Mikel Arteta and Arsenal ready for big test against 'best team in the world' Man City

Spanish manager returns to former club for FA Cup fourth-round clash on Friday

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Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is ready for “a big test against the best football team in the world” when his team take on Manchester City in the FA Cup on Friday.

The Gunners are currently top of the Premier League five points clear of second-placed City and have a game in hand on the reigning champions.

Arteta will be returning to his old stamping ground this week having been assistant to Pep Guardiola at City for three years before leaving to take over as the main man at Arsenal in 2019.

Having missed out on a Champions League spot last season, Arsenal have not looked back this campaign having won 16 of their 19 matches, losing just once – away to Manchester United back in September.

But despite their stunning form – having just secured a revenge victory over United on Sunday – Arteta insists Guardiola's side still hold the advantage going into Friday's fourth-round clash.

“This is a big test against, in my opinion, the best football team in the world,” said the Spaniard. “I am looking forward to it. It will tell us a lot about where we are.

“The key word is belief. Our staff and players believe. And from the atmosphere at the Emirates against Manchester United on Sunday, even though we went behind, you could sense that the supporters and players believed we could go on and win it.

“I am extremely proud and privileged to be in this moment at the football club. We are all feeling that energy from everyone as we continue to try to get the club back where it belongs.”

Whatever the result in Manchester on Friday, Arteta does not believe it will have any bearing on when the two teams meet again in the league on February 15 at the Emirates Stadium.

“They will be very different games so there is no comparison, but let's see,” he said.

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“The important thing is to play well and try to win. Winning gives you momentum, breeds confidence and helps you to prepare for the next match. That will be our focus on Friday.

“In some ways it will define our season … because if we are able to win on Friday we will go into the next round and they won't.

“It is a very important competition for us and winning will define this moment, for sure, as it will give us a chance to try to go on and win this trophy.”

It is not just Arteta heading back to take on his former club as full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko will be returning for the first time since leaving the North West for London in a £30 million ($35.8m) move back in July.

And striker Gabriel Jesus also made the same journey during the summer but is currently out of action after injuring his knee while out at the Qatar World Cup with Brazil.

But Zinchenko is available and Arteta is delighted with what the Ukrainian has brought the club since arriving. “We know he is a player that gives us everything we want in that position. He gives us versatility but takes a lot of attention as well, freeing up spaces for us, which is really important,” said Arteta.

“I would especially highlight his intensity. What he brought is a real desire to win and to make something special with this team. The experiences he has had in the past are really helpful to that.”

Updated: January 25, 2023, 3:00 PM