Unai Emery believes his Arsenal replacement Mikel Arteta will make a successful transition into life as a head coach.

Arsenal confirmed Arteta had signed a three-and-a-half-year deal on Friday, three weeks after sacking Emery and temporarily replacing him with Freddie Ljungberg.

Arteta has worked as assistant to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City since July 2016, but Emery is confident the ex-Gunners captain can become a notable boss in his own right.

"He really is prepared to make that next jump," he told BBC Sport. "He has been at Arsenal before, he's been in the Premier League and he has been working with Pep Guardiola. 

"I do believe this is a good decision and I would also like it to be a good decision."

Emery was dismissed by Arsenal on November 29 following a seven-game winless run in all competitions.

The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain boss lasted 18 months at Emirates Stadium and, while accepting the club's decision, he felt he could have turned things around if given more time.

"We had to win to regain our emotional equilibrium, to get rid of that frustration and we couldn't," he said.

"What is true is the social mass of Arsenal, which is very big, couldn't see it, couldn't connect with what was happening and it is true that in this situation, as happens in every country and with every team, the coach finds himself targeted.

"I spoke to the players three or four weeks before the process began to tell them that things were not going well and that I couldn't see the team I pictured on the field of play; I couldn't identify what I was looking for."

He added: "We looked for solutions but results still didn't come. The club made its decision and that was passed on to me by Raul Sanllehi [Arsenal's head of football] with much regret because he also felt his share of the responsibility and we were very united.

"But the situation had become unsustainable as regards to the protests of a section of the fans. That said, I believe there was another important section who believed we could have been shown more patience and carried on with the project.

"I think we could have turned things around but I also understand those at the top have to take decisions and take responsibility."

Emery was linked with an immediate return to the Premier League at Everton and the 48-year-old revealed he turned down the chance to discuss a move to Goodison Park, where Carlo Ancelotti is expected to be installed.

"Now is the time to go home. To be with my people, to analyse a lot," he said. "I'll spend the next few days close to my family, with my coaches. And I've started doing a lot of soul searching. 

"We all spoke to each other and questioned what we got wrong. There’s been interest from teams but I want to just spend some quiet time and choose the right project. Different teams have expressed interest.

"To be honest I want to thank them [Everton and others] for wanting me and I told them that I wanted to be quiet, that I need to take a little bit of air. And to choose well the next project after many years of not stopping."

Mikel Arteta is the latest man to be charged with restoring success to a failing Arsenal, and Gunners fans will hope his previous working relationship with Pep Guardiola gives the Basque coach a head start.

Arsenal ditched another Basque tactician in Unai Emery last month and the process to appoint a replacement has been anything but swift.

Freddie Ljungberg took charge in an interim capacity but managed just a single win in five matches, highlighting the sorry state of the situation inherited by Arteta, whose appointment as head coach was confirmed on Friday.

It is former Arsenal captain Arteta's first job in management, having spent the three years since he retired from playing working as an assistant to Guardiola at Manchester City.

Guardiola has credited Arteta with improving him as a manager and believes the San Sebastian native is "absolutely ready" to strike out on his own after a "magnificent" time together at City.

Given his success in management, Guardiola has unsurprisingly been mentioned as a major inspiration for many coaches.

Here, we examine four others to have worked closely with Guardiola and enjoyed success.

Tito Vilanova

Guardiola and Vilanova came through Barcelona's youth academy together as youngsters, though the latter went on to spend much of his playing career in the lower divisions. They reunited as coaches in 2007, with Vilanova assuming the role of assistant with the Barcelona B side, before taking up a similar position when Guardiola was promoted to the senior team the following year.

They worked together until Guardiola departed in 2012, with Vilanova subsequently appointed his successor. He led Barca to LaLiga success despite requiring a leave of absence for cancer treatment, but he officially stepped down in July 2013 due to a relapse. Vilanova died in April 2014 due to complications from cancer.

Luis Enrique

Although Luis Enrique never worked specifically in tandem with Guardiola, he did succeed his friend and former team-mate when taking charge of Barca B in 2008. That meant Luis Enrique's team fed directly into Guardiola's senior side for three seasons.

