When Arsenal return to Premier League action on Wednesday night, the occasion will be tinged with emotion for Mikel Arteta.
It was his diagnosis with Covid-19 that saw the cessation of football in the UK and, of course, he’ll be facing the club he left last November to take over as Arsenal boss.
The 37 year old spent three and a half years alongside Pep Guardiola in the dug-out at Man City, helping develop young players and win trophies at the City of Manchester Stadium.
His relationship with Pep goes back to Barcelona, where Arteta spent time as a young player before forging his career with PSG, Rangers, Real Sociedad, Everton and Arsenal – where he became captain of the club after his 2011 arrival.
It’s obviously a special moment for the Spaniard, and he had nothing but positives to describe the impact Guardiola has had on his career.
“Well, he was an influence for me since I was 15 years old and we met at Barcelona, both as players,” he said
“And in my coaching career and my personal life, he has an enormous influence. If I have to talk about the person he is, his values, the way he has treated me and how he deals with the players and the staff around him, its phenomenal.
“As a coach, I have learned so much from him, we have spent some amazing moments together, some difficult ones as well, but the experience next to him has been incredible.”
Quite what the football is going to be like after three months without playing remains to be seen, something Arteta acknowledges will be a big challenge.
“We’ve been working to try and maintain and improve the level that we were playing at before and improve the result as well,” he said.
“But there are some uncertainties that we don’t know how we’re going to respond to. All I can tell you is that we’ve been doing as much as possible to try to get into this moment with the best possible chance.”