Kevin De Bruyne had one of his best games for a long time as Manchester City came from behind to beat Leicester City, according to manager Pep Guardiola.

Jamie Vardy's 17th Premier League goal of the season put the Foxes ahead at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

But ex-Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez's deflected shot and Ilkay Gundogan's penalty turned the game around before the break and Gabriel Jesus tapped home at the back post to seal the points.

De Bruyne set up Jesus for that second-half clincher and Guardiola believes the Belgium international's performance was even better than his star showing against Arsenal last time out.

"Kevin De Bruyne is a fighter and he helps us keep up the intensity when he's playing further up he helps the press a lot," Guardiola told BBC Sport. "That was the best he has played in a long time.

"We created a lot and played incredibly well with the ball. It's impossible to do anything to stop goals like that - they are so good. Guys like [Youri] Tielemans, they are so good at passing.

"But we were incredibly aggressive up front to stop them playing and we did well playing simple one-two touch and then pass.

"I like to watch my team play well so of course, it's better when they win. We reviewed the last games against Arsenal and Oxford [United in the EFL Cup] and we struggled a little bit so today was a good example about how we can play."

Leicester, second in the table, are still a point ahead of City but manager Brendan Rodgers accepts the match was a learning experience for the Foxes.

"I thought they were very, very good and the big teams can perform at that level," Rodgers told Sky Sports.

"We were disappointed first half, but second half we were a bit better, we had a bit more courage to get on the ball and play.

"Tonight is a good lesson for us of the work we still need to do to get to the level City are at.

"We took the lead when we weren't playing that well. Jamie was outstanding as was Kasper [Schmeichel] - they showed their level in a big game tonight.

"We always knew it would be difficult coming here, with the level they're at. We kept going and fighting but it wasn't the best of ourselves. City were outstanding.

"Evenings like this are humbling and good for you, because our young squad can learn from it."

Manchester City battled to a 3-1 comeback win against Leicester City to keep alive their slim Premier League title hopes, while Everton and Arsenal played out a bore draw at Goodison Park.

Riyad Mahrez struck against his former club to cancel out Jamie Vardy's opener in a game the reigning champions went on to win comfortably, moving them to within a point of their second-placed opponents.

Elsewhere, Miguel Almiron scored his first Premier League goal to fire Newcastle United to a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, while Everton and Arsenal played out a bore draw at Goodison Park.

Paraguay international Almiron volleyed home late on to get off the mark on his 27th appearance in the competition and settle a match that was heading for a goalless draw.

Goals proved hard to come by in the stalemate between Everton and Arsenal, a low-quality match watched from the stands by respective incoming bosses Carlo Ancelotti and Mikel Arteta.

Everton failed to record a shot on target in a top-flight home match for the first time since January 2018, while Gabriel Martinelli went closest to scoring for the visitors.

Elsewhere, Burnley, Sheffield United, Wolves and Southampton all won away from home, the latter seeing off relegation rivals Aston Villa 3-1 to boost their survival hopes.
 

City comeback flattens Foxes

Pep Guardiola's side entered Saturday's late kick-off sitting four points behind Leicester and 14 adrift of Liverpool, meaning only victory would do if they were to keep their outside title aspirations alive.

Those hopes were further dented when Vardy got on the end of Harvey Barnes' pass and scored through Leicester's first effort at goal but, inspired by another Kevin De Bruyne masterclass, the champions roared back to claim back-to-back league wins.

Mahrez, who won the Premier League title with Leicester in 2016, fired a deflected shot past Kasper Schmeichel to pull one back and Ilkay Gundogan converted from the penalty spot after Raheem Sterling was fouled by Ricardo Pereira.

De Bruyne picked up the assist his performance deserved in the second half by setting up Gabriel Jesus - who had not previously scored on home soil this season - to seal the victory.

Arsenal's poor form continues

With Arteta not officially taking charge of his first Arsenal match until the Boxing Day trip to Bournemouth, interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg oversaw yet another below-par display from his side.