"You could see from the start he was special," the City boss once said of the former attacking midfielder, who like Guardiola also won a treble in his debut season in charge of the Barcelona first team after spells at Roma and Celta Vigo. Luis Enrique has since gone on to become Spain coach.

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag had already coached a senior team when he was put in charge of Bayern Munich's second string in June 2013, having led Go Ahead Eagles to a sixth-placed finish in the Eerste Divisie. Despite managing separate teams at the club, Ten Hag and first-team boss Guardiola worked closely. Guardiola said last season: "I was lucky to meet him at Bayern and he was an assistant from the second team. We had a lot of chats."

Ten Hag left Bayern the year before Guardiola and led Utrecht to fifth and fourth in the Eredivisie, earning him a shot at the big time with Ajax. Since his December 2017 appointment, the Dutchman has won a league title and taken Ajax to the Champions League semis last term. A return to Bayern – but this time with the senior side – appears likely.

Domenec Torrent

It is unlikely there is anyone in world football more familiar with Guardiola's work than Torrent. After first teaming up with Barcelona B, the pair worked side by side for 11 years until 2018. "When we started in La Tercera [fourth tier in Spain], I never thought I would be with him so much, but then we won every possible title," Torrent told El Diario earlier this year when he was in charge of New York City FC.

He presided over the MLS side as they won the Eastern Conference this year, before stepping down in November. Although keen to continue his management career, don't rule out a return to Guardiola's side. "If Pep calls me, I will go [to him]," Torrent said in May. "I am grateful and I know that I owe it all to him. If I had not been his assistant, I would not be here. I like being a head coach and I will only stop being one if Pep thinks I can be useful [to him]."

Arsenal appear to have strengthened their interest in Nuno Espirito Santo.

Just over two weeks after dismissing Unai Emery, the Gunners are reportedly ready to hold talks with one of the top contenders to take over at Emirates Stadium.

But the Portuguese is not alone when it comes to candidates with Premier League experience.



Arsenal will ask Wolves for permission to conduct formal discussions with Nuno next week, according to the Daily Mail.

The north Londoners are reportedly ready to "set to accelerate their interest" in the 45-year-old former Valencia and Porto head coach.

Belgium boss Robert Martinez is also said to have been approached, while Mauricio Pochettino, Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira continue to be linked.

Freddie Ljungberg has overseen two draws, a defeat and a solitary victory since taking charge on an interim basis.


- Like his former employers, ex-Arsenal boss Emery will not be rushed into a decision on his next move. Marca says the Spaniard has turned down the chance to speak to two Chinese clubs and managerless Everton since becoming a free agent on November 29.

- Premier League champions Manchester City hope to bring wantaway winger Jadon Sancho back to the Etihad Stadium after losing him to Borussia Dortmund in 2017, reports the Daily Mail.

- On the outer at Chelsea, Olivier Giroud appears to be moving closer to the Stamford Bridge exit door. L'Equipe claims the France striker is close to agreeing personal terms on a January switch to Inter, where he would reunite with Antonio Conte.

- Serie A side Milan will be offered the chance to sign Luka Jovic on loan from Real Madrid in January, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

- Barcelona will listen to offers of €10million for teenage defender Jean-Clair Todibo, reports Mundo Deportivo. The Spanish newspaper claims Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, Monaco, Southampton and Watford have submitted bids.

- Real Betis have sealed a deal to sign former Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco from Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, according to Deportes Cuatro.

Arsenal have confirmed Kieran Tierney dislocated his shoulder in Monday's 3-1 win over West Ham, as a lengthy absence beckons.

Scotland international Tierney signed from Celtic in August for a reported £25million to bolster the left side of their defence, but his impact has been minimal due to injuries.

He joined the club during rehabilitation for a pelvic injury, limiting him to 11 appearances across all competitions.

The 22-year-old started each of Arsenal's two most recent matches, but he lasted only 29 minutes at West Ham after falling awkwardly in his own penalty area.

