Arsenal's players celebrate victory of the English FA Cup semi-final match against Manchester City in London. AFP
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 defence 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 play 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.
Guardiola accused Arsenal and other Premier League rivals of “whispering” – colluding behind City’s back to ensure that their ban for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play would be upheld.
After winning the FA Cup in 2011 and EPL a year, Guardiola took Manchester City onto an even higher level and they won the Premier League in record-breaking style in 2018.
Pep Guardiola has prolonged his stay at Manchester City after signing a two-year contract extension with the club on Thursday.
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