Unai Emery believes there is no coach better than his long-time rival, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola and Emery first clashed in the 2008-09 season, with the latter leading Valencia after guiding Almeria to success in the Spanish top-flight while the former was in his first season overseeing Barcelona.
Emery’s side could only manage a point in their two meetings against Guardiola’s eventual league champions, and the current Arsenal boss remains winless in his career against his old rival.
This Sunday will see Emery’s Gunners travel to the Etihad Stadium in hopes of finally breaking that streak, and looking to avenge the 2-0 defeat in London in August that started Emery’s tenure.
And ahead of that match, Emery admitted he doesn’t think there’s a better coach out there than Guardiola.
“I have analysed a lot of teams and coaches and I think it’s difficult to find one coach who is better than Guardiola,” Emery told reporters.
“His career is a very big career. We started together. He started with the Barcelona second team, I started with Lorca and Almeria [In Spain’s third and second tiers].
“I learned a lot looking at his team — it’s good to look at each other when we are coaches to learn different things between us. I think in his career he’s doing the best in all the coaches in the world.”
Emery noted that while Guardiola frequently has had great players on his title winning teams at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, he improves his charges at each stop.
“He has had the possibility to take the best players at Barcelona, in Bayern and in City, little by little,” Emery added. “He is, every year, improving with great players and also paying a lot for some players. But he led them, at Barcelona, Bayern and City, one step more every place.
“This, for me, is the quality that makes me say he is the best.”
While Guardiola’s City side can boast having won the Premier League last season with a record number of points, Emery draws on inspiration for his Arsenal side from the reigning champions’ title rivals this season.
Arsenal’s winter window was limited by finances as the club could only afford to bring players in on loan, which they did with Barcelona’s Denis Suarez.
And rather than Manchester City, who are the league’s big spenders, Emery sees a better role model for the Gunners in Liverpool and Tottenham.
“I remember three years ago, Liverpool were playing in the final of the Europa League [against his Sevilla side], they were in the top four in the Premier League, and their progress is very, very good progress and now they are the favourites,” he said.
“Maybe Manchester City is a different example, because they bought a very important lot, with paying a lot and maybe we can’t do that now like that.
“But we can also do one way similar to Liverpool, similar to Tottenham , doing more with young players, using well players who can improve with us. And we are doing that.”
Suarez is in line for his Arsenal debut on Sunday, with some question over whether it will come at the expense of Mesut Ozil, who has been in and out of Emery’s side this season.
However, the manager dismissed that line of thinking, saying Suarez fills a very different need out wide.
“It’s no change for him [Ozil],” he said. ”Suarez is coming here because we have a lot of problems on the wing, we haven’t got players to play right or left – that is the reason.”