wWould the response have been if Liverpool tried to sign two Manchester City players on the sidelines last summer? The smart money in town refuses to sell. They certainly would have seen Liverpool as the potential threat to their hopes of retaining the Premier League title and saw no value in facilitating a boost to their side so easily.
But it was different when he called Arsenal Gabriel Jesus And Oleksandr Zinchenko. Liverpool had pushed City to the limits, taking the title race to the final day. Arsenal had ceded fourth place to Tottenham, finishing 24 points clear of City, and despite their youthful promise did little to indicate they were ready to compete at the top.
In this context, City could have been forgiven for failing to see Arsenal as a threat. They freaked out the champions at the Emirates Stadium last season, but the match Still ended up with another City win. The impression increased: Arsenal could excite, they could compete in flashes, they could play sparkling football, but when it came to crisis they still lacked the conviction and discipline needed to beat the best.
Not anymore. Arsenal should not suffer from an inferiority complex when they visit the Etihad Stadium in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Friday. They are five points clear of City at the top of the table, with a game in hand, and are the best team in England at the moment. “It was a very big transition,” Mikel Arteta He said. “The team we had in the beginning is for the team we have now, it’s day and night.”
It was a matter of clever team building and it went well with the arrival of Jesus and Zinchenko. It was surplus to requirements in City, but it was great Arsenal. The environment was perfect for Jesus, who was thriving as a main man in attack before being sidelined with a long-term knee injury, and also brought out the best in Zinchenko.
Who knew the Ukraine international was this good? At City, Zinchenko looked like a useful team player. At Arsenal, he is instrumental in turning heads with his leadership and making Arteta’s football work by drifting in from the left-back to connect with Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka in midfield.
Zinchenko made a huge difference. He played a key role in Eddie Nketiah’s winning goal against Manchester United last Sunday And his form raised the inevitable question of whether City were guilty of complacency when they agreed to deal with Arsenal.
What’s the worst that could happen? Well, looks like they unintentionally created a monster. Liverpool was not the danger. He was from Arsenal. No wonder Arteta was asked if City would think twice before selling to them again. He said, “I don’t know.” It was a three-party agreement and we were all very comfortable with it. What could happen in the future – who knows? “
One answer is that Arsenal could deliver a psychological blow by knocking City out of the cup. It will be great to see how Arteta plays it. Does he ignore talking about fatigue and attacks? Or is it the moment a second string is played; Will Arsenal hold their eyelids before they host City in the league on February 15?
In all likelihood, the choice will fall somewhere in between. Arteta talked about maintaining momentum. He can give chances to Rob Holding, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Kieran Tierney in defence. He can protect Barty and look at Fabio Vieira. Leandro Trossard, newly arrived from Brightoncan begin to attack.
Arteta should not be overboard. This is an opportunity for Arsenal to underline their quality. A win would do wonders for their confidence, not least because of facing City twice in the league. It was no surprise to hear Arteta speak so glowingly of Pep Guardiola. He was Guardiola’s No. 2 at City and has been a fan since their days as Barcelona players.
The rivalry did not weaken their friendship. “We are really different as individuals and we are completely different as managers,” said Arteta. “This is why we understand each other so well and have the relationship that we have.”
Arteta recalled how Guardiola inspired him as a midfielder. “We were brought up in the same situation,” he said. “I loved the way he plays. He’s been an inspiration since I was 18.”
Now Arteta and Guardiola are on equal footing. Backed by Zinchenko and Jesus, Arsenal are on their way to replacing Liverpool as City’s main rival. This could be the beginning of the classic rivalry.