Mikel Arteta will be taking on a big challenge if he leaves Manchester City for Arsenal, according to his current boss Pep Guardiola.
The former Gunners midfielder has been an assistant coach to Guardiola at City for more than three years but is talking to Arsenal about their managerial vacancy.
Freddie Ljungberg has failed to turn things around since taking temporary charge following Unai Emery’s departure, with the latest setback a comprehensive home defeat by City on Sunday.
Arsenal currently sit down in 10th place in the Premier League table, as close to the bottom three as the top four.
Guardiola said: “I think Arsenal is always one of the best teams of the last 20 years. When Arsene (Wenger) took over the team, he raised the club to another level and now they are struggling a little bit in the last years.
“When the club takes a decision to replace the manager or buy players, it’s always to rise to be better. Whether it’s going to happen or not, I don’t know.
“You know my opinion about Mikel. He’s a professional human being and a person, I don’t have doubts about that.
“If he stays, I’d be happy, incredible, because we all work together really well – hopefully he can feel the same as me. If he decides to move, I’ll wish him all the best; for him, his family and for his professional future.”
Arsenal’s pursuit became very public when their managing director, Vinai Venkatesham, was pictured leaving Arteta’s home in the early hours of Monday morning.
City are reportedly unhappy with the way Arsenal have gone about the process, but Guardiola praised Arteta for his honesty.
“Mikel was honest with me,” he said. “Arsenal, we were there two days ago. They were talking with our sporting director, the CEO, and didn’t say anything.
“I don’t know if the meeting was at one at night because they didn’t want to make it public, but in the end it was public. I think Arsenal want to do the best thing as possible.
“Sometimes it’s not easy to handle this kind of situation. We cannot deny that all the clubs around the world make behind the scenes the first contact, try to avoid the clubs that are in charge, they don’t realise it and the media don’t realise it, so that process is normal.
“All I can say from what I’m concerned is that Mikel was clear with me and that’s all. Perhaps there is a problem with the chairmen and the CEOs – they have to talk to each other.”
Arteta was fulfilling his duties at City on Tuesday and was due to be part of the backroom team for Wednesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final against Oxford, but Guardiola said he expected a decision to be made imminently.
The City boss, meanwhile, pointedly refused to rule out a January move for winger Leroy Sane, who has been courted by Bayern Munich.
“Everything can happen,” he said.