Mikel Arteta hailed Arsenal’s “special” 1-0 win against Manchester City as the Gunners finally ended their eight-year wait to beat Pep Guardiola’s side in the Premier League.
Gabriel Martinelli’s deflected strike in the 86th minute settled a tense clash at the Emirates Stadium and gave Arsenal their first top-flight victory over the treble winners since December 2015.
Arsenal sit two points above City in second place as they chase a first title in 20 years after blowing their chance last season with a late collapse that handed the trophy to Guardiola’s men.
Given their dismal run of 12 successive league defeats against City before this weekend, it was no surprise that Arteta and his players soaked up the post-match celebrations on the pitch to the delight of their jubilant fans.
“It is a special one. It has been a long time since the club beat Manchester City,” Arteta said.
“We felt today could be the day but we needed a big performance from everyone and we had that.
“The players had incredible discipline, they won so many balls. We lacked a bit of threat but overall the atmosphere was just incredible.”
Arteta’s decision to send on Brazil winger Martinelli as a half-time substitute proved a wise move, with Thomas Partey and Kai Havertz also involved in the goal after coming off the bench.
“We started the second half really, really well. The subs made a huge difference,” Arteta said.
“Martinelli made a huge effort to be in the game, nobody believed he would (be) there. The medical staff were trembling but he was there and he was excellent.”
‘IT SENDS A MESSAGE’
Arsenal’s painful collapse last season could have dealt a major blow to their morale heading into the new campaign.
But Arteta has kept his players focused and they showed impressive desire to keep City at bay before hitting them with the late sucker punch.
“We knew we would have to suffer and we did that. You need a big performance. It feels like a big win,” Arteta said.
“It sends a message to our team, to keep doing what we are doing and stay humble and then we are a very difficult team to beat.”
While Arsenal go into the international break on a high after a cathartic victory that leaves them behind leaders Tottenham on goals scored, Guardiola has issues to solve following City’s third defeat in their last four games in all competitions.
For the first time since December 2018, the champions have lost two in a row in the league, with their flop in north London coming after a 2-1 defeat at Wolves last weekend and a League Cup loss against Newcastle.
“We tried. I think from both sides there was not a lot of chances. Both teams did good high pressing. It was tight and in the end, one action, we lost the game. Congratulations to them,” Guardiola said.
Both managers refused to reveal what sparked an incident after the final whistle in which City stars Erling Haaland and Kyle Walker appeared to be involved in a spat with members of Arsenal’s backroom and security staff.
There looked to be pushing between Haaland and Arsenal set-piece coach Nicolas Jover as both teams walked towards the tunnel.
“I know what happened and I don’t want to say anything,” Guardiola said, while Arteta had nothing to add on the row.
Steven GRIFFITHS © Agence France-Presse