Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez says it was emotional for Pep Guardiola’s assistant Mikel Arteta to leave the club to take over at Arsenal.
Arteta, who was linked with the Gunners vacancy in 2018, was appointed as Unai Emery’s successor on Friday.
The ex-Arsenal captain played a key role in City winning two consecutive Premier League titles and takes a head coach role for the first time in his career.
City were without Arteta for the first time in Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Leicester City that boosted their slim Premier League title hopes and Mahrez indicated the 37-year-old will be missed.
“Mikel was an important member of staff,” Mahrez said to Sky Sports.
“So, it was a bit emotional for him to go but he had to take his chance and we are happy for him.”
Mahrez’s deflected strike against his former club cancelled out Jamie Vardy’s excellent opener at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty and Gabriel Jesus then struck to complete the comeback and move City within a point of second-placed Leicester.
.@Mahrez22 bringing the heat!
— Manchester City (@ManCity) December 21, 2019
Kevin De Bruyne was in inspirational form again and he confirmed his late substitution, being replaced by returning City striker Sergio Aguero, was not down to injury.
“Yeah, it’s just a little bit of cramp,” he told Sky Sports. “It was a hard game between two teams that went all the way. In the end, my body said just take a rest – the grass was nice and soft.
“We put a lot of pressure on the ball from the beginning, didn’t let Leicester play a lot. They lost a lot of balls, especially in the first half. They went ahead but I think it was pretty much their only chance of the game.
“Afterwards, we had a couple of good chances and Riyad changed the game for us, so that was really important. To make it 2-1 before half-time was an important moment in the game.”
Of Mahrez’s terrific performance, De Bruyne added: “We have already played a lot of times together, especially this season we have played really well together. Last season was difficult because I spent a lot of time out and couldn’t find my rhythm.
“But I think the moments we played together we did well, we know how to find each other and I know I can leave him one against one because he is one of the most dangerous wingers in the league – that’s how he scored today.”
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