Pep Guardiola has no doubt Arsenal could challenge Manchester City for title
Pep Guardiola has no doubt Arsenal could challenge his Manchester City side for the title.
The Premier League leaders host the Gunners on Sunday.
Arsenal finished outside the top four for the first time in 21 years last season and their start to the current campaign was indifferent.
But after losing just one of their last seven games to climb to fifth, the Londoners' season is starting to show potential and Guardiola is wary of their threat.
He said: "We are in November. They won the FA Cup last season. The prestige of the club, the Emirates Stadium - of course they are a contender.
"It is nine points. The difference (between us) is nothing, believe me.
"People consider we are going to play like the last two months all season. When that has happens I can say, 'OK we have a big chance to be champions' but nobody can assure you that. We have to fight."
Guardiola believes this weekend could have a key bearing on the title race.
He said: "We know United are playing against Chelsea, so it is another game to make more advances on one of them, or both of them. That is why we have to be focused on an important game for us.
"At the least maybe (we could) leave Arsenal 12 points behind. It is a massive game for us for many circumstances, starting from the way we want to play, to try to win the game."
City are unbeaten in 22 competitive games since being edged out by the Gunners in last season's FA Cup semi-final.
City dominated a lot of that game but were eventually undone by an Alexis Sanchez strike in extra-time. It meant Guardiola's first season in England would end without silverware.
"It is a long time ago," Guardiola said. "In football every day is a new one, so I am not concerned about what happened in that game."
City have scored 49 goals in 16 outings this season and have won their last 14 games in succession, a club record. They do not seem to have any noticeable vulnerabilities in their side with almost all areas showing strength and considerable improvement on last season.
One of the players to have commanded less attention this season is midfielder Fernandinho, but Guardiola is full of praise for the Brazilian's contribution.
He said: "I think Fernandinho right now is one of the best, best, best three holding midfielders in the world.
"The same as John (Stones) and Nico (Otamendi), Fernandinho has achieved another level. His positivity and his mentality - he helps us a lot, with the ball and without the ball, in terms of many things we need to compete.
"When you have a lot of players in one squad with that mentality you can dream of winning games."