Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has suggested that Arsenal trio Emile Smith Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka can help the Gunners return to the top of the Premier League in the near future. The Spaniard is preparing to face former student Mikel Arteta in the dugout once again when the two clubs meet on Sunday at the Emirates Stadium.
Arteta’s first full season as Arsenal manager has produced a mixed bag, with the Gunners having struggled massively in the Premier League since the beginning of the campaign.
The 13-time English champions dropped as low as 16th until rescuing their slump in December, and now sit tenth, 12 points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Despite their struggles, Arteta can take credit for the successful integrations of a handful of talented Hale End graduates, with Smith Rowe and Saka shining brightest in recent months.
The former made a huge impact when he broke into the side two months ago, adding some much-needed creativity and attacking prowess, while Saka has been one of their best players this season, having starred from out wide on a number of occasions throughout the campaign.
Along with the proven firepower of experienced striker Aubameyang, Guardiola believes the pair can spearhead title charges for Arsenal in seasons to come.
The decorated Spanish boss has also predicted a tough afternoon for his side on Sunday, with the Gunners producing a clinical display to dispose of Leeds United in their last Premier League outing on Valentine’s Day.
“We will have an incredible performance [from Arsenal],” Guardiola told reporters on Friday. “They have an exceptional build-up, they move with many, many sense, all the movements they have for the build-up to the final third.
“The quality for incredible energy, for Smith [Rowe], Saka and Aubameyang, especially with his runs in behind, and all the players that they have in the middle.
“In the early future they will be real contenders to fight for the titles.”
As a result of Arsenal’s lacklustre start to the campaign, Arteta’s position came under pressure from supporters and pundits alike, with some growing disillusioned with his vision for a long-term project.
However, his side’s upturn in form seems to have alleviated most of the criticism, with their on-pitch efforts proving far more effective in claiming positive results as of late.
Guardiola continued, suggesting Arteta will prove to be a success in the long run and highlighting the tangible improvements made by the Gunners in recent outings.
“All I can say is the last months show me that all managers need time and he is not an exception,” Guardiola said on Friday. “What I see in the last two months, every game Arsenal played is better than the opponent.”
Guardiola took Arteta under his wing for three years at City, helping him to cut his teeth as the club’s assistant manager before Arsenal swooped in for his services at the end of 2019.
Despite his role in shaping Arteta into the coach he is today, Guardiola dismissed the idea that he has inspired his compatriot’s philosophies, claiming that anything he manages to achieve in north London will be the result of his own hard work.
“I did not inspire him, what he knows he knows for himself,” the City boss added. “I am not any influence. What he is doing, all credit to him and his backroom staff.”
Arteta will be hoping for an unlikely victory against the Premier League’s in-form side on Sunday, with the Gunners having tasted defeat in each of their last seven league matches against City.