Arsenal's Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta. Picture: AFP/GLYN KIRK
Arsenal's Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta. Picture: AFP/GLYN KIRK

London — Arsenal’s FA Cup final hero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tweeted two simple words while celebrating the Gunners’ 2-1 win over Chelsea in the dressing room at Wembley on Saturday.

“My manager!” were the words alongside a picture of Aubameyang and Mikel Arteta with the trophy, celebrating Arsenal’s record 14th victory in the domestic club competition.

Aubameyang’s two goals have rightly seen him grab the headlines, but Arteta has been the mastermind. This was a cup win that seemed almost impossible a matter of months ago, yet his arrival in December has breathed new life into a club that was stagnating badly.

When the decision was finally taken to dismiss Unai Emery, Arsenal were in a mess. The players were broken and any thoughts of silverware seemed a million miles away.

In a short time Arteta has walked in and reinvigorated a squad through quality coaching and exceptional man-management. Emery lost the changing room; Arteta has come in and already has his players in the palm of his hand.

“He’s a man who has given us a structure,” said goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez after the victory. “He’s given us hope and given us a game plan in every game so when you are on the pitch you see that the game plan that he does in training actually works.

“He’s a great manager. He’s been here six or seven months and he’s already won his first trophy. He should be really proud of himself.”

Saturday’s triumph was the result of months of hard work from Arteta. From the moment he arrived in December he set about installing a new type of mentality at Arsenal.

Players who had perhaps had it easy under Arsene Wenger and Emery soon found out that London Colney (Arsenal’s training ground) was no longer going to be a holiday camp. Arteta was the man in charge, not the players.

“We have to build a culture that can sustain everything else,” he said at his unveiling in December. “If you do not have the right culture, in the difficult moments the tree is going to shake. So, my job is to convince everybody that this is how we are going to live, and if you are going to be part of this organisation, it has to be on these terms.

“What I have learnt is mostly that you have to be ruthless. You have to be consistent and you have to work on the culture of the club every day to create a winning mentality.”

Arteta has certainly been ruthless. If you don’t live up to his expectations and behave or work to the standards he expects, then you will be soon be on the outside looking in.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Dani Ceballos found that out to their cost in the early days, and now Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil have been cast aside for their approach behind the scenes.

Ozil, Arsenal's highest-earning player, was not even at Wembley. He had been given permission to travel to Turkey in the days leading up to the final, a clear example of his standing within the squad now.

In recent weeks Arsenal have won at Wolves, beaten Liverpool and now they have won the FA Cup having had to get past Manchester City in the semifinal and Chelsea in the final.

A defence and midfield that many deemed uncoachable just a short time ago now looks like a well-drilled unit. The work done behind the scenes has been exceptional, especially when you consider the backdrop of a global pandemic, and at a time when Arteta has had to deal with difficult and potentially damaging talks over wage cuts with his players.

For a new and inexperienced coach, discussions as sensitive as those could have been tough to handle, but it was the Spaniard who broke the deadlock in the talks when he made a personal plea to his players and spelt out why the cuts being proposed by the club were so essential.

That showed he had already earned the trust of his squad and the scenes after the full-time whistle at Wembley on Saturday, when every one of his players made a beeline for him to celebrate their success, highlighted once again the impact he has had.

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