The Gunners looked the more likely side to score on Merseyside but lacked cohesion all over the field and had to settle for a point, making it just one win in 13 matches in all competitions.

Arsenal did at least manage to test Jordan Pickford - the England international doing well to keep out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the second half - with the Toffees rarely troubling the opposition defence.

Ancelotti was confirmed as Everton's new manager on a four-and-a-half-year deal shortly before kick-off, giving him a chance to witness up close just how big a task he has on his hands when taking the reins from stand-in boss Duncan Ferguson.

Almiron ends drought to extend Palace's winless run

A third victory in four Premier League matches for Newcastle was secured thanks to Almiron, who has had a tough time of things since arriving from Atlanta United for a reported £20million in January.

Almiron converted with a first-time finish seven minutes from time after being teed up by Andy Carroll's header, ending his long-running goal drought and sending United up to ninth place.

Palace, now without a win in three league outings, saw more of the ball and had the better of the chances, but Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke were unable to find a way past home goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

Ings inspires Southampton to vital victory

Southampton leapfrogged fellow strugglers Aston Villa into 17th place with a Danny Ings-inspired win, the one-cap England international reaching double figures for the season before Christmas.

Ings scored either side of Jack Stephens' towering header as Ralph Hasenhuttl's charges raced into a three-goal lead at Villa Park with 51 minutes played.

Jack Grealish scored a fine goal to reduce the arrears, but Villa left themselves with too big a mountain to climb and are now in the relegation zone after a fourth defeat on the spin.

Norwich cut further adrift

Norwich City failed to make their first-half dominance count in a 2-1 home loss to Wolves that leaves them six points adrift of safety at Christmas.

Todd Cantwell pounced on a loose ball to give Norwich a deserved 17th-minute lead, but they could not build on their advantage and Wolves hit back.

After a subdued opening hour, Romain Saiss sparked his side into life with a powerful header and Raul Jimenez made it 16 goals for the season across all competitions late on to condemn Norwich - who have one point from their last five home matches - to another defeat.

Wilder's men overcome more VAR frustrations

Sheffield United continued their march up the Premier League with a 1-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion, despite the frustration of having two goals ruled out by VAR.

John Egan's bundled finish was chalked off for handball and Jack O'Connell was denied for offside - the third and fourth goals United have been awarded on the field this term, only for VAR to intervene.

Not that it mattered, though, as Oli McBurnie's third goal of the season - a powerful strike past Mat Ryan after 23 minutes - proved enough for Chris Wilder's men to keep their unbeaten away record this season intact as they moved into the lofty heights of fifth place.

Rodriguez settles contest between shot-shy sides

Burnley edged out Bournemouth 1-0 at the Vitality Stadium in a game that saw the sides register just five shots between them - the fewest recorded in a Premier League game since records began in 2003-04.

The one and only attempt on target arrived in the final minute of the game, Jay Rodriguez heading in Ashley Westwood's cross from close range to settle a dreadful game.

Jefferson Lerma's 30-yard effort over the bar was as good as things got for a Bournemouth side that have lost six of their last seven league matches to slip into relegation danger.

"He was sad," Mikel Arteta confessed on Friday, Arsenal's beaming new head coach showing very real contrition. "The timing wasn't the best for him, but he understood."

He was speaking of Pep Guardiola, the man he also described as "incredible", "inspirational", and a guiding light in the ruthlessness of top-level management.

Arteta knew this was a hard week for his old boss. He knew it would hurt Manchester City to leave now, during a typically arduous December schedule, the champions knowing third place at Christmas was the best they could hope for regardless of the result against Leicester City.

But after Saturday's 3-1 win, Arteta can raise a glass of Yuletide spirit to his mentor knowing that, unlike the UK's railway network at this time of year, Guardiola's City are motoring along the right track.

With Leicester four points ahead of them in the table and leaders Liverpool away in sunnier climes being crowned champions of the world, defeat for City against Brendan Rodgers' side would have been a brutal blow in a difficult week. It would undoubtedly also have led to more questions about the signs of decline in 2019-20 and whether this team's relentless will to win had been further embrittled by Arteta's departure.

