With hair slightly longer, but still rocking the same immaculate shape, Mikel Arteta joined Arsenal on August 31st, 2011.
A talented, hard working individual who was loved and adored by Evertonians made the move south on transfer deadline day at the 11th hour, having handed in a transfer request to pursue his dream of playing in the Champions League – something Arsenal, at the time, could offer.
Playing well over 200 games for the Toffees, scoring some vital goals and adding equal measures of industry and elegance, it came across as a shrewd piece of business from Arsene Wenger. Experience in midfield, at a snip for only £10m.
Those five seasons he spent at the club seem like a million miles away. Now, he’s just firmly cementing his place as the single greatest manager ever to walk the earth no I’m not joking he’s going to win us the league and make Pep Guardiola his new kit man totally not messing around get on his level Pep.
Sorry…. It’s easy to get carried away.
Back on topic, why don’t we look back on his boot-wearing days with a fond trip down memory lane? To honour the occasion, here are some of Arteta’s best moments donning the famous red and white.
Captaining Arsenal for the First Time in THAT Game
Perhaps one of the most emotional days in recent Arsenal history also happened to be the day Arteta first wore the captain’s armband at the club.
This moment is, of course, Thierry Henry‘s fabled return against Leeds in the third round of the FA Cup in 2012. Unaware prior to kick off that he would lead the side out, Arteta entered the changing room to see the armband placed beside his jersey. A quick conversation with the boss confirmed it was, in fact, not a mistake.
The game itself will never be remembered for that side note, however. Henry’s divine, trademark finish was such a touching, symbolic moment. The return of the King. A welcome reminder of eight years of glorious service. It’s emotional to even think about.
For Arteta though, he’ll reminisce fondly of that night for different reasons. As he should.
Absolute Thunderbolt Against Aston Villa
Gradually over time, as his mobility began to wane, Arteta moved into a deeper role in front of the back four. Before that transition took place though, he was finding himself in far more enticing positions further up the pitch and pitching in with a few decent goals as well.
While we all knew he was capable from distance, he really cranked it up a few notches with a screamer of a free kick against Aston Villa.
Leading 2-0 heading into stoppage time, Arteta was overcome with a case of ‘why the hell not?’, thumping a rocket of a strike into the far top corner from 30+ yards. One to add to the collection.
Screamer Against Manchester City
It appeared that with Arteta’s superb late goal against Manchester City, Arsenal had brought the Cityzens’ title challenge crumbling down before their very eyes. Big-spending City put to the sword in north London. It felt good.
That didn’t quite pan out, and City won the title in legendary fashion, but at the time, Arsenal were unaware of this, so too was Arteta.
Driving through midfield unchallenged, the Spaniard worked himself enough room to let off a shot. Not just any shot, a fine effort with the outside of his right boot that caught Joe Hart off guard and flew into the bottom right corner. What’s more, the result was huge for Arsenal, who at the time were chasing a top four berth.
2012/13 Penalty Prowess
Resuming the penalty duties for the 2012/13 season, Arteta tucked away five spot-kicks en route to total six-goal haul, missing only once that campaign – at home to Fulham in November.
But that particular season was one of close calls, not scored goals. Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League to (guess who?) Bayern Munich on away goals, fell to a disappointing narrow fifth round FA Cup exit and blew the League Cup in the quarter-finals.
However, a 1-0 win away at Newcastle on the final day secured a top four berth, ahead of none other than Tottenham. Sorry lads.
2013/14 FA Cup
What a day. What a comeback. What a rotten hangover the following morning.
From agony and ecstasy in 120 painfully long minutes, Arteta captained Arsenal to FA Cup glory, after having been 2-0 down just eight minutes in. Aaron Ramsey‘s beautifully nonchalant finish topped it all off in the 109th minute, and the sight of seeing Arteta lift that trophy to banish the demons of a 3,283-day wait for silverware won’t be forgotten for some time. No matter how much celebrating was had that night.
From one glorious moment to another, he became the first player in Arsenal’s history to lift the trophy wearing both as captain and as manager on the 1st of August 2020.
2014/15 FA Cup
Another one. Despite being named full-time captain, Arteta was used fleetingly during the following season as Wenger preferred a midfield duo of Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin.
He didn’t play a single minute of the FA Cup campaign, but he was nevertheless club captain, and a worthy member of the squad, with most of his appearances coming in the League Cup.
A new one-year contract was still offered to Arteta to take him through to the end of the 2015/16 season, which would be his final in professional football.
A Fitting Goodbye Capped Off With a Goal
Yes, we know, he didn’t actually score on his final Arsenal appearance in 2016, but we like to think he did. Coming on as an 88th-minute substitute on the last day of the season, Arteta’s ricocheted shot eventually ended up in the net via goalkeeper Marc Bunn, thus deeming it an own goal.
It was however, a chance for Arteta to celebrate with the fans one last time, before the final whistle blew bringing with it a flood of tears from the captain. It was also the farewell appearance of Tomas Rosicky, on a day few fans will ever forget.
While the emotional goodbyes are reason enough to remember the 4-0 win over Aston Villa, the fact that the win secured the Gunners second place over rivals Tottenham was even more reason to savour.
Crazy to think, now, that four years on he’s preparing that very same club ahead of his first full season in the dugout. And what a darn fine job he’s doing of it, too.