After receiving medical attention, Tierney gingerly walked off the pitch using his jersey as a makeshift sling. Arsenal announced the nature of his injury in a short bulletin on Wednesday.

A timescale for his return has not been provided, but he will not play again this year and is a doubt to feature in January.

Hector Bellerin sustained a hamstring injury during the warm-up before the West Ham win and is being monitored ahead of Sunday's visit of Manchester City, with the match against Standard Liege on Thursday coming too soon for him.

Nicolas Pepe, who scored only his second Premier League goal on Monday, will also miss Thursday's Europa League clash due to a bruised knee, though he has not been ruled out of the City match.

Granit Xhaka is out of both upcoming matches, however, after he sustained concussion at West Ham.

Arsenal have identified Bordeaux coach Paulo Sousa as a potential successor to Unai Emery, a source close to the Portuguese tactician has claimed.

Following an underwhelming start to the season, Emery was dismissed by Arsenal in late November, with Freddie Ljungberg taking over in an interim capacity.

Although Ljungberg guided Arsenal to a 3-1 win at West Ham on Monday, the Swede is not thought to be in contention for the job on a full-time basis.

Patrick Vieira, Marcelino Garcia Toral, Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta have all been linked with the vacancy at the Premier League club.

But Sousa, who has taken Bordeaux to fifth in the Ligue 1 table this season, is also attracting interest, according to his entourage.

They told L'Equipe: "They like his profile as a coach but also as a person – we've been blown away.

"That doesn't mean he'll leave. They've targeted several candidates, but Paulo is one of them, certainly. Between the two [Arsenal and Sousa], it could be a match.

"With all the problems at Bordeaux, why wouldn't he leave? The project is not what he was promised, that's a fact.

"He loves the fans, but he needs more from the board - this team is not strong enough to finish in the top six."

Sousa is no stranger to English football having already coached QPR, Swansea City and Leicester City, while he has also had spells in charge of Basel, Fiorentina and Tianjin Quanjian in China.

Despite apparently having a desire to talk with Sousa, Bordeaux's head of recruitment Eduardo Macia insists the Gunners have not been in touch with the club.

"It would be normal that he arouses interest, but we have not been contacted," Macia told L'Equipe.

With Neymar's future far from certain, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly planning for life without the star forward.

Neymar appears to covet a Barcelona reunion, after leaving the LaLiga champions two years ago.

Should Neymar's wish be granted, an African sensation lighting up Anfield is said to be on the agenda.



Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want Liverpool star Sadio Mane to replace Neymar, report France Football and Mundo Deportivo.

PSG star Neymar wanted to leave Paris during the previous transfer window, but a proposed return to Barcelona did not materialise.

Doubts remain over Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a €222million transfer in 2017 – and the French powerhouse are said to have identified Mane should the Brazilian depart the capital.



- According to Calciomercato, Napoli have agreed a deal for former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso to replace head coach Carlo Ancelotti. It comes with Ancelotti on the brink amid a nine-match winless streak ahead of Tuesday's crucial Champions League clash against Genk.

Manchester City are set to rival Chelsea for Bournemouth's Nathan Ake, says Sky Sports. Chelsea want to bring Ake back to Stamford Bridge following his exit in 2017. However, Premier League champions City are reportedly interested amid their defensive woes.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been offered an 18-month contract by Napoli, reports Gazzetta dello Sport. The 38-year-old is a free agent after leaving MLS outfit LA Galaxy and he has been linked to Milan and Inter.

- Sport claims Inter want to sign either Ivan Rakitic or Arturo Vidal from Barcelona in January. Antonio Conte is determined to bolster his squad as Inter challenge for Scudetto honours and juggle Champions League commitments. Rakitic has also been linked to Serie A holders Juventus.

Everton hope to have Vitor Pereira installed as manager for Sunday's Premier League fixture at Manchester United, according to Sky Sports. After sacking Marco Silva, the Toffees are ready to offer the Shanghai SIPG coach a three-year deal. It comes as Sky Sports also reports former Arsenal boss Unai Emery was approached about the Everton job.