Those were valid concerns after 22 minutes at the Etihad Stadium. City had dominated, Riyad Mahrez giving Ben Chilwell a nightmare before Christmas as Guardiola got his attacking play entirely right by attacking entirely down the right.

Apparently, though, he didn't predict Leicester's Jamie Vardy plan. This is a striker who lives for passes over or behind the defence, playing on the shoulders of Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi, on a pitch where Adama Traore of Wolves and the entire Manchester United forward line caused havoc on the break, and yet City conceded from the first such attack.

Kyle Walker was dragged too far forward, Harvey Barnes' outside-of-the-boot pass was precise, and Vardy showed how even a poor touch can be devastating when you're in this kind of form, his heavy control allowing him to loft the ball over Ederson for league goal number 17 of the season.

It was an obvious tactic that still caught City cold, silencing the home crowd and perhaps leaving fans fearing their title defence all but gone before the new decade had started.

But Guardiola stuck to his guns, City persisted in their forays down the right, and it paid dividends. Mahrez skipped infield again, let fly with his left foot, and Caglar Soyuncu's obliging frame deflected the ball past Ederson.

Mahrez celebrated with gusto, his seasonal spirit apparently not reserved for his old employers. Guardiola whipped his arms up and around his head like a man drowning in eggnog, demanding more from the crowd, expecting more from his players. Mahrez then switched the play, Ricardo Pereira crumpled to the turf to trip Raheem Sterling in the box, and Ilkay Gundogan scored from the spot. "What I learned is you have to be ruthless, consistent," Arteta said of working under Guardiola. The manager's message was still loud and clear.

The second half was less engaging and certainly less worrying for City. Leicester tried and failed to release Vardy and only the excellent Jonny Evans curtailed further City inroads from Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne. Eventually, De Bruyne left the tiring Soyuncu for dead – having driven forward, you guessed it, down the right – and teed up Gabriel Jesus for a tap-in. Ruthless, consistent. Victorious.

Guardiola does not expect to appoint a new assistant this season and time will tell how much Arteta's absence is felt, but this was a significant test for City and their ambitions this season that they passed in exemplary fashion. A sad week, but no blue Christmas.

Manchester City came from behind to win 3-1 at home to Leicester City in a vital victory for their slim Premier League title hopes.

Leicester took the lead at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday through Jamie Vardy's 17th Premier League goal of the season.

But champions City showed grit and determination despite Leicester's threat on the counter-attack and Riyad Mahrez equalised against his old club with a deflected drive.

Raheem Sterling won a penalty that Ilkay Gundogan converted and Gabriel Jesus struck after the break to move City within a point of their second-placed visitors, who remain 10 behind leaders Liverpool.

Kevin De Bruyne was outstanding against Arsenal last time out and his low 20-yard drive rattled the outside of the post with Kasper Schmeichel scrambling, but it was Leicester who took the lead with their first shot in the 22nd minute.

Harvey Barnes sent Vardy free down the left channel and he burst away from Fernandinho with ease before expertly lifting a deft finish over the onrushing Ederson.

Mahrez had been giving Ben Chilwell a tough time and, after he beat the full-back again, the former Foxes star's shot flew past Schmeichel, clipping the unlucky Caglar Soyuncu on its way in.

City were ahead by the interval, Ricardo Pereira clumsily bringing down Sterling with Gundogan squeezing his low penalty past Schmeichel despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to the kick, though Ederson had to deny James Maddison on the stroke of half-time.

Mahrez missed two clear chances to extend City's lead early in the second half before De Bruyne tried to set up Gabriel Jesus when he had Schmeichel's goal at his mercy.

Leicester continued to post a threat on the break, Barnes failing to convert a Vardy centre, but Schmeichel had to make a brilliant save to keep out another Mahrez effort.

