So young, yet Arteta is al­ready prov­ing to be the master pup­peteer

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By Ja­son Burt CHIEF FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Wem­b­ley

As Mikel Arteta strode down the Wem­b­ley tun­nel, bang­ing the sil­ver lid against the FA Cup and shout­ing “Vamos” to his Arse­nal play­ers when he en­tered the dress­ing room, there felt more than a touch of the Pep Guardi­ola about him.

This was a young man­ager fully in con­trol and at the cen­tre of ev­ery­thing that Arse­nal are do­ing. Arteta po­si­tioned him­self at the heart of the tro­phy cel­e­bra­tions; he told Ains­ley Mait­land-Niles to hurry up as he waited to fol­low him for a me­dia in­ter­view, and he danced around with the Cup in the dress­ing room as the play­ers jumped be­hind him.

Arse­nal will feel they have a gen­er­a­tional man­ager lead­ing them. At 38, Arteta is the youngest and most in­ex­pe­ri­enced head coach in the Premier League, but ar­guably the one with the great­est po­ten­tial. The FA Cup fi­nal was just his 28th match, but he car­ries him­self with the air of a far more ex­pe­ri­enced and ma­ture man­ager.

Arteta will know all about the pre­car­i­ous­ness of the pro­fes­sion he is now in, as not long af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle was blown at Wem­b­ley it was an­nounced that Ed­die Howe – Mr Bournemout­h – was leav­ing the rel­e­gated club.

Arteta’s first game, hav­ing been Guardi­ola’s as­sis­tant at Manch­ester City, was away at Bournemout­h last De­cem­ber, scrap­ing a 1-1 draw with a Pierre-Em­er­ick Aubameyang goal. The striker showed his worth again in the fi­nal with two more goals. In­evitably the dom­i­nant theme was whether Arse­nal and Arteta had done enough to make Aubameyang, out of con­tract next June, sign a new deal.

In the months since Arteta’s first fix­ture, so much has changed for Arse­nal, even if they fin­ished eighth in the Premier League, their low­est plac­ing since 1995. It was hoped with Arteta’s ar­rival there may even be a late tilt at Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion. But he is a promis­ing young man­ager, not a ma­gi­cian.

The com­pe­tency – and dis­ci­pline – is clear, as is the rein­vig­o­rated feel­ing around the club. Nei­ther Mesut Ozil nor Mat­teo Guen­douzi were any­where to be seen. Ozil was al­lowed to re­turn to Turkey and his post-match tweet of “Great job my boys!!!” felt like a dis­tant echo of Arse­nal’s re­cent past; a past from which they want to move on

quickly. It was in­ter­est­ing that those play­ers who were in­volved sought out Arteta in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math just as read­ily as he sought them out.

Even Aubameyang, who had care­fully cra­dled the tro­phy and kept an eye on it as his team-mates passed it around, even­tu­ally handed it to Arteta, while Josh Kroenke, the Arse­nal di­rec­tor and son of owner Stan, si­dled up to edge into the pe­riph­ery of the cel­e­bra­tions be­fore with­draw­ing.

Arteta has de­liv­ered. It is a start. Euro­pean foot­ball will come as a relief for Arse­nal, al­though it again fol­lows years in which they as­sumed the Cham­pi­ons League was their do­main. A tro­phy this early in his man­age­ment will fu­ture-proof him in a way that de­feat in last year’s Europa League fi­nal – by Chelsea – holed his pre­de­ces­sor, Unai Emery.

Kroenke will have to play his part now. Arteta and Arse­nal’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, Edu, have al­ready drawn up a clear and de­tailed plan to over­haul and strengthen the squad – which starts with a new con­tract

for Aubameyang – and the head coach’s man­date to de­mand more has now be­come pow­er­ful with this tri­umph and the man­ner of it.

That man­ner felt tough on Chelsea and Frank Lam­pard. It was not that Arse­nal were lucky; it was that Chelsea were un­lucky. Or, rather, ev­ery­thing that could go wrong for them did, fol­low­ing Chris­tian Pulisic’s smart open­ing goal af­ter just five min­utes as the 21-year-old pro­vided com­pelling ev­i­dence that he can be Eden Hazard’s suc­ces­sor.

The Amer­i­can was cen­tral to Chelsea’s down­fall as, early in the se­cond half, he col­lapsed in pain with an ap­par­ent ham­string tear, even though he bravely got a shot away be­fore crum­pling to the turf. Up un­til then he had been the fi­nal’s out­stand­ing per­former.

That was the se­cond ham­string in­jury suf­fered by Lam­pard’s side, af­ter cap­tain Ce­sar Azpilicuet­a had gone off. In in­jury time Pe­dro ap­peared to dis­lo­cate a shoul­der and was car­ried off on a stretcher in his last game for Chelsea. The Spa­niard will hope des­per­ately it will not af­fect his move to Roma.

To add in­sult to those in­juries, ref­eree An­thony Tay­lor gave a poor per­for­mance, in par­tic­u­lar the se­cond yel­low card he is­sued to Chelsea mid­fielder Ma­teo Ko­vacic for a chal­lenge on Granit Xhaka. In an era of Var it is a strange anom­aly that the sys­tem can­not be used to over­rule cau­tions, even when they lead to dis­missals.

Chelsea fans will rage also against Arse­nal’s first-half penalty award, with Azpilicuet­a first pulling Aubameyang back out­side the area. But, tellingly, Lam­pard did not com­plain and if it had been a free-kick then it would prob­a­bly also have been a red card for Azpilicuet­a who, like Pe­dro, is surely out of Chelsea’s Cham­pi­ons League last-16 tie away to Bay­ern Mu­nich on Satur­day, with them trail­ing 3-0 from the first leg.

The win­ning goal showed why Chelsea – as Arse­nal – have much work to do with their squad. As Timo Werner watched on, and with Hakim Ziyech signed and the pur­suit of Kai Havertz con­tin­u­ing, Chelsea also need de­fend­ers. It was calami­tous as they failed to deal with Hec­tor Bel­lerin’s run into their half, with Aubameyang then eas­ily beat­ing Kurt Zouma be­fore dink­ing his shot past 38-year-old Willy Ca­ballero – as the world’s most ex­pen­sive (and un­wanted) goal­keeper, Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga, sat on the bench.

Still, it has been a promis­ing first campaign for Lam­pard, who has de­liv­ered Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion even if he could not quite aug­ment that with a tro­phy.

The only thing that went wrong for Arse­nal as they won a record 14th FA Cup – cour­tesy of their No14 Aubameyang – and their first sil­ver­ware for three years was their cap­tain drop­ping the prize. But that was be­fore Arteta in­ter­vened to or­ches­trate mat­ters off the pitch, just as much as he had con­trolled them on it.

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