Guardiola lauds 'exceptional' David Luiz and Arteta's Arsenal transformation

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Pep Guardiola has labelled the much-maligned David Luiz "an exceptional player" ahead of Manchester City's FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.

City have won seven matches in succession against the Gunners, a run that stretches back to the same stage of this competition three years ago.

The last of those was a 3-0 Premier League triumph at the Etihad Stadium last month – a game perhaps most notable for David Luiz's nightmare individual outing.

Introduced as a replacement for the injured Pablo Mari during the first half, the Brazil international misjudged Kevin De Bruyne's searching pass for Raheem Sterling's opening goal.

David Luiz then pulled back Riyad Mahrez to be sent off and give De Bruyne the chance to double City's lead from the penalty spot – one the Belgium star gladly accepted.

Not for the first time in his career, the 33-year-old found himself as the subject of derision, but he has gone on to play a key role in Arsenal's revival on the other side of a two-match ban.

"I have incredible respect for his career. He's an exceptional player with incredible mentality and especially personality," Guardiola told a pre-match news conference, where he had particularly sharp words for David Luiz's critics.

"I laugh a lot about all the pundits, they were defenders and believe they didn't make one mistake in their careers when they played for 20, 10 or 15 years.

"I like that he is still playing football and I'm pretty sure he's going to make more good actions and mistakes as that's part of the game, but with a lot of dignity.

"I have a lot of respect for this player. A lot."

Guardiola's admiration for Mikel Arteta, his City assistant until he took the top job at Arsenal last December, is well established.

The Gunners' 2-1 comeback win over Premier League champions Liverpool in midweek was their fourth in the past six top-flight games, and City's manager believes the north London club are in the early stages of a transformation.

"I expect an incredibly tough, tough, tough game because they have something special already," he said.

"They have team spirit. Mikel has created…from the outside, maybe I'm wrong, I see in the game how they celebrate the goals, how they fight every single ball.

"They have started to create something special for this club. Everybody fights for everybody and that's why it will be difficult."