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Why Mikel Arteta must target FA Cup glory with Arsenal

  • Silverware has been in short supply at the Emirates Stadium recently, but success in the FA Cup could be key for new manager Mikel Arteta.
Mark Pitman
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Feature
Modified 04 Mar 2020, 01:04 IST

Mikel Arteta is already proving to be a talented young manager
Mikel Arteta is already proving to be a talented young manager

Arsenal are a club steeped in FA Cup history, and on Monday evening the side took another step towards extending their record haul of the famous trophy with a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth. The atmosphere at Fratton Park had the potential for a cup upset, and while it was physical and laboured in places, the result was rarely in doubt as goals from Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Eddie Nketiah either side of half-time ensured that the home fans and the neutrals would be left disappointed.

The Gunners have claimed a record 13 FA Cup triumphs in their long and distinguished history. The great Herbert Chapman was the first manager to bring the trophy to Highbury in 1930, and his achievement was last repeated by Arsène Wenger in 2017 as the Frenchman lifted the cup with the club for the seventh time in less than two decades.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos celebrates his opening goal against Portsmouth
Sokratis Papastathopoulos celebrates his opening goal against Portsmouth

Wembley triumph

Current manager Mikel Arteta was Arsenal captain when the club lifted the trophy in 2014 following the 3-2 extra-time win over Hull City, and with it, he claimed his first major honour in the English game. A long-term injury prevented his involvement in the 2015 final as they retained the cup at Wembley at the expense of Aston Villa, but he again tasted success as assistant manager to Pep Guardiola as Manchester City defeated Watford 6-0 in the showpiece occasion last May.

The early FA Cup success enjoyed under Wenger was part of an era of domestic domination for the club and complimented their Premier League title challenges. In the final years of Wenger’s reign, FA Cup glory offered temporary relief from the pressure of failing to maintain their place at the top of the table, but the diminishing value of the trophy in the domestic game failed to restore faith in his ability to take the club much further.

Arsène Wenger won the FA Cup seven times as manager of Arsenal
Arsène Wenger won the FA Cup seven times as manager of Arsenal

A new chapter at the Emirates

But while Wenger’s time at the Emirates Stadium was heading towards an inevitable end, this is very much the start of a new chapter under the young and ambitious Arteta, and an early FA Cup triumph in his first year would provide a solid foundation upon which to build a side in his vision. The former midfielder turns 38 later this month, but his coaching maturity has been more than evident for a number of years.

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Former team-mates have spoken about Arteta’s coaching credentials, and his passion for tactics, systems and analysis attracted Guardiola into making him a key part of his Manchester City project upon his arrival at the Etihad Stadium in 2016. Together, the duo engineered domestic success, and his departure for Arsenal in December last year hurt Guardiola more than he has publicly let on. His frustration at losing a coach at a club that can afford any replacement is testament to the quality that Arteta brings.

Arteta worked closely alongside Pep Guardiola at Manchester City
Arteta worked closely alongside Pep Guardiola at Manchester City

Positive signs

There has been a marked improvement in Arsenal’s performances under Arteta, but patience is needed as the club rebuilds after the departure of Wenger, and the failed appointment of Unai Emery. Currently 10th in the Premier League table and sitting below Sheffield United and Burnley, the fans have become accustomed to disappointment in recent years, but if Arteta can be provided with the time necessary to take the club through this period of transition, their faith will be rewarded.

Questions were asked over the appointment of Arteta, and doubts over his experience for the project were emphasised by Everton’s ambitious and ultimately successful move for Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian seemed a perfect fit for the Gunners. A proven winner, Ancelotti appeared to be the ideal candidate to restore former glory at the Emirates Stadium. However, Arsenal have opted to play the longer game, and their approach can bring with it a long-term success.

Arteta is young but well-prepared for the challenge of leading Arsenal into a new era
Arteta is young but well-prepared for the challenge of leading Arsenal into a new era

Education is key

As a former captain and popular figure in the middle of midfield, Arteta understands the club and the traditions that previous success has been built upon. Wenger has been a pivotal figure in helping him to shape his coaching career, and the experience of the Frenchman has complimented the education he has received from Guardiola and the intensity of his approach. Despite his relative youth, Arteta already has a well-rounded background in coaching.

While learning from his mentors, Arteta is also a graduate of the celebrated Pro-Licence course offered by the Football Association of Wales. Under the guidance of former FAW Technical Director Osian Roberts, the likes of Arteta, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, were supported through a programme that challenges and encourages coaches to develop and implement their own ideas instead of having the philosophies of others dictated to them. The coaching education that Arteta has received has been designed to empower and support his own ideology of the game.

Arteta was an important figure in the Arsenal midfield during his playing career
Arteta was an important figure in the Arsenal midfield during his playing career

The traditions of the FA Cup

Arteta has overseen victories over Leeds United, Bournemouth and Portsmouth in the FA Cup this season, and there is a fitting connection that his return to Arsenal should coincide with a run in the trophy he lifted as captain back in 2014. While few clubs prioritise the FA Cup when qualification for the UEFA Champions League remains possible through the Premier League, the competition offers a real opportunity for the club to lift silverware this season.

The FA Cup will be considered a small but significant step in a coaching career that is destined to move on to bigger things. Arteta has already found himself at a club that can support his ambition, and if he can restore the club to former glory, he could emulate the longevity of Wenger while the hunger and desire still exists within him.

The early signs suggest that Arteta is destined to enjoy a successful career in management
The early signs suggest that Arteta is destined to enjoy a successful career in management

Proving his critics wrong

But while the credibility of the FA Cup faces a significant challenge to maintain its status against rival competitions, it is important for the profile of the English game to celebrate what is the oldest cup competition in the world game. These are traditions that Arteta will respect as he targets answering those who doubt his ability to take charge and succeed at such a big club in his first managerial role.

This is an exciting time for Arsenal, and it will be interesting to monitor how the project under Arteta progresses over the coming months and years. The pressure of expectation will quickly rise should he deliver immediate success, and the FA Cup will set a certain standard considering their history in the competition. A new era has begun under Arteta, and Wembley glory in May would mark a significant step in his developing managerial career.

Published 04 Mar 2020, 01:04 IST
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