City clinched it in the 69th minute, De Bruyne – who later went off with apparent cramp to be replaced by the returning Sergio Aguero – evading Soyuncu to cross for Jesus to tap in, and they may yet exert pressure on Liverpool during the second half of the season.


What does it mean? Champions' defence not over yet

Liverpool will have to suffer a serious slip-up to miss out on their first title of the Premier League era, but Pep Guardiola's side are not out of contention just yet.

Leicester had emerged as the Reds' nearest challengers this term but City, who have won four in a row in all competitions since losing the Manchester derby, are building momentum again though they may be concerned about Gundogan's late injury.

Former Fox Mahrez a menace

Consistency has been an issue for Mahrez since he joined City from Leicester but he showed his former club what they are missing with a performance of style combined with end product.

Mahrez arguably should have scored more than his one fortuitous goal but Leicester could not cope with the Algeria winger.

Leicester full-backs struggle to contain City

Jonny Evans had a fine game at the heart of Leicester's defence but full-backs Pereira and Chilwell – who has consistently been linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium – had days to forget.

England international Chilwell was given the runaround by Mahrez while Pereira got in a poor position against Sterling to concede a decisive penalty. 

What's next?

Leicester have another huge game on December 26 when they host leaders Liverpool. The following day sees Guardiola's men in action away to Wolves.

Bayern Munich are unlikely to sign Manchester City winger Leroy Sane in January, according to sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

The Bundesliga champions were tipped to try to bring Sane to the Allianz Arena in the previous transfer window before a serious knee injury prevented any potential deal.

Bild reported this week that Sane would be keen on moving to Bayern in the January window, even though he is unlikely to be fully fit again until the spring.

Salihamidzic, though, does not think it likely there will be much movement in the market next month.

"It's not good to speak about players from other clubs," he told Sky ahead of Bayern's clash with Wolfsburg on Saturday.

"We will leave all options open for us in the transfer market, but I don't think much will happen."

Speaking this week, interim Bayern boss Hansi Flick said the Sane talk was "not an issue" as he promised to focus on ending 2019 with a positive result.

Bayern went into Saturday's game four points behind Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig and second-placed Borussia Monchengladbach.

Pep Guardiola has said the success of clubs should not be determined solely by trophies, as he acknowledged Manchester City "cannot win all of the time".

City appear almost certain to relinquish their Premier League title this season, having fallen 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool ahead of Saturday's clash with second-placed Leicester City.

While Guardiola's men could yet win the Champions League, FA Cup and EFL Cup, the Catalan believes too much criticism comes the way of teams who do not pick up prizes despite enjoying strong campaigns.

Asked if it is possible for a "very good team to have a very good season without winning silverware, Guardiola told Sky Sports: "Of course."

"[Did] Liverpool [have] a bad season in the Premier League last season? They were fantastic," added the City manager, in reference to Jurgen Klopp's side finishing second with 97 points.

"It's a disastrous message for the young people ... that you have to be happy just if you win. That is a big, big mistake, because it means [for] the other 19 teams it is a disaster and that is not true.

"What's important is what you do and what you tried. I say now and I said when we won titles, I want to win. We are here, everyone, to win. But sometimes life is not always happy, it is not always easy, it is not always winning. The media and the people expect that and [also expect that] everything is just perfect.

"In a career for any football player or manager, you lose more than you win. So we cannot win all of the time. We cannot be good all the time."

Zinedine Zidane lavished praise on Pep Guardiola after Real Madrid were drawn against the ex-Barcelona coach's Manchester City side in the Champions League.

Two presumed contenders will square off in a highly anticipated last-16 tie, with the first leg to be held at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26.

Guardiola welcomed the challenge, saying it would be "special" to share a touchline with Zidane, a man he "dreamed" of playing alongside.

The Frenchman returned the favour ahead of Madrid's LaLiga game against Athletic Bilbao, going so far as to call Guardiola the world's leading coach.

"Yes [it will be special]. I played against him many times," Zidane said on Saturday.

