FA Cup final 2014: Jose Mourinho was wrong to criticise Arsene Wenger – he is no failure, says Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta
Arsenal's Spanish midfielder says FA Cup triumph over Hull City will stop Chelsea jibes
sports news correspondent
Friday 16 May 2014
If Arsenal fail to end English football's most celebrated trophy drought on Saturday evening then the giggles from west London will drift towards the capital's northern reaches and provide an accompaniment to the clatter of street signs warning of road closures for a Sunday parade being hurriedly returned to storage in a hidden corner of Islington.
Should the roads have to be shut then the celebrations will surely contain a colourful flavouring of messages aimed at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho has no part in this year's FA Cup final – his season has ended in failure to win a trophy – but his ability to get under the skin of others remains without equal. His suggestion on Valentine's Day that Arsène Wenger was a "specialist in failure" has not been forgotten around the Emirates.
"I don't like it when someone criticises any of my teammates, the staff, the manager, the club," says Mikel Arteta, talking at Arsenal's busy training ground this week. "I don't like it because I see what people do every day to look after this club. When they are right, maybe you can accept [it], that everybody makes mistakes. But when [Mourinho] is coming in a certain moment a certain way, I don't like it. If you analyse everything [Wenger] has done for this club, if he is a failure... I have a different opinion."
Arteta is completing his third season with Arsenal since joining in 2011 during a spell of desperate spending by Wenger, the closest he has come to panic buying. Like many in the squad Arteta has gathered relatively few honours in his domestic career, a treble with Rangers aside. Like Per Mertesacker, who arrived at the club at the same time, Arteta had to watch the last domestic cup final he was involved in from the sidelines, injury keeping him out of Everton's 2009 defeat by Chelsea
"We didn't get to those finals very often so it was a big blow," says Arteta. And don't Arsenal know it, too. The nine-year hitch in Wenger's tenure since winning the FA Cup in 2005 hangs over the club. The trophy gap had an effect on their last final, the League Cup defeat by Birmingham in 2011, but the Spaniard suggests the atmosphere in training this week is not one weighed down by anxiety. "I can't sense any fear," he says. "What I sense is a big determination. The players can't wait for Saturday to be on that pitch. If it was different I would say that but it's not the case."
Arteta – and he is not the only Arsenal player to advance this view – believes having been to Wembley and beaten Wigan after an almighty struggle in the semi-final may stand as a key result for Arsenal.
"We were in a difficult period. We lost at Everton, drew with Swansea at home, so it was a different kind of atmosphere," says Arteta. "The pressure was on. Suddenly they score out of nothing from a penalty, we had opportunities, we couldn't score, the game racked up. After we scored it was a big relief and we won it on penalties which is never easy in these competitions.
"To win anything there are certain moments. We were in trouble and [when] you come out of that situation in a positive way it is very encouraging."
The other widely held belief in north London – and there is surely an element of wishful thinking here – is that one trophy will lead to others. "I hope so. With the history we have over the last nine years without any trophies at all obviously it could be a great turning point," says Arteta. "Comparing the league we have done better than we did last season and two seasons ago. We killed ourselves because we had two or three bad results against big teams away from home, but again in the Cup we have a chance to put it right."
Arteta accepts Wembley will define Arsenal's season. Win and added to fourth place in the league that makes a good campaign. Lose and there will be a hollow feeling. The need to claim a trophy – any trophy – becomes ever more pressing because Arteta sees next season as being an even tougher one with a Champions League place being even harder to come by. He will enter it in the final year of his contract and will turn 33 during its course; playing for a manager who likes to practise football's equivalent of Logan's Run that is a dangerous age. Arteta wants to stay.
"I don't value players by age, whether it is [Tomas] Rosicky or Jack Wilshere," he says. "I analyse many other things before age. For me a much bigger asset is someone who has played over 125 games in three years compared to someone who has played 25 and is 20. I under- stand the club's point of view but I know what I can give."
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