Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta says he would “prefer” not to be competing with Pep Guardiola for the Premier League title.
The two Spaniards worked together at Manchester City, where Arteta left his role as Guardiola’s assistant to become Arsenal manager in 2019.
The Gunners currently top the table, five points above defending champions City with a game in hand as they pursue a first title since 2004 when they went through the league season unbeaten.
“It’s a strange feeling,” said Arteta.
As part of City’s coaching staff, Arteta won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two EFL Cups.
“I want the best for him, genuinely, and when you are challenging with someone like this, something comes in between that,” he added.
Despite having to go up against his friend, Arteta has relished how Arsenal are now competing with City for trophies.
“I always hoped that was going to be the case one day and it’s happening this season,” said the former Gunners midfielder, 40.
“That’s not going to change any friendship, the moments that we have, how important he is in my life, how important he is in my profession.
“We’re both willing to win and defend our clubs in any way and that’s always been the case since day one.
“I would prefer to do it with someone else to be fair.”
Arsenal visit City in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday – the first of three matches between the sides this season, with their Premier League encounters set for 15 February and 26 April.
Arteta led the Gunners to a record 14th FA Cup success in his first season in charge in 2019-20.
And he said the tie at the Etihad could be a defining match for both clubs this season.
“It is a competition that is very important to us, very attached to our club and history and will define a moment that is for sure,” added Arteta.
Arsenal have signed Belgium striker Leandro Trossard from Brighton and Poland defender Jakub Kiwior from Spezia Calcio during the January transfer window.
Arteta said they could still sign a midfielder this month too, with Mohamed Elneny ruled out indefinitely because of a knee injury.
“We need some more cover in midfield ideally if we can,” he added. “In this market it’s pretty complicated to do that.
“The most important thing is that we get the performances and the time on the pitch that we need, with the players we have available that are already really good.”