"I respected him as a player and I respect him as a coach. I think he is the best in the world and has demonstrated that throughout his career.

"Of course, I really want to face him, to play against him and his side. Not just myself but all of us here."

Overcoming the Premier League champions would be a huge boost for Madrid in their bid to be crowned Europe's best for the fifth time in seven years.

Zidane has overseen three Champions League victories, success equalled only by Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley, yet the Los Blancos coach claimed trophies were not what motivated him to prolong a potentially brief foray into coaching.

"I don't know if my career will last long," he said. "It will depend on what I feel. I am atypical, because what interests me is the day to day, how I am with the people who work with me. We will see, but I'm sure I won't be going up to 60 or 70."

Madrid's home match against seventh-placed Athletic comes four days after the club's strong showing in the goalless Clasico draw against Barca.

Federico Valverde impressed in midfield, raising more questions over whether his development would be stifled should rumoured target Paul Pogba arrive from Manchester United.

Zidane said: "I can only talk about my players. They are doing well. Fede is part of the heritage of the club and we are glad he is with us."

Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he would have considered taking the Arsenal job if he had been approached, despite his "love" for former club Tottenham.

The 47-year-old was sacked by Tottenham on November 19 after a difficult start to the season, with Jose Mourinho brought in as his replacement the following day.

He returned to his native Argentina to unwind but declared earlier this month he is open to making a swift return to the dugout should the right opportunity present itself.

Pochettino was linked with the Arsenal job following Unai Emery's departure, but Mikel Arteta was confirmed as the club's new permanent head coach on Friday.

However, the former Espanyol and Southampton boss has reiterated he would have been open to talking with Arsenal over the position and potentially crossing the north London divide.

"When I say I am open, I am open. I cannot say that I am open but I'm closed to someone," he said, according to The Mirror.

"It's different if you receive an approach and you listen and say yes or no. That's different.

"But you can't say that I'm open but on that I am not open. You are open and then you are open. Anything can happen. When I say I am open, I am open to listen to any club."

Pochettino has also been mentioned as a possible successor to Pep Guardiola at Manchester City amid speculation the Catalan coach is considering an end-of-season exit.

Addressing the recent speculation, Pochettino said: "To be honest, I don't read too much. I'm lucky now because I have [assistant] Jesus Perez with me and he reads it all for me.

"Of course I love the Premier League, the English fans and if not the best, it's one of the best leagues in the world and for any manager it's very exciting to be involved in the Premier League.

"But it's not just the Premier League, there's other leagues, different clubs which can be exciting and can give you a challenge that is maybe different."

Pochettino guided Spurs to four successive top-four finishes in the Premier League and to their first Champions League final earlier this year.

Chairman Daniel Levy this week suggested Pochettino could return to Tottenham for a second spell one day, and the Argentinian is not ruling anything out.

"Look at what happened with Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid - there's plenty of examples and the most important thing is when you finish the relationships remain in a very good way and my love for Tottenham goes on," he said.

"You feel that always from the fans, you feel the love and in football you never know. The same coaches or managers one day leave and then go back, different presidents, different times. Now it's not in my hands, it's in another person's hands.

"We need to move on and of course you have different motivations and challenges in our life and we have to make sure we have the right energy to attack the new challenge and try to achieve all the new things that people expect from you."

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba is coveted at the Santiago Bernabeu.

His French connection with Zinedine Zidane means there is constant speculation.

However, Pogba is set to remain at United for the time being.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID GIVE UP ON POGBA… FOR NOW

LaLiga giants Real Madrid will not sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba in January, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Pogba – still recovering from injury – continues to be linked with Madrid amid doubts over his United future.

Madrid, however, recognise there is "no chance" of prising the Frenchman from Old Trafford in the New Year.

 

ROUND-UP

- A return to Chelsea for Bournemouth's Nathan Ake looks likely, claims Bleacher Report. Chelsea have a £40million buyback clause for Ake, who left Stamford Bridge permanently in 2017. Manchester City have also been linked to the 24-year-old defender.

- Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo has turned down a move to Milan, reports RMC. The 19-year-old has also been linked to Ligue 1 outfit Monaco and Premier League giants Manchester United.

- Qatari outfit Al Rayyan have re-opened talks with Juventus regarding the transfer of out-of-favour striker Mario Mandzukic, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. United and Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund are also reportedly interested in the veteran Croatian.

Napoli have offered Dries Mertens a two-year contract extension, says Sky Sport Italia. The Belgian, who is out of contract at season's end, has been the subject of reported interest from Dortmund.

- Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want to swap Leandro Paredes for Juventus midfielder Emre Can, reports the Daily Mail.

- La Nazione says Fiorentina are looking to bring former Milan striker Patrick Cutrone back to Serie A. The Italian left San Siro for Premier League side Wolves at the start of the season.

- Former Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta is in talks to join Javier Mascherano at Argentine outfit Estudiantes. Iniesta currently plays for Vissel Kobe in Japan, however, TNT Sports claims the 35-year-old midfielder could move in 2020.

Pep Guardiola is keen to avoid losing a second assistant to Arsenal after indicating Rodolfo Borrell has a big role to play at Manchester City.

Back-to-back Premier League champions City are seeing their crown slide this season, with Liverpool seemingly striding away towards trophy glory.

And they suffered a fresh setback when Mikel Arteta was tempted away by Arsenal this week, with Guardiola's de facto number two landing the head coach role at Emirates Stadium.

Guardiola made no secret of his wish for Arteta to stay with City, but after three-and-a-half years of learning the ropes in Manchester, the 37-year-old saw his future in north London.

Reports have linked Borrell with Arsenal too, with suggestions Arteta may see him as the perfect second-in-command.

However, Guardiola is not minded to allow former Barcelona youth coach Borrell, who played a role in nurturing the early career of Lionel Messi, to follow the same path as Arteta.

Former City youth coach Borrell will effectively take on Arteta's old job, the 48-year-old working more closely with Guardiola than before.

"From now on he will stay with me. We don't have any approach from Arsenal," Guardiola told reporters at a news conference.

Guardiola has ruled out bringing in a replacement from outside to take Arteta's place before the end of the season.

He said: "Until summer we are going to continue in this way."

Pep Guardiola insists he must prove he is worth a new Manchester City contract.

The loss of Mikel Arteta to Arsenal this week unmistakeably came as a blow to the City manager, who had stressed he wanted his fellow Spaniard to stay.

Last season's Premier League champions not only trail runaway leaders Liverpool by a street, but they are also four points behind Leicester City in the table.

Ahead of an important clash with Leicester on Saturday, Guardiola has insisted it will not be a formality for him to land a fresh deal at the Etihad Stadium.

Widely regarded in the highest class of modern coaches, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has lost little of his aura at this stage.

But a defensive crisis, which arguably could have been avoided with suitable close-season recruitment, and league defeats to the likes of Wolves and Norwich City this season have raised questions about City's progress.

This month's home loss to Manchester United exposed more shortcomings than Guardiola, who arrived at City in 2016, will have been comfortable to observe.

With 18 months left on his contract, he is now naturally facing questions about what may be next on his agenda.

He made it clear on Friday that he wishes to stay at City but said: "I have one more year. Always I have to deserve to extend my contract.

"A manager has to get results. In this club you have to win. In football... things change a lot. Managers today even in this country change a lot – in just four or five months [look at] how many managers were sacked.

"So that's my expectation. We have still six months [of this season], plus 12 months. There's a lot of time. We have patience. We have incredible relations with the board, with the people who decide, who are going to take the decision [that is] the best for the club.

"When there will be news, I will say the news. I think in football one year and a half is a lot of time for the managers. We have to see altogether how it works, how it is going on. I've said many times how incredibly good [happy] I am here. And of course, I would like to stay as much as possible.

"So that is my desire. I want to be sure it is the best for the club if they want me to stay longer. So, it will be five years in one club, in this competition, this league. It's many, many, many years.

