Mikel Arteta has told his Arsenal players to be prepared to suffer against Manchester City if they are to pick up a surprise victory and turn around their slow start to the new campaign.
The Gunners are in the Premier League relegation zone after more than one game for the first time since August 1992 following 2-0 defeats to Brentford and Chelsea in their opening two matches.
It is the first time in their 118-year history in England’s top four tiers Arsenal have lost back-to-back matches without scoring to begin a league campaign, though they did get off the mark with a 6-0 win against West Brom in the EFL Cup on Wednesday.
Focus switches back to league matters on Saturday when Arsenal travel to the Etihad Stadium for a showdown with champions City, whom Arsenal have suffered eight successive defeats against in the top flight.
That is the north London outfit’s joint-longest losing streak against a specific opponent in their league history, matching the eight defeats in a row against Leeds in the 1970s, but Arteta is hoping to bring an end to that run this weekend.
“Picking up a result there would be great,” the under-pressure Spaniard said at a pre-match news conference on Thursday. “It would give us a massive lift to go to Manchester and get the win. It would change the narrative a lot and help us in the table.
“As I said after the West Brom game, after losing you want to win to lift the confidence and the mood. We had a big performance last night in the cup and focus again now on the trip to Manchester to play the champions, where we have to be at our best.”
City started their title defence with a 1-0 loss to Tottenham on the opening weekend of the campaign, but they soon got that defeat out of their system with a resounding five-goal victory over Norwich City last time out.
Pep Guardiola’s men have now won each of their last two games by a 5-0 scoreline and Arteta accepts that it will take a big performance from his side to return to the capital with their first points of the season.
“It’s the level that City raise their game to,” he said. “You have to be mentally ready to run for long period of the game and not touch the ball and be prepared to suffer. You must have conviction and take our opportunities when they arise.”
Arsenal’s win over West Brom may have come at a cost as influential wide player Bukayo Saka picked up a knock at The Hawthorns that leaves him doubtful for the game with City.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick against West Brom on his first start of the season, while Alexandre Lacazette marked his first appearance of 2021-22 with a goal and Martin Odegaard also impressed on his second debut.
“Getting some of those big players back certainly helps,” Arteta said. “Auba and Laca are the biggest threats in the team. We know how crucial they are for our success. Martin’s quality also helps. Hopefully we can now get others back.”
City have taken 28 points from a possible 30 against Arsenal under Guardiola, a coach Arteta knows well having worked as the Catalan’s assistant across a three-year spell prior to taking on the Arsenal job in December 2019.
Guardiola has won eight major honours in five seasons at the Etihad Stadium, but Arteta says his compatriot still has some way to go to be ranked alongside legendary pair Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.
“The longevity of Sir Alex and Arsene is incredible,” Arteta said. “Pep has brought a lot of new things. What he’s added to this country is exceptional and he is going to go in the history of the Premier League as well.
“It’s the club Pep has been at the longest and he is loving it there, winning trophies and building what he wants. I think he is extremely happy now.”
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