LONDON – Seven months after leaving Pep Guardiola's side, Mikel Arteta outwitted his mentor to ensure his first season as Arsenal manager will end with an FA Cup final.
In only his 25th match as a manager, Arteta masterminded a 2-0 victory — secured by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double — that ended Manchester City's title defense on Saturday.
It was a cup won as part of a treble last season when Arteta was assistant to Guardiola at City and fans were still allowed to pack into the national stadium.
Just a few hundred key personnel were allowed into Wembley for Saturday's semifinal as the 90,000-capacity was largely empty for the first time for a top-level game due to ongoing pandemic restrictions. The north London stadium will be closed to fans again on Sunday when Chelsea plays Manchester United in the other semifinal.
“It’s very sad we cannot enjoy this moment with our fans and enjoy watching the team and achieving the final,” said Arteta, who replaced Unai Emery as Arsenal manager in December. “We have great chemistry. They really believe in what we are trying to do and you can sense that."
England's two best teams have now been beaten by Arsenal inside three days, with newly crowned champion Liverpool beaten in the Premier League on Wednesday. But Arteta's side is only 10th in the league, having lost to Tottenham in last weekend's north London derby.
Just a month ago, when the Premier League resumed from its 100-day shutdown, Arsenal was beaten 3-0 by City in the Premier League. This semifinal was as one-sided as that night with City enjoying more than two-thirds of the ball.
But Arsenal soaked up the pressure and hit City on the counterattack to end a run of seven successive losses when it had been outscored 20-2 by City.