So here is my final article from Arsenal’s FA Cup Final Media day on Wednesday which covers the interview with Club Captain, Mikel Arteta. I have always thought him a fine example to all professional footballers and the time listening to him only reinforced my view. What a guy to be quite frank and the perfect ambassador for our club in many respects. He has been a talisman for Arsenal in his early seasons but since his calf injury in November has not pulled on the shirt in anger so what now Mikel?
He was initially asked about the position of the club as they face their second FA Cup Final in successive years. His answers to me reveal why even when not playing he is still our skipper. He spoke of the pressure of being favourites and how it is going to be difficult and of course he paid diplomatic respect to Aston Villa but he stressed that it should be viewed as a stepping stone for this club to bigger and better things because he felt all the elements were in place – Bigger targets should be set! His status and example as captain however was truly revealed when he told us he was constantly talking to the new signings from abroad and the younger players who had not been involved in last year’s final JUST HOW BIG the FA Cup is to the club, in English football heritage and to the fans.
When asked about how significant it has been to win the first major trophy in 9 years last time he agreed by using what I assume was a direct translation from a Spanish phrase but we all knew what it meant. He described the relief and the weight lifted “It was a big lorry to carry behind your back!” He again reaffirmed that the feeling now was that there should be higher standards and bigger targets.
He spoke eloquently about the togetherness and spirit within the squad and the club “There have been critical moments and also much criticism but nothing has broken the togetherness we have.” The smile and knowing look at the assembled media when talking about the criticism strongly suggested he and the team shared the fans view of an apparent ‘anti-Arsenal’ stance and I warmed to him even more.
Arteta then spoke effusively as Ramsey had about the Arsenal fans support backing the players through the tough times and like Aaron he also came back to the Islington parade. Perhaps the long wait made the appreciation greater but it certainly gave the team the taste to experience all again. “250,000 fans on the street was crazy and it was amazing!” It was in fact he thought the perfect example of just how big the club is. (A dig at Chelsea? Surely not from such a gentleman.)
When asked his own involvement on Saturday he just spoke of his hard work and that every player wants to be involved and he is no different. He will of course respect the manager’s decision. It has been difficult to watch the team perform well and in some senses he has enjoyed observing the evolving nature of the season and the players and have input from the sideline. (I felt a reference to his desire to coach down the line.) When asked of his own future having not played for so longer and with the squad doing so well he affirmed his desire to stay and of his total love for the Arsenal. What became apparent though is that whatever the decision is it has been made though it is not being announced so the club can focus on winning a successive FA Cup
“The Club and I know what we both want and we will announce so after the final.”
When asked about the club adding to the squad in the summer he told us that he expected the club to show ambition and to strengthen and the last question and answer, as with Flamini centred on the emergence of Francis Coquelin in his position. As with Mathieu the answer was magnanimous and he described it as “The nicest surprise of the season.” He candidly confirmed that Coquelin “gave us something we were missing and gives us balance.” Given how hard it must be to admit effectively that Coq does for the team what he perhaps can no longer do I found myself again thinking of Arteta being the perfect Club Captain, ambassador and I hope a future coach. His last parting gift on Le Coq “I like him a lot!” and with that he was gone.
Mikel Areta, what a guy, I want you somehow involved at my club next season.