16th May 2016: Arteta bows out in familiar fashion
Welcome to a brand new week on TremendArse. Amidst the Sp*rs-inspired amusement last night, I completely forgot to expand on Mikel Arteta’s strike against Aston Villa, so apologies. In my defence though, how often do events like yesterday’s at Emirates stadium and St James’ Park align so side-splittingly brilliantly? Exactly.
Anyway, despite the fact it will undoubtedly go down as an own goal after our departing Spaniard’s effort struck the crossbar before rebounding in off the back of the Villa keeper, I couldn’t help but immediately think back to Dennis Bergkamp Day at Highbury back in April 2006. Bear with me.
I was there that day and witnessed the Dutchman crown a fixture named in his honour by stepping off the substitute’s bench and producing a trademark curler to put us 3-1 up against West Brom, sealing three vital points in the process as we battled (successfully in the end) to pip Tottenham to fourth place that season.
Of course, Arteta won’t be held in nearly the esteem Bergkamp is by Arsenal fans because he wasn’t as good a player, didn’t win as many trophies with the club as Dennis did and was an Arsenal player for less than half the time the Dutchman was.
Yet when he wheeled away to celebrate our fourth having arrived late into the box to powerfully side-foot the ball goal-wards from an Alexis Sanchez pick-out, the feeling of fate being at play was palpable – just like that orange-tinged day at Highbury a decade ago.
Arteta may have divided opinion amongst Arsenal fans over the level of his footballing ability (and for me he was an effective antidote to the stinging loss of Cesc Fabregas from our midfield in the summer of 2011, but also a symbol of regression in terms of our team’s collective quality), but his character, professionalism and popularity amongst team-mates and staff at the club has never been in question. There were clearly some very good reasons he was chosen to captain the club and he’s been nothing short of an exemplary in his leadership.
There were some memorable goals along the way; long-range free-kicks and a winner against Manchester City, as well as a formidable partnership forged with Aaron Ramsey a few seasons ago as we led the Premier League table for most of the season.
But if last season suggested his time was up as a starter at Arsenal, this season rammed that fact home with few first-team appearances forthcoming for the midfielder and fewer still when he looked like the Arteta of old. Injuries clearly took their toll in the end but we should be thankful to the Spaniard for steadying our side with his natural authority and calm passing in our time of need some six years ago. So thank you Mikel.
And Arteta himself expressed his gratitude at having been an Arsenal player when he gave an emotional interview to Arsenal Player following yesterday’s game, saying:
It’s a day I will never forget, I can only thank everyone for how you have all behaved with me and my family in those magnificent five years. When you leave the club is when you see what you mean to people and how you feel about the club. My emotions and the way I feel about the people cannot be any better. I was very scared about this day because 99 per cent, that was my last game as a professional footballer. I can’t even talk. I feel very honoured to play for this club and captain this place. This club is class and once you are here you never forget it. It’s going to be hard for me to move on, but I really enjoyed today.
So did we Senor, so did we.
All that remains to be said I suppose is good luck with the coaching at City next season and if you really love Arsenal, tap up Sergio Aguero for us when you get there. Tell him all about the wonders of London Colney and life as a Gunner – you’d go from loved to legendary in an instant …