"That's why when you are [somewhere] a long time, it's better to be sure the decision is perfect for both sides. There's no rush. It's not finishing in three months, four months. The club is working perfectly in all departments so it's not a problem."

Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez says he is not surprised his old club Leicester City are competing for the Premier League title again.

Brendan Rodgers' Foxes have emerged as the closest competition for Liverpool, who have a 10-point advantage at the summit.

Mahrez was one of Leicester's stars and scooped the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year award when they shocked the sporting world by winning the 2015-16 Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri.

The Algeria winger highlighted the form of former team-mate Jamie Vardy - five goals clear in the race for the Golden Boot - as being key for Leicester's success this term.

"I am not surprised by them; they are a good team. They have good players and Jamie Vardy is scoring a lot of goals," Mahrez said ahead of City hosting Leicester on Saturday. 

"They have a good manager. I am not surprised at all. I think [they are genuine title contenders] because they are currently second. I am so happy for them. They deserve to be successful and I am looking forward to the game. 

"We have so many good memories together from my time there. What we achieved together was unbelievable and so that club means a lot to me.” 

"My first title with Leicester is one of the medals that means the most to me. As well as the Africa Cup of Nations, which was for my country and so there is a lot of emotion, it means a lot. 

"But with Leicester, it was an unbelievable achievement, and no one thought we were going to make it."

City's inconsistent form has left them 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, who they pipped to the title last season.

A run of 14 successive wins to close out 2018-19 saw City edge out the Reds by 98 points to 97 and Mahrez feels that series of results indicates they champions are not yet out of the race.

"We know we are capable of doing that again," he added. "But you need to put it in on the pitch, be focused and try not to think about winning all of the games. 

"You just need to win the next one and then the next one. We are just thinking about the next game all of the time."

Arsenal's new boss Mikel Arteta has claimed being ruthless and consistent is what has made Pep Guardiola such a successful manager.

Arteta was announced as Arsenal's new permanent head coach on Friday, with Freddie Ljungberg having been in interim charge since Unai Emery was sacked in November.

He joins the Gunners after assisting Guardiola at City since 2016, winning two Premier League titles, two EFL Cups and the FA Cup during his time in Manchester.

Arteta, who came close to taking over at Arsenal in 2018 before Emery succeeded Arsene Wenger, plans to champion some of Guardiola's best qualities as he looks to revitalise fortunes at Emirates Stadium.

"What I've learned mostly is you have to be ruthless, consistent and fit every day the culture of the club to have a winning mentality," Arteta, who will officially take charge of the Gunners after Saturday's game at Everton, told a news conference.

"To sustain it is even harder, so every day is important, every act is important, every word of the organisation is important.

"[Pep's] work rate is incredible. How inspirational he is to people is incredible, but to me the secret is the players and staff have to believe what you deliver. You have to be able to transmit it and then people will buy into that.

"When you do that, you have a team, everyone is united, and we will be strong."

Arteta acknowledged it was difficult to leave City, who are 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool in what has been a more difficult season, but believes the opportunity was too good to turn down.

"Sometimes you can have a plan, an idea or a way to develop," he said. "But then emotions get involved and when Arsenal knocks, it is difficult to say no.

"It was a very difficult decision, but I felt the club needed someone to appoint. They trusted me and were so convinced they wanted to go with me, I had to take the challenge.

"It wasn't the right time [in 2018]. When things don't happen, it's because it's not the right time. I'm glad it's come now.

"I've learned a lot from that experience, it was great to be a part of a process of that nature and I was better prepared for this one and it was a positive thing to happen."

However, the former midfielder insists his relationship with Guardiola and City remains intact, even though the timing of his departure could prove troublesome.

"The relationship between him and me is incredibly good. Obviously, he was sad, the timing wasn't the best for him, but he understood," Arteta said.

"He knows how I've been growing and the needs that I had, emotionally, the ambitions that I had. If I had admiration for him before, after working with him, I could not explain how much of a nice person he is and what a professional he is.

