One Cup final does not a lifetime’s reputation make. Take Tony Barton, winner of the European Cup final with Aston Villa in 1982. Or, for readers of a different vintage, take Roberto Di Matteo, winner of the Champions League and the FA Cup with Chelsea in 2012.
Both shone in their brief moments in the limelight but the former ended up managing Northampton Town, the latter briefly at Aston Villa, in very different times when they were a Championship club. And he didn’t last long there.
Sometimes you inherit something special, you do your bit in nudging them over the line to achieve greatness and so you deserve plaudits. But time is a brutal arbiter of the great and the good.
Mikel Arteta collected his first trophy as Arsenal boss after just seven months in the job
So, we should pause before festooning Mikel Arteta with praise. His career will be judged in years and decades no doubt rather than the first few months. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that when he took over at Arsenal in December he was not bequeathed a glorious situation which suggested major honours were heading their way.
And there have been times, even in the post lockdown period, when you wondered just what he had walked into, whether he had taken on more than he could manage. That calamitous game at Manchester City to restart the season followed by the collective breakdown at Brighton the following weekend did not bear any of the signs of the collective defiance Arsenal have shown to collect their fourth FA Cup in seven seasons.
Chelsea have developed this knack, though it deserted them on Saturday, of rescuing awful seasons with a major trophy at the end of it.
And Arteta in the last few weeks has shown steel, intelligence and a resolution that belies his quietly-spoken demeanour. He has acted on instinct at times – Mesut Ozil, his finest playmaker when engaged with the team, was not in the squad here; nor was Matteo Guendouzi, after the petulance on display at Brighton.
And he has shown himself his own man since breaking free from the Pep Guardiola clan at Manchester City, from whence he came. Schooled at Barcelona as a teenager, Arteta is however perfectly relaxed about eschewing possession. He made the point dumping his former boss out of this competition in the semi-final with 29 per cent of the ball. This is no philosophical purist.
Here, he saw that gap between right-sided defender Cesar Azpilcueta and wing back Reece James early on and pretty soon he was bellowing at Ainsley Maitland Niles to exploit it. The point was enforced at the drinks break and Kieran Tierney was listening attentively. It was he who launched the long ball over the top to catch out Azpilcueta on 28 mintes, which induced the panic and