Pep Guardiola: Arsenal future Premier League contenders, I didn't inspire former assistant Mikel Arteta

Watch Arsenal vs Manchester City live on Sky Sports Premier League on Super Sunday from 4.15pm with kick-off at 4.30pm; Pep Guardiola: "I did not inspire him [Mikel Arteta]. What he knows, he knows for himself... in the early future, they will be real contenders to fight for the titles"

Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta 1:41
Pep Guardiola denies that he is an influence on Mikel Arteta despite the Arsenal manager working under him as Manchester City's No 2 from 2016 to 2019

Pep Guardiola says he did not inspire Mikel Arteta and lauded his former Manchester City No 2 for the job he is doing as Arsenal manager, feeling that the Gunners will be Premier League title contenders under his leadership in the "early future".

Arsenal have not won the league since 2004 while City have won three of the last seven, and look likely to land the 2021 title after opening up a 10-point gap at the top of the Premier League after their 3-1 win at Everton on Wednesday.

That was their 17th straight success in all competitions while the Gunners, 10th in the table, who won last season's FA Cup under Arteta, have picked up only one victory in their last five following their 1-1 Europa League draw with Benfica.

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Speaking ahead of City's trip to the Emirates on Sunday - live on Sky Sports Premier League - Guardiola heaped praise on his former assistant and felt that Arsenal could once again start challenging for titles in the "early future" under Arteta.

"I did not inspire him [Mikel Arteta]. What he knows he knows for himself," Guardiola said on Friday. "I am not any influence. What he is doing, all credit to him and his backroom staff.

"All I can say is the last months show me that all managers need time and he is not an exception. What I see in the last two months every game Arsenal played is better than the opponent.

"Tomorrow we will have an incredible performance. They have an exceptional build-up, they have quality and they have energy. They have [Bukayo] Saka, [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang and all the players with the quality in the middle.

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Bukayo Saka celebrates with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after equalising against Benfica
Image: Guardiola is wary of Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

"In the early future, they will be real contenders to fight for the titles. Most of the time [when Arteta and I worked together] we took decisions together and I took decisions with the influence of Mikel.

"I don't know if I influenced him - he has to answer this."

The two sides met in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals earlier this season as City ran out 4-1 winners in December and also beat the Gunners in the Premier League 1-0 in October. Arsenal beat City 2-0 in the FA Cup semi-finals last term.

Arsenal finished eighth in the top-flight in 2019/20 after Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. He led them to the 2019/20 FA Cup title and also lifted the 2020/21 Community Shield with victory over Liverpool in August.

Man City to make late call on Ilkay Gundogan

Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring his second goal for Manchester City against Tottenham
Image: Ilkay Gundogan missed Wednesday's win but could be available for the Arsenal trip

Guardiola confirmed City will make a late call on Ilkay Gundogan for the trip to Arsenal after he picked up a minor groin strain, ruling him out of Wednesday's win over Everton. Defender Nathan Ake has also returned to training.

"Nathan is back in training, on the pitch, alone still," Guardiola said. "Gundo took part in a training session today, we will see how he feels tomorrow. The rest are fit."

Kevin De Bruyne made his return from injury against Everton on Wednesday
Image: Kevin De Bruyne made his return from a hamstring injury in the 3-1 win over Everton

Gundogan's omission at Goodison Park paved the way for Kevin De Bruyne's return from the hamstring injury that has seen him miss the last month, coming off the bench for the final 10 minutes as City won 3-1.

The German plays in a similar role to De Bruyne and has shone in the Belgian's absence - registering six goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games - including doubles in key wins over Liverpool and Tottenham.

Guardiola has previously argued it will not be a problem to play both players in the same system, and with De Bruyne fit, they could potentially line up together on Sunday.

'Phil Foden can be 10 times more extraordinary'

Phil Foden PA 1:44
Paul Dickov believes Phil Foden is 'the best young player in Europe at the minute'

One player who has really stood out for Manchester City this season is young Englishman Phil Foden, who has registered 11 goals and six assists in 31 games this season across all competitions.