"The way he reacted, he knew that I was suffering, because I was in a moment where [City] needed me as well, so I felt in that sense sad, but he has been so supportive.

"The relationship could not be any better. I said goodbye yesterday to all the staff, the players. I cried, because they've been my family for three and a half years, and we had incredible moments.

"We had a dream to do something in England with Pep that people said was impossible. 'The Premier League, you will get bullied'. We did it, in the way we wanted. It was so fulfilling, to share that moment of our lives."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has wished former assistant Mikel Arteta well after he was confirmed as Arsenal's new head coach and claimed the 37-year-old is ready for the step up.

The protracted process to announce a successor for Unai Emery was concluded on Friday when ex-Gunners captain Arteta signed a three-and-a-half-year deal at Emirates Stadium.

Arteta was part of the coaching staff that has led City to two consecutive Premier League titles with massive points totals of 100 and 98, the highest in the competition's history.

He was linked with taking charge at Arsenal when Arsene Wenger departed in 2018 only for Emery to be appointed instead, but he will now have his first chance to impress in the hotseat at a club where he was captain in a five-season spell as a player.

"Mikel has been an excellent coach for Manchester City," Guardiola told the club's official website.

"He has shown impressive dedication, hard work and knowledge of football during his time here and has been a real contributor to the club's achievements over the past years.

"We all wish him well in his new role; I am sure he is ready for it."

Director of football at City Txiki Begiristain added: "Mikel, as a member of Pep's team, has contributed significantly to the club in his time here in Manchester. 

"His work on the training field and detailed preparations have helped us become a side that wins with regularity and in style.

"This move to Arsenal is a further step in his football development and I am sure he will become a top-class coach."

City midfielder Phil Foden was among those to pay tribute to Arteta on social media.

The teenager wrote on Twitter: "Thank you for all your help with everything and good luck."

Team-mate Ilkay Gundogan added, with a wink: "Good luck on your new chapter... but not for the games against us."

New head coach Mikel Arteta has been welcomed back to the "Arsenal family" by his former Gunners team-mate Mesut Ozil.

Arteta has penned a three-and-a-half-year contract with Arsenal and will take up his new role on Sunday after leaving Manchester City, where he has been Pep Guardiola's assistant for the last three seasons.

The former midfielder joined Arsenal from Everton in 2011, spending five years with the Gunners before retiring in 2016 and moving into a coaching role under Guardiola.

He replaces his compatriot Unai Emery, who was dismissed after a dismal run of form that interim boss Freddie Ljungberg has been unable to significantly improve on.

Ozil, who played alongside Arteta for three seasons and found himself out of favour for long periods under Emery, tweeted his support for his new coach.

"Welcome back to the Arsenal family," the playmaker, who has been linked with a move away from the club, posted to his official Twitter account.

Arsenal's board believe that, in Arteta, they have found the ideal candidate to take the club forward, with the Spaniard understanding the Gunners' expectations.

"We're delighted to be bringing Mikel back to Arsenal," director Josh Kroenke told the club's official website.

"He knows our expectations and those of our fans around the world are high and we are confident he can play a lead role in taking the club back to the levels we all demand.

"I also want to thank Freddie Ljungberg for skilfully guiding us through the last three weeks. He stepped up at short notice and has helped us through this difficult period with great professionalism."

Head of football Raul Sanllehi, added: "We met several top-class candidates and Mikel stood out to every single one of us as the perfect person for us.

"Mikel understands Arsenal and what it means to our fans around the world. We look forward to him getting down to work and bringing the best out of our squad as we work to get our season back on track.

"I must also pay tribute to Freddie Ljungberg for his hard work and leadership. Together with Per Mertesacker, he has done a vital job for us in difficult circumstances. Freddie and Per are important parts of the Arsenal family and care deeply for this club."

Ljungberg is set to continue in his temporary role for Saturday's contest with Everton, before Arteta takes the reins.

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