It’s not unusual for Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola to exchange pleasantries via the media in the build-up to clashes between their respective sides.
Ever since Arteta left City to take up the head coach role at the Emirates in December 2019, praise has bounced back and forth like Newton’s Cradle.
Now that the Gunners are actually threatening to knock Pep’s perennial title challengers off their perch, it feels like the pair have gone into overdrive.
Ahead of tonight’s FA Cup fourth round tie, the first showdown between the pair in over a year, Arteta labelled City “the best team in the world” and claimed that Guardiola’s name will go down in football history alongside the great innovators of the game, including hero Johan Cruyff.
“I think the influence that Pep had in football in the last 20 years is just incredibly powerful,” he said.
“He changed the game like Johan did in the past, he did it like other managers have that will go [down] in history.
“So we have learned a lot from him, we have been inspired by a lot of things he’s done and then everyone has to build his own career and his own pathway.”
Reflecting on their relationship, which dates back to Arteta’s time at Barcelona’s La Masia Academy in the nineties, he continued: “I was looking at him and just wanted to achieve what he was doing.
“I loved the way he played and the way he was transmitting on the pitch and understanding what was happening. He was an inspiration since I was 18 years old.
“It’s his way of thinking, his way of transmitting, the way he understood the game, the passion he had about the game and football.
“It’s a lot of things and then, when you have a personal relationship with somebody – you have that chemistry – that takes that to a different level and that’s what happened in my case, especially when we worked together.”
For his part, it’s pretty obvious that Guardiola is chuffed that things are coming together for Arteta in London.
Emphasising that Arsenal have always been in his compatriot’s heart by highlighting that Arteta never celebrated City goals against the Gunners during their three years working together, he praised his friend for striking out on his own and creating a team in his own image.
“What I see in Arsenal belongs to Mikel and his people,” said Guardiola.
“If you say having full-backs inside with Oleks [Zinchenko], that we started to do it together here, then yes.
“They play with wingers higher than the midfield players like us, yeah. But all the methodology, the process, the character, mentality, set pieces, a thousand million things, that belongs to them and not to me.”
“I know him and how he works, how he is able to seduce the board, the hierarchy, the players,” he said.
“It is the biggest compliment for Arsenal as well, for the hierarchy, the sporting director, the club, backing him in the bad moments and trusting him and keeping him and relying on him.”
The mutual back-slapping will pause for 90 minutes at 8pm this evening.