Mikel Arteta put the Arsenal first team through an evening training session at Emirates Stadium as he stepped up preparations for tomorrow’s clash with Chelsea.
On the eve of his first home game in charge, the Spaniard revealed that he always knew he’d become the Gunners boss and that he’s determined to enjoy every step of his journey as a coach.
The last time Arteta sported Arsenal colours at the Emirates was in May 2016; the occasion of his final game as a player. It turns out the farewells that day were only temporary.
Speaking to Arsenal.com, he recalled: “I remember the last time I was going down the tunnel, with my kids in my arms. I said to my wife, ‘One day I will come back here as the manager’. It has come a little quicker than I expected but that was a dream.
“I’ve got more family now – I’ve got more kids! I’ve had more experiences but I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do so, two years before my retirement, I started to do my coaching badges. I already had that feeling that I wanted to try this game over that line, and I am really happy where I am.”
Having endured a frustrating end to his playing career – injuries took their toll in his final two years at Arsenal – Arteta said he now has a new perspective towards his life in football.
“I am more excited than them [the fans], for sure,” he said. “I walked into the stadium this afternoon for our last training session and a lot of emotions and feelings came through. It will be a special day for me.”
He added: “I am trying to enjoy it more, and I am enjoying it. This profession deserves to be enjoyed a lot.
“A lot of things happen along the way – injuries or situations that you have to face – that sometimes doesn’t allow you to see the whole picture. But hopefully I have people around me to pinch me a little bit every day and say ‘Look where you are, enjoy it.
“‘Work as hard as you can and make the most out of it and try to be professional, but at the same time, you know, this is a reward for what you’ve been preparing for.'”