrid should be favourites for Champions League
Manchester City assistant manager Mikel Arteta: “ It is a surprise to be made favourites when there is a team out there that has won the competition three times in a row.” Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
“It’s hard to make comparisons, we still have a very young squad,” the City assistant manager said. “It is a surprise to be made favourites when there is a team out there that has won the competition three times in a row. Even if they have lost Cristiano Ronaldo I would still make Real Madrid the main favourites because of their history and their experience but I do think the Champions League is going to be quite open this season. There isn’t that much between the top teams.”
Arteta was handling pre-match duties because Pep Guardiola will be suspended for the opening game against Olympique Lyon on Wednesday. The City manager fell foul of Uefa regulations when he came on to the pitch to remonstrate with the referee in the defeat by Liverpool last season, and must observe City’s first game in Europe from the stands, with no communication permitted between himself and Arteta on the touchline.
“Obviously he is disappointed not to be as involved as normal but he had a reaction in the last game and we respect Uefa’s decision,” Arteta said. “We have a situation that we wouldn’t choose, but we will both be trying to do our best to make sure everything else is as normal as possible.”
The former Arsenal and Everton player was strongly linked with the vacant position at the Emirates in summer, and was believed to be in close communication with the London club before Unai Emery was announced as the manager. Although he harbours an ambition to be a manager, he insists he is happy with his present situation. “I am privileged to be where I am in football right now,” he said. “If you are asking will I be a coach one day in the future the answer is probably yes, but I feel lucky to be in this job and there is still a lot of room for this club to grow.
“I don’t think it is just the money that has been spent that has got people saying we could win the Champions League; I believe the recognition means we are doing things really well. Other people think we are candidates to compete against the best teams in Europe because of how consistent we have been and the way we play against big teams. Our aim is to win the Champions League and we feel we are improving.
“We are still a developing squad but we feel we are better prepared now because of the experience picked up over the last few years. We believe we can still do better and everything starts against Lyon but this is not an easy competition. You need a lot of ingredients to win the Champions League, and one of them is luck. You have to get to the important moments with your best players available.”
City are starting their European campaign without a key player in Kevin De Bruyne, and Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Agüero are doubtful. Mendy missed Saturday’s game against Fulham with a knee injury and Agüero was substituted early after damaging an ankle. Both face fitness tests, with Fabian Delph and Gabriel Jesus standing by as replacements. Not every club has such depth of quality, and Arteta is aware that if he left to further his own managerial ambitions he would be unlikely to find himself in charge of such a pool of talent. He admits as much, even if he was tempted by a return to Arsenal.
“For me we have the best players in the world at this club,” he said. “I see them every day in training and I wouldn’t change them for any others because they are fantastic. The hunger in the group is incredible and that’s not something everyone notices. People need to look inside the club – it’s not just about the money we have to spend.”