Arsene Wenger admits competition has moved up a level with the arrival of Pep Guardiola and other highly respected managers into the Premier League.
The 67-year-old celebrated two decades in charge of Arsenal last month and takes his side to face Manchester City on Sunday, when he will come up against Premier League newcomer Guardiola.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach’s appointment at the Etihad Stadium was much-heralded, with the likes of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Antonio Conte at league leaders Chelsea also starting their first Premier League tenures in the last year or so.
While Guardiola’s methods have come in for questioning of late as City dropped off the pace at the top of the table, Wenger believes having such big-name coaches in the division can only be a good thing.
“I know it’s competitive and we’re surrounded by top-class managers but I want to win,” he said.
“I think that the fight will be tighter and more difficult than ever and that we have an opportunity to prove that we can deal with the new competition.
“Of course, it stimulates everybody. We will see. It will be very open until the end I think.”
Wenger went on to concede that Guardiola’s Barcelona side was the best he has ever come up against in his time as a manager.
The Catalan giants faced Wenger’s Arsenal in the Champions League in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 campaigns.
In 2010, the pair met in the quarterfinals, with a 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium followed up with Barca winning 4-1 at the Nou Camp.
The following year, Arsenal won the home leg of their round of 16 clash 2-1, but were still eliminated as a 3-1 victory for Guardiola’s side back in Spain saw them advance as they went on to beat Manchester United in the final at Wembley.
Those experiences gave Wenger enough chances to see Guardiola’s Barcelona up close, and the Frenchman was left suitably impressed by them.
Asked if that side was the best he has faced, Wenger replied: “Yes. I played a semifinal against Milan with Monaco in the Champions League [in 1994]. They were good as well.
“But with Arsenal we faced maybe Barcelona at its peak — at the time when Xavi was still young enough, Andres Iniesta was coming up, Dani Alves was still young. They were the best team I have played.
“They were all hungry, young. Lionel Messi was 20, 21, 22. They were all coming up with a huge hunger and desire. It was natural for them.
“Let’s not forget they had some team there. They had [Samuel] Eto’o and [Thierry] Henry and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and Messi. Imagine what that was like. Ibrahimovic still scores goals today.