Pep Guardiola believes he could “fight on the touchline” with Mikel Arteta when Manchester City host Arsenal in Friday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie but this would not alter his huge respect for his former assistant.
Arteta worked under Guardiola at City for three years until becoming the Arsenal manager in December 2019. He has drawn criticism this season for how animated he is on the touchline. Guardiola can also be histrionic and was asked whether he might calm his behaviour to avoid a potential flashpoint.
“I don’t know. Anything can happen on the touchline in the moments of the game,” he said. “He’s a rival, of course. Tomorrow he wants to beat me and I want to beat him. I know in defeat we are not the best friends in the world. From my point of view I have a huge respect as a person, as a manager. That’s not going to change.
“If we’re going to fight on the touchline – it’s going to happen sooner or later I guess – it won’t change the respect. I teach him a few things but this comes from himself, his mum and dad, his character and that was already there. Mikel, I know him and I had the feeling during the time we worked together that what he is doing is not fake.
“So when we were making a training session and in a game, he was always complaining about referees, and that was as an assistant coach. It is what it is. After that I am not a judge; everyone is everyone and sometimes I behave as well in this way.”
Guardiola believes Arteta is being unfairly scrutinised because Arsenal are the Premier League pace-setters. It was put to him that Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp can behave similarly and not be criticised.
“Absolutely,” he said. “When you are top of the league they have to undermine you for another reason. And they are doing that right now. I know this situation quite well.”
Guardiola, who has led City to four titles in the past five seasons, is unsure whether Arsenal will be consistent challengers should they be champions. “The situation changes a lot,” he said. “How they’re going to react if they win titles. The new players come in, play and the players who win the titles say: ‘Oh, now I don’t play, I have a new role.’
“They have the potential as a club, with the manager, with stable finances, to do it. I didn’t know here [with City], so imagine talking about Arsenal in the future. What I know from my experience is that we are not the same. I am not the same, the players are not the same; everyone changed. Good things and bad things influence our lives.”
Guardiola revealed when he first realised how passionate Arteta is about Arsenal. “I know he went to his club, the team he dreams of. He’s a supporter, for the fact he played there, he was a captain there. He loves the club. I remember when we were together, when we scored goals he jumps a lot and celebrates except for one team. I jump, look back and he was sitting there. It was at that moment I said: ‘That guy likes Arsenal.’”
Phil Foden is a doubt because of a foot injury.