Pep Guardiola: Man City-Arsenal clash ‘important but not decisive’ in title race


City trail the Gunners by five points but have two games in hand, with the teams meeting at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday evening.

Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City’s crucial top-of-the-table showdown with Arsenal on Wednesday is not a title-decider.

City have the chance to take firm control of the Premier League race as they host the Gunners at the Etihad Stadium.

Arsenal are five points clear at the summit but champions City have two games in hand and victory would see the initiative swing firmly their way.

Momentum already seems to be with City, who have won their last six games while the Gunners have held on to three consecutive draws.

“It’s really important but not decisive because there are still many difficult games for both sides,” Guardiola told a news conference.

“We have tougher games ahead of us, but we can’t deny how important it is.”

City have been inconsistent in the first half of the season, while Arsenal have collected a club record 50 points in their first 19 games.

Guardiola claims he could not have imagined at that stage that his side would end the season in a head-to-head clash with Mikel Arteta’s side.

He said: “It’s really great to be here. After the first round of the Premier League Arsenal, it was hard to think that we would be here at that moment.

“It’s a really, really important game because we could get points but our biggest opponent this season won’t.”

“We focus on what we have to do. We’ve played twice this season, in the FA Cup and there, and they’ve been really, really close games and really, really tough.”

Guardiola has been impressed with Arsenal’s development under his friend and former assistant Arteta.

Arteta left his role in Guardiola’s coaching staff to take charge at the Emirates Stadium in 2019.

Guardiola said: “I watched Arsenal with Arsene Wenger and they always had incredible detail and care of the ball and all the players they selected to play were of the greatest quality and the greatest skill.

“But I think Mikel brought another dimension to them. They are great competitors in every sense, so aggressive. We felt it in the two games we played this season. It will be very difficult.”

Arsenal finished fifth last season and have improved significantly with the addition of two former City players – Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus.

Yet even though they have strengthened their rivals, Guardiola insists he has no regrets about the decision to keep the pair.

He said: “The club made the decision it believed it had to make. When something like this happens, it is because three parties agree. It’s not just about one part.

“The players are agreed, the club wants to sell, the club wants to buy. They agreed and the club decided.

“Before you ask the question ‘Is it a risk?’—they’re happy, we’re happy. We have no complaints about Gabriel and Oleks, who they are and what they have done for this club in recent years.”

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