Mikel Arteta: "We will have to be at our best in every department for 100 minutes"
Head Coach Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Arsenal FC at Vitality Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images)

The potential to clinch top spot ahead of the international break is up for grabs this weekend, as reigning champions Manchester City take the trip down south to face last season's runners-up Arsenal

The Gunners haven't won this fixture at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League since December 2015, courtesy of goals from Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud

Manchester City have shown some flaws in their game though recently, conceding twice to Gary O'Neil's Wolves side last week, losing their unbeaten start to the season. 

On the other hand, Arsenal remain undefeated in the Premier League, however their performance in Northern France against RC Lens in the Champions League didn't reflect a side that would be able to take Guardiola's crown. 

Both sides have felt the effect of injuries early this campaign, with the Cityzens still missing Kevin de Bruyne and last year's Champions League winner, Rodri, still out facing a three-match suspension. 

Mikel Arteta sat down to face the press on Friday afternoon ahead of this monumental fixture in Arsenal's calendar, discussing team news, his former boss and any surprises he expects to face. 

Here are four main takeaways from his press conference:

On injury doubts and team news:

With talisman Bukayo Saka signalling to Arsenal staff that he needed replacement after only 34 minutes in Lens, fears of another crucial player facing a long time out on the sidelines started to spread quickly.

The Gunners have also been without summer signing Jurrien Timber after he suffered a long-term injury at the start of the season. Thomas Partey and Gabriel Martinelli have also been absent, while Leandro Trossard and Declan Rice have recovered from their injury scares over the past few weeks. 

Speaking on Saka's availability, Arteta said, "He is in contention, let’s see how he progresses from here to Sunday. Let’s see how he recovers."

 

When asked further on details of the injury, the Arsenal boss was more reluctant, replying, "In contention, that’s it. I’m not a doctor, that’s what they told me.”

Having returned to training last week after sustaining a groin injury in the prelude to Arsenal's enthralling clash with Manchester United, Arteta also gave an update on whether Thomas Partey would be available to return to his crucial role ahead of Sunday's fixture. 

"Well he is ahead of schedule, that is for sure. We wanted to have him in the squad if we needed to. However, the way the game panned out, we had a lot of necessities and we didn't use him," Arteta said. 

The Ghanaian international last played 41 days ago against Fulham, and since arriving from Atletico Madrid has made 103 appearances for the club. 

On Guardiola and his side:

Mikel Arteta is no stranger to Pep Guardiola's Manchester City team. Having filled the role of assistant manager from 2016 to 2019 in Manchester, the 41-year-old played understudy to Guardiola as the team thrived, winning two Premier League trophies, two EFL Cups and one FA Cup

 

However, when asked about City's form, having lost 2-1 to Wolves and losing their unbeaten record, Arteta remained focused on the job in hand, responding, "We know one thing for certain. We will have to be at our best in every department for 100 minutes, and then we will have a chance."

This Arsenal vs City affair also provides for a fascinating tactical battle, as both sides try to find exploitations in different areas to gain momentum in the game. Guardiola resorted to putting Bernardo Silva at left-back most recently, with Arteta admitting that he was taken aback by the decision. 

"I don’t know. I’m sure that every year we have new players and new tools that can surprise each other. We expect certain things from each other but at the end it’s down to the players and these are the ones who surprise you the most," Arteta said. 

On previous encounters:

Not only are these clashes tactical, but they also provide for lots of entertainment, with evidence coming from the last two fixtures at the Emirates Stadium

The Gunners dominated on New Year's Day in 2022, with Saka scoring first for the hosts. Riyad Mahrez levelled the score with a controversial penalty, before Rodri silenced the home crowd in injury time after Gabriel Magalhaes saw red for a second yellow card offence early into the second half. 

Arteta missed the match in 2022 having contracted the COVID-19 virus, but was present from a screen in the changing rooms, as Amazon Prime later revealed in the All or Nothing documentary. 

"For sure. I could feel it from home. That was a huge step...we didn’t manage to get anything from the game when we ended up with 10 men."

In saying that, Arsenal's Community Shield win has proven that the Gunners are capable of beating the Sky Blues, with Fabio Vieira's decisive penalty securing their first piece of silverware for the season. 

 

Arteta reflected on the performance, saying, "That was an important one for us. Winning a title against City is something you always have to value, the way we did it as well. It gives us confidence and belief that we can beat them."

On Trossard and his attacking depth:

With the Gunners losing the likes of Martinelli and Saka still remaining a doubt, it is times like this when players such as Vieira, Reiss NelsonEmile Smith Rowe and Trossard become a necessity. 

The latter has been impressive for Arsenal since arriving in January from Brighton & Hove Albion, and has even made a statement to start ahead of Martinelli, even if everyone was match-fit.

 

When questioned on the importance of having such competitive backup for games such as this, Arteta told VAVEL, "[It is] really important. I think Leo has been really good. He had a big impact in the team, the last game that he played. He was absent against Brentford when he could not participate but apart from that he’s been really good."

 

 

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