Pep Guardiola has launched a fresh defence of his decision to sanction the departure of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus during the summer transfer window.
Both players played pivotal roles in the domestic dominance City have enjoyed under Guardiola but were granted moves to Arsenal as the Spaniard opted to freshen up a squad that had just won its fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
While City have not missed both club stalwarts in actual terms – Erling Haaland’s goals have more than made up for Jesus’ departure and ZInchenko was largely used as squad player during his time at the Etihad – the galvanising impact they have had on their new clubs has been immeasurable.
Jesus will miss an Etihad Stadium reunion through injury, but Zinchenko is likely to feature given his outstanding display in last weekend’s victory over Manchester United.
Asked if it was a mistake to sell both players at this pre-match press conference, Guardiola said: ‘Why? Because they are winning?
‘They have been amazing for us, we have incredible respect for them as people first and as footballers.
‘Of course we want to beat them, but all the success they’ve had, I’m more than delighted. Both clubs agreed and that’s all.’
The links between the two teams extend beyond the players on the pitch with Guardiola and Arteta having shared the City dugout together before the former Arsenal captain vacated his role as his mentor’s assistant to begin the seismic rebuilding job he has overseen at Arsenal.
Guardiola praised Arteta for the formidable job he has done in transforming Arsenal’s fortunes and always felt he was destined to return to north London where he spent the final five years of his playing career.
Asked why he brought Arteta to City to work with him, Guardiola said: ‘We were in touch before [I joined Man City]. We had conversations and agreed to work together, he said he could help, he knew the Premier Leaguer perfectly, all the managers.
‘After half an hour of talking, I said, ‘yeah, he’s the guy’. His influence on me was so important to make me a better manager.
‘I had many assistant coaches and never wanted anyone to just agree with me. We felt that a team would offer him the chance to be a manager and he would leave. I’m not a guy to say ‘no, you have to stay with me’. Everybody has a dream, and I know he went to the team he supports.”
‘When he was here and we scored goals, he would jump up and celebrate, except against one team. Against them, I jumped, turned back and he was sitting there. It was Arsenal.’
For more stories like this, check our sport page.