Arsenal’s EPL title charge was made in Manchester

If Arsenal win the English Premier League, it will be with the help of Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola may not agree, but the influence he has had on the season leader cannot be ignored.

His former assistant Mikel Arteta has overseen a remarkable transformation at the London club since taking over in 2019. And the summer acquisitions of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have contributed to a patient rebuilding that has seen Arsenal emerge as the latest threat to the club. English domain of the City.

Victory against Wolves on Saturday will guarantee top spot until after the World Cup and will surely remove any lingering doubts about Arteta’s side as a true title contender.

The Spaniard, who was considered a possible successor to Guardiola when he was at City, is putting into practice the lessons he learned from his former mentor.

But the City manager takes no credit for Arsenal’s outstanding start, which has seen them win 11 of their 13 games.

“Maybe I learned more from him than Mikel (learned from me) when we worked together,” Guardiola said on Friday. “Where Arsenal is is completely down to the work ethic, the talents that they have. And the support that Mikel had in the bad times at the beginning because the results did not come, supporting the decisions, the hardest ones, unconditionally”.

While Guardiola wants no secondary credit for Arteta’s achievements, he was responsible for giving the former Everton and Arsenal midfielder a golden opportunity when he handed him his first managerial job in 2016.

Arteta was part of two league-winning teams and was credited for his work in developing Raheem Sterling into one of Europe’s most prolific strikers before succeeding Unai Emery at Arsenal.

Arteta benefited from working closely with one of the best managers in football, but still had to rely on the support of the Arsenal board at various times when his reign seemed on the verge of crisis.

Especially when he came under intense pressure from fans after losing the first three league games last season, including a humiliating 5-0 loss at City.

Arsenal bounced back to make an unlikely push for Champions League qualification, missing out after losing two of their last three games.

“I’m pretty sure people see how he works every day there because I know how he works every day, his commitment to his work,” Guardiola said. “All managers want to have time, time, time to build something. Arsenal gives it to him and the rest is the position he has”.

For all of Arteta’s qualities, Arsenal seem to be a triumph of patience, more than anything else.

While he has heavily backed his manager in the transfer market, the money has largely been spent on emerging talents like Ben White, Fabio Vieira and Albert Sambi Lokonga. Faith has also been shown in academy graduates Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

Regardless of the results, the club’s hierarchy has remained focused on a long-term plan that is paying off.

The signings of Jesus and Zinchenko were a push to go to the next level.

They were players that Arteta knew well from his time at City. They have brought a proven winning mentality to a very young team.

Crucially, the duo arrived at the Emirates Stadium still hungry for success despite winning a host of trophies under Guardiola.

Arteta recognized two players often overlooked at City and offered them a new challenge.

Jesus, in particular, relished that opportunity and established himself as a key figure for Arsenal.

Zinchenko’s season has been interrupted by injury, but he has a chance to be a vital piece in the second half of the campaign.

Guardiola didn’t want to stand in the way of two players who contributed so much to City’s success, even if it meant selling out a rival.

Whether he will regret that remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, when Arteta left, the feeling at City was that he might return to the club one day if he was successful at Arsenal.

Few could have predicted the impact he has had on North London.

Guardiola, however, is in no doubt that the threat posed by his former assistant is real.

“We,” he said, “have had an amazing season so far, he would say, but they’ve been better.”

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