- The Mirror says Manchester United are ready to show their faith in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by backing him in moves for Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez and Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland. The spotlight was on Solskjaer following a poor run of form and Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham exit. However, the Norwegian has overseen consecutive victories over Tottenham and Manchester City.

Bayern Munich and Manchester City are monitoring the progress of Rangers teenager Kai Kennedy, says the Daily Record.

Freddie Ljungberg refused to criticise his inheritance from Unai Emery at Arsenal – hailing the departed head coach as a "great leader".

Ljungberg took charge of his first game as interim Gunners boss at the weekend, where they twice came from behind in an eventful 2-2 draw at Norwich City.

It meant Arsenal remained without a Premier League win away from home since the first weekend of the season, while their previous top-flight triumph of any description came on October 6 against Bournemouth.

Brighton and Hove Albion will be the next team that look to prolong that slump when they visit Emirates Stadium on Thursday, but Ljungberg defended Emery, who led Arsenal to the final of the Europa League last season before promoting the former Sweden international to his first-team coaching setup.

"I've done two training sessions now and I don't want to talk about the coaches before," Ljungberg told a pre-match news conference.

"I think Unai did a great job and was a great leader, and a fantastic coach. That's not for me to judge. I look forward.

"The main thing for me was that when we were at Norwich, we hadn't won an away game since the first game of the season.

"I felt that the players could react and, in my opinion, we played well offensively. It was good. But now we go forward."

Indeed, Ljungberg felt Arsenal's problems at Carrow Road came in transition, with an under-fire defence frequently exposed as a result.

"The general feeling is probably the same as I had after the match: we started extremely well, played very well offensively but had a problem transition-wise, so they got shots on target and chances just from the transition of an eight-yard sprint, which we need to stop," he explained.

"So that’s something we will focus on. Other things is my feeling that we got in behind their midfield and behind their backline a lot.

"But if we play a transition game like we did, we won’t win any games, so that’s something that I can coach and try to improve."

In terms of the methods Ljungberg employs to seek that improvement, he can call upon the inspiration and advice of some highly respected names.

A star of Arsene Wenger's celebrated Arsenal 'Invincibles' team, he also forged a strong bond with Sven-Goran Eriksson when his countryman was England manager.

A whirlwind start to life in the Arsenal hotseat – Emery was sacked last Friday in the wake of a sapping Europa League loss to Eintracht Frankfurt – means the 42-year-old has not yet had chance to catch up with Wenger, but that is something he intends to arrange.

"I would really like to speak to him. I'm in contact with him, but I haven’t spoken to him because it's been a bit hectic, but it’s on my list to do so," Ljungberg said, before confessing he has already borrowed what he can from the Eriksson handbook.

"Sven is intelligent, I spoke to him a lot when he was the manager of England because he was watching our games.

"I know in the past, some stories of how he treated players and how he made them feel good and things like that. I have stolen a little bit of those ideas.

"He’s a great coach. It's been a long time, and I hope I can speak to him soon."

At times, Sunday's contest at Norwich City must have felt like Groundhog Day if you're an Arsenal fan.

At times, Sunday's contest at Norwich City must have felt like Groundhog Day if you're an Arsenal fan.

Always start with a joke, they say.

Only, the laughs have been few and far between for the Gunners faithful this season - save for ones of rueful derision.

There was as much inevitability about Arsenal's decision to end Unai Emery's 18-month tenure this week as death or taxes.

But the failings that cost the amiable Spaniard so dearly were laid bare in 90 microcosmic minutes of a 2-2 draw at Carrow Road.

Arsenal are a little bit like a warm chocolate fudge cake. On the surface, great to look at, a delicious treat but soft at their core and too easy to crumble.

There were signs in the opening 20 minutes that maybe this post-Emery Arsenal led by interim boss Freddie Ljungberg, a legend of the 'Invincibles', was a different animal as Norwich were penned in, dragged from pillar to post. Had Alexandre Lacazette not been so wasteful with a gilt-edged fourth-minute opportunity, such a feeling would have increased tenfold.