Asked if the 20-year-old will be used more in the attacking front three or in more of a central midfield position, Guardiola said: "He can play in both. I said many times he is so young. Phil just needs time to improve playing inside.

"When you play as a winger you have to play at one tempo and when you play inside you have to play in another one.

"When he gets this balance, he will be 10 times more extraordinary as a player. It's just a question of time."

Pep tells Man City players: Don't look at schedule!

preview image 2:58
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City's win against Everton

Guardiola told his players not to look at City's forthcoming schedule but to embrace the "beautiful challenge" after watching his side go 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

City have won their first 10 top-flight matches in 2021, the longest ever winning run by a team from the start of a calendar year in top-flight history.

Man City look to topple Arsenal record

Manchester City haven't trailed for a single minute in any of their last 16 Premier League games, since a 2-0 reverse at Tottenham. The only team with a longer run of games without falling behind in Premier League history is Arsenal between December 1998 and May 1999, who City face next.

Guardiola maintained that he will need to call upon all of his players during a hectic schedule in order to battle on multiple fronts.

"If we want to win titles, we're going to need the entire squad," Guardiola said. "What pleased me [against Everton] was the solidarity even from the guys who didn't play.

"From Benjamin [Mendy] in the stands, from John [Stones] and Alex [Oleksandr Zinchenko]. Everyone is a part of this. We have an incredible schedule ahead and we're expecting a long week.

Phil Foden celebrates breaking the deadlock for Man City after 32 minutes 0:37
Guardiola praised his side's performance in their 3-1 win over Everton

"We've not had a full week to train since the beginning of the season almost, so we're going to need everyone. We go into every game trying to get the points and with a good performance. This is what makes me grateful to have these players.

"Winning 10 straight games at the start of the calendar year is nice but next is Arsenal. Tonight we celebrate but tomorrow afternoon we will start to think about Arsenal.

"It's better you don't see the schedule, otherwise you get depressed. But at the same time, it's a beautiful challenge.

"We will come back here in a few weeks to try to get to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and we've seen how hard it will be. It's not worth looking at the schedule. Just the next one, and that's Arsenal."

Man City deny Lionel Messi approach

AP: Lionel Messi
Image: Lionel Messi is entering the final four months of his Barcelona contract

Manchester City have yet to make any offers to Lionel Messi, with the Barcelona star to decide his future in the summer.

Spokespeople for both the Premier League leaders and Messi have confirmed to Sky Sports News that no offers have been made by City to the player, neither last summer nor since, contrary to reports in a British newspaper on Friday.

Messi's spokesperson has also reiterated that the Argentina forward will choose whether to leave or stay at the end of the season, having announced his intention to do so in an interview in December.

Messi has resettled at the Nou Camp this season since demanding to be released from his contract last summer, when Guardiola and City were considered the frontrunners to sign him.

Short of entering into a legal dispute over a contract clause that would have allowed him a free transfer, Messi stayed but is now free to negotiate with other clubs outside Spain, with Paris Saint-Germain also interested, having entered into the last six months of his current deal.

Ronald Koeman and Lionel Messi 3:26
Should Messi remain a one-club man or move elsewhere?

The 33-year-old has said publicly he would like to play in Major League Soccer before he retires.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner's current contract - signed in 2017 - was leaked last month by Spanish newspaper El Mundo, claiming its worth to total £492m (€555m).

It went on to claim it was the most expensive ever awarded to an athlete, describing it as having "ruined" Barcelona by causing their current financial crisis. Barcelona since denied the leak came from the club's board and threatened legal action against the paper.

In December, interim president Carlos Tusquets also claimed the club should have sold Messi last summer when he wanted to leave. "Both in terms of what you save on the wage bill as well as the money you make, it would've been desirable," he said.

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