Pep Guardiola

Can the apprentice beat the master in the Premier League title race?

The Premier League title races finale could be exciting this year with a different challenger for the juggernaut that is Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.  Not only are north London giants Arsenal challenging the reigning champions, but they are five points clear of the Citizens at the top of the Premier League table with just 12 league games remaining.

Arteta learned his trade at the side of Guardiola

If ever there was a disciple of Guardiola, then it is Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta. The former Everton player spent three years at Manchester City working as one of Guardiola’s assistant coaches.

He turned down a chance to work with Arsenal’s academy and also a place on Mauricio Pochettino’s staff at Tottenham for the opportunity to work with the former-Barcelona boss in Manchester.

The pair had initially met at Barcelona academy. Arteta was in La Masia, while Guardiola was 11 years his senior and in the first team. The two kept in touch regularly, and reportedly, Guardiola always believed that Arteta would make a great coach.

His instincts were spot on, as Arteta helped Guardiola’s team to win the Premier League on two occasions, the League Cup twice and the FA Cup once while on his staff.

Proving himself in north London

While Arteta may have been a vital member of Guardiola’s backroom staff, in 2019, he was offered the chance to be a head coach in his own right by Arsenal. The son of San Sebastian didn’t hesitate in accepting the challenge.

After a slightly slow start, which was much to be expected from a novice head coach, Arteta slowly but surely started putting his vision of Arsenal together in north London. He took a page from the Guardiola handbook of management by bringing in young and hungry players while removing some of the bigger egos and older players who were on massive wages from the squad.

This was a crucial move, as Arteta’s faith in some of the younger players led to the belief amongst his squad growing. He developed relationships with his players where he knew he could trust them, and they could trust him.

Arsenal’s comeback win over Bournemouth was a ‘champions’ win

There is still plenty of time remaining this season in the title race for things to change. However, Arsenal’s recent 3-2 home win against relegation-threatened Bournemouth at the Emirates Stadium could prove to be a crucial one in the season.

Despite dominating the ball, Arsenal somehow found themselves two goals down against the struggling Cherries. However, the Gunners dragged themselves back into the contest and scored an equaliser deep into stoppage time to win the game.

Arteta’s team showed the sort of spirit that champions usually show. They never gave up and kept going, with their head coach constantly cajoling on the sidelines. Some Arsenal teams in the recent past would have folded at two goals down.

However, Arteta has found a way to instil that extra fighting spirit and belief needed for a team to become successful. Many of Arteta’s coaching traits are reminiscent of Guardiola. However, it would be unfair to say that the Spaniard is a mini-Guardiola.

While his former boss at City may be regarded as the biggest influence on his managerial style, he may have picked up a lot from his other former bosses.

Arteta also played under the contrasting coaching styles of David Moyes and Arsene Wenger, whose ideas on football significantly differ. Both are highly regarded as coaches, even if the latter has more silverware to show for from his managerial career than the Scot.

Can Arsenal get the job finished in the title race?

As the games tick down, the race for the Premier League title could get more and more interesting. Some may consider third-place Manchester United as outsiders for the title, but in reality, the title race is a two-horse race.

Premier League table as of 10 March 2023

Position Team Played W D L F A GD Points
1st Arsenal 26 20 3 3 59 25 34 63
2nd Manchester City 26 18 4 4 66 25 41 58

This weekend both teams face London opponents, as City visit Crystal Palace on Saturday evening, Meanwhile, Arsenal travel to capital rivals Fulham. In the Premier League, games are challenging, and both teams could easily slip up in their respective matches.

Every game from now until the end of the league season is a must-win for both teams. City has been there and done it and bought the t-shirt in terms of the Premier League title race. At the same time, this is the first time most of the Gunners players have been involved in a title race.

While this weekend’s games could be significant, a meeting between the two teams at the Etihad Stadium in gameweek 33 could well be a major factor in the destination of the title this season.

The apprentice will be hoping to better the master this season. However, with 12 Premier League games remaining, there is still time for City to do what City do season in and season out. If Arsenal can go on and win the league title, it will be a fantastic achievement for Mikel Arteta and his young team.

The title victory so early in his managerial career against the likes of Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp would be a major feather in the cap of Arteta, whose current coaching trajectory could lead him to become a real challenger of those top trophy-laden head coaches in the near future.

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