And then just like that, to quote the legendary magician-comedian Tommy Cooper – whose vanishing acts were as comical as the ones displayed by Arsenal's midfield – the visitors were behind.

Sliced open in the centre of the park, Kenny McLean was given the freedom of the Carrow Road pitch as Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz inexplicably backed off and Teemu Pukki ended an eight-game goal drought, albeit with a deflection that deceived Bernd Leno.

Arsenal soon mustered a response. Christmas may have been 24 days away, but Christoph Zimmermann gave Ljungberg and Arsenal an early gift with an explicable handball in the area.

The joy was at first short-lived as Tim Krul, canny mind games in full swing, showed why he has a reputation as a penalty-saving expert to deny Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, only for the VAR to spot an encroachment and give the Gabon striker an undeserved reprieve.

There was no mistake on act two, Aubameyang firing into the bottom-left corner and giving Krul the shush sign with an act of fire in the belly that has for so long been missing from Arsenal.

No sooner had the touchpaper been lit than Norwich extinguished it, though. It was an all-too-familiar failing. Onel Hernandez was allowed to stroll forward with reckless abandon to play in Todd Cantwell, who was given enough time to finish a crossword puzzle by Mustafi before clinically beating Bernd Leno.

The half-time whistle allowed for a regroup and Arsenal, as in the first half, looked well oiled going forward. There was a hint of fortune about the way the ball fell to Aubameyang from a 57th-minute corner but there was no luck about the way he hammered past a helpless Krul.

Was this then the moment to spark Arsenal into life? Well, not quite.

Had it not been for the brilliance of Leno, McLean would have restored Norwich's lead after shambolic midfield work from Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi.

Leno was also the scourge of Pukki who had Mustafi on toast and not the first time in 90 troubled minutes for the German defender.

Ljungberg's big smile at full-time - the whistle signalling Arsenal had failed to win for an eighth match in a row - only masks the concern that the issues that plagued Emery's tenure are as pronounced as ever. A midfield that is too easy to bypass, a defence devoid of organisation, leadership and grit, and a team in general that for all its attacking brilliance lacks the steel to truly mix it with the big boys.

These are problems in the short term for Ljungberg to address and a new full-time boss to get a hold on in the long term.

Otherwise, it might just feel like Groundhog Day all over again for Arsenal fans.

Freddie Ljungberg's first game in temporary charge of Arsenal ended in a 2-2 draw against Norwich City at Carrow Road on Sunday thanks to a brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Teemu Pukki put Norwich ahead via a deflected effort before Aubameyang equalised with a retaken penalty kick, having seen his initial effort from the spot saved.

Todd Cantwell restored Norwich's advantage with a smart finish before Aubameyang levelled for a second time from a corner.

Ljungberg, who played for Arsenal between 1998 and 2007, was promoted from a coaching role to interim boss after Unai Emery was sacked on Friday.

Arsenal made the decision to sack Unai Emery over the past "several weeks" because they felt it was necessary if they wanted to salvage their season, according to director Josh Kroenke.

Following weeks of speculation, Arsenal finally relieved Emery of his duties on Friday in the wake of a 2-1 home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League.

That was a seventh successive match across all competitions that the Gunners failed to win, a run that has seen them slip to ninth in the Premier League following Saturday's matches.

Freddie Ljungberg was installed as interim head coach until Arsenal make a full-time appointment.

Whoever takes up the vacancy should not expect the club's ambitions for the season to be more grounded because of their difficult start, as Kroenke – son of club owner Stan – still feels they can achieve their goals.

Speaking to Arsenal's website after addressing the team during training, Kroenke said: "Like all of our fans and supporters around the globe, we've been concerned about our recent string of performances.

"We wanted to support Unai and his staff until we decided it was time to make a change and, ultimately, we came to that decision over the last several weeks as a group between myself, Raul [Sanllehi, head of football], Vinai [Venkatesham, chief commercial officer] and Edu [technical director].

"First and foremost, Unai is a good man, someone that we all respect very much. His work ethic on a daily basis between him and his staff was fantastic.

