Tactical Insights

Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta’s relationship: Barcelona meeting, private call and title showdown

Mikel Arteta heads to Manchester City on Sunday afternoon with Arsenal in the middle of the Premier League title race, but with their boss still looking to step out of the massive shadow cast by Pep Guardiola, 27 years after they first met

Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta have known each other for more than quarter of a century – and the Man City and Arsenal head coaches remain good friends despite being rivals today.

They have been in the same sphere for much of the past 27 years and the narrative remains stronger than ever: until Mikel Arteta wins a major trophy, he will not fully emerge from Pep Guardiola ’s shadow.

This afternoon Arteta’s Arsenal head to Manchester City looking to make a statement in the Premier League ’s first bonafide three-way title race since 2010. The league will not be won on Easter Sunday but the grip on the trophy could be loosened. And for Arsenal to succeed the apprentice must outsmart his master.

Arteta has been intertwined with Guardiola ever since joining Barcelona ’s academy as a teenager in 1997. “He was my idol,” Arteta said several years ago. “He was the one to try to emulate if I wanted to be a first-team player at Barcelona and we built that relationship from there.”

And while the Basque never made it as a regular in the Barca first team, at a time when Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez were graduating from La Masia, there was a neat symmetry to his debut in the pre-season of 1999.

In a friendly against Hertha Berlin, head coach Louis van Gaal replaced Guardiola, the club captain, with a 16-year-old Arteta.

They would head in different directions: Arteta went back to Barca B before signing for Paris Saint-Germain, Guardiola would move to Italy at the end of the following season after 11 years in the first team at Camp Nou.

Yet their paths were never too far from crossing and Arteta had learnt plenty as he embarked on a solid playing career. Indeed it could be said that Arteta may never have signed for Arsenal in August 2011 if it was not for Guardiola, though the chain of events were unintentional.

Cesc Fabregas’ return to Barcelona, in the midst of a stylistic revolution under Guardiola, meant Arsene Wenger was in need of midfield reinforcements and Arteta arrived in a £10m deal from Everton.

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