"Ultimately, we started to fall short of several goals that we set. We still feel that we can achieve those goals this season, which is why we decided to make the change now."

Arsenal have already started to evaluate candidates for the position, but Kroenke insists they will not rush any decisions, confident Ljungberg will prove an effective steward in the meantime.

"First and foremost, Freddie has Arsenal DNA," Kroenke continued. "Obviously, he was a player here for a number of years, the supporters know him very well and he's worked diligently behind the scenes for the past several years, including the last year and a half or so with Arsenal again.

"So it's been great to have him around, he knows the club's DNA, and we feel he is the right person in the moment to take the club forward.

"Because of our confidence in Freddie, we're very fortunate that we're going to be entering into our process and doing a thorough search, and it's about finding the right candidate, it's not about finding the first candidate."

Freddie Ljungberg has not been given a timeframe for how long he should expect to serve as interim head coach of Arsenal.

Fans' favourite Ljungberg steps into the breach left by Unai Emery's sacking for Sunday's Premier League trip to Norwich City, where the Gunners will look to arrest a run of seven winless games in all competitions.

The likes of Mikel Arteta and Massimiliano Allegri have already been linked with the vacancy, yet Ljungberg insists that bigger picture is not his concern.

"There is no indication how long or how short," he told Sky Sports on Saturday, as Arsenal confirmed academy manager Per Mertesacker will assist the former Sweden midfielder in his role.

"They just said concentrate on the next game, do as well as you can, and we'll see from there.

"For me, I concentrate on those players. We have a game tomorrow and will try to do the best I can. I was proud, honoured that they thought about me.

"It is such an important thing, trust in me to deliver that. I felt excitement because I feel we have some very, very good footballers here.

"It's a great, great honour - that's how I feel.

"I feel this energy inside of me. It's special. Of course, there is sadness a little bit at what's happened to the club, where we are.

"There is excitement for what we can do in the future, tomorrow the chance we have to play. It's a great honour and that's what I said to the players."

As such, Ljungberg is reluctant to wade into the thorny issue of the Arsenal captaincy.

Emery named five captains at the start of each season, with Laurent Koscielny, Peter Cech and Aaron Ramsey leaving from his senior quintet at the end of 2018-19.

It meant Granit Xhaka's elevation to the main captaincy, only for the Switzerland international to be stripped of that distinction following his angry reaction to being substituted against Crystal Palace.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is now in possession of the armband, while Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Mesut Ozil and Rob Holding all also led the Gunners out during Emery's tenure.

"I'm not going to make enormous, massive changes," Ljungberg said. "There has been so much in the media and so many discussions, so that’s going to be left.

"I’m going to concentrate on how we play and what we can do on the football pitch."

Pressed on who would captain Arsenal at Norwich, he replied: "You'll see that tomorrow."

Jose Mourinho believes it is impossible for managers to match the 20-year dynasties that Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger achieved, with Premier League bosses now forced to "fight for our job every day".

Former Chelsea and Manchester United manager Mourinho was appointed Tottenham head coach last week after Mauricio Pochettino was sacked just six months on from guiding Spurs to the Champions League final.

Another high-profile departure followed on Friday as Unai Emery, Wenger's replacement, lost his job at Arsenal after 18 months at the helm.

Manchester United have similarly struggled to fill the void left by Ferguson, who reigned for fully 27 years at Old Trafford, with Mourinho acknowledging job security rarely lasts longer than a day now at top clubs.

"Twenty years in a club? I don't think it's possible," he told reporters.

"Modern life, new technologies, social media - I think everything has an influence, even people's mentality, faster relations, getting tired easily, so many things that are changing.

"Not [just] football but [these things] are changing the world and the perception of things that I think Wenger was the last 'man/one'. It's a bad thing for us.

"We have to adapt and we have to try to prove that we are the man for the job. We have to fight for our job every day.

"I think the times where people know the job is going to be mine for X amount of years [are gone]. You have to fight for your job every day. Not just with the football results but with everything you do in the club.

"I think it's normal. It happens in society in so many areas. I can imagine even yourself in your newspaper and your radio you have to not just sleep on what you did previously.

"I think you have to show every day you have that you are the guy for the job. I think it's just life."

But Mourinho said he does not go into new jobs worrying about how long his tenure will last.

"I don't think about that," he said. "I think about trying to show I am the man for the job every day."

Pep Guardiola would be reluctant to stand in Mikel Arteta's way if he had the "privilege" of being offered the Arsenal job.

Arteta finished his playing career with the north London club in 2016 before joining Guardiola's backroom staff at City.

The Gunners are on the lookout for a new head coach after Unai Emery was sacked in the aftermath of a 2-1 Europa League defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt that extended their winless run to seven matches.

Arteta has become an increasingly influential member of Guardiola's coaching team, especially since long-time confidant Domenec Torrent left to take charge of MLS side New York City last year, and Raheem Sterling has credited extra sessions with the ex-Everton midfielder for aiding his rapid development.

His rising stock in the game means the 37-year-old is viewed as one of the favourites to succeed Emery, and Guardiola is realistic about the future of his right-hand man, who he has spoken of as a potential future City boss.

"I said many times to my players, my staff – all of them – they are free to do what they want to do," Guardiola said ahead of Saturday's Premier League match at Newcastle United, where City will aim to make a dent in their eight-point deficit to leaders Liverpool.

"I don’t want players [unhappy] because they don't play. I want them to stay because they want to.

"The case with Mikel, the relationship, is more about the professional. He is a friend and I want the best for him.

"I want us to stay this season together, next season together, but I don’t know what's going to happen or [what is] the best for him. But tomorrow, travel to Newcastle."

Arteta was rumoured to be close to taking the Arsenal job before Emery won the nod from the Emirates Stadium hierarchy 18 months ago.

As another ex-Gunners favourite, Freddie Ljungberg, prepares to take charge of Arsenal for Sunday's trip to Norwich City, Guardiola does not know whether that 2018 experience will weigh on Arteta's mind if he is approached this time around.

"I don't know the thoughts of the Arsenal board. Mikel, we speak quite often but I don’t know the plan for his future," Guardiola said.

"Ljungberg is in the interim position, I don't know if they are going to call Mikel in the next days.

"Hopefully he can stay with us. If there is some news, I think Arsenal will call the club. I don't know."

Guardiola added: "It's an incredible honour that a prestigious club like Arsenal takes a look at our staff. It's a privilege, good for Mikel and good for the club.

"All that we want is to protect him and hopefully Mikel can stay with us."

Jose Mourinho insists he did not hold talks with Arsenal about replacing Unai Emery before becoming Tottenham's new head coach.

And the former Manchester United, Real Madrid and Chelsea boss says the identity of the next Gunners head coach matters little to him - regardless of links to former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Mourinho was appointed by Tottenham last week, replacing the sacked Pochettino, but reports on Friday claimed he would also have been a target for Arsenal had Spurs' rivals moved faster in sacking Emery.

However, any suggestions that Mourinho may have discussed the Arsenal job with head of football Raul Sanllehi were batted away by the Portuguese.

Asked if his representative had met with Arsenal, Mourinho said: "No. No.

"Of course I never deny it because I never deny things. But when I was reading that I was in a meeting with Mr Sanllehi, it is not true."

Pochettino has emerged as one potential option at Emirates Stadium, meaning he would return to face Tottenham and Mourinho in charge of their fiercest rivals.

But Mourinho was not concerned by the prospect, insisting he would be taking on Arsenal and not the new coach.

"I never played against Pochettino in my life. Never," he said. "Manchester United against Tottenham, yes, Tottenham against Chelsea, yes, but never me against Pochettino.

"So if he goes to Arsenal, if he goes to I don't know which club, it will never be me against [him]. It will be me against these clubs.

"So yes, I look forward to playing against Arsenal; yes, I want to play against Arsenal. I know what it means for our fans.

"I know that one is a big one, not just because Arsenal is a big club that fights for the same objectives as we do, but also I know the meaning and I like it."

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