Mikel Arteta has urged Arsenal to recover their lost connection to Arsene Wenger more than three years after their greatest manager left the club.
Wenger left the club in 2018, ending a 23 year tenure that saw him win three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, and has not returned to the Emirates Stadium since his final game at the helm. Who that is down to is a matter of no little debate. Speaking to CBS Sports last year, the Frenchman said he has not been involved with Arsenal anymore "because that's not what the club wanted." However, the significant presence of figures from the club hierarchy at the premiere of a new documentary film about the 72-year-old suggests a desire for rapprochement.
Among those present was Arteta, who has endeavored to reconnect Arsenal players with the manager who he played under between 2011 and 2016. The most visible, striking way in which he has done so has been to have placed a huge image of Wenger, left hand aloft, in the main entrance to the London Colney training ground. First team players high five the Frenchman every day on their way to training.
"For me, it's something that we lost and we have to recover," said Arteta of Wenger's legacy with the club. "I wanted that picture and a phrase that is very inspirational at the entrance because it was a big part of what he did at Colney and how everything started at the Emirates. He had to be there.
"You see the reaction of the players, I knew they were going to high five him. You just look at his eyes and it's as if he's there. He has this capacity, he penetrates when he looks at you. The players really benefit from it."
Wenger has not yet visited the Emirates Stadium whilst his successor has not been able to tap into the deep wells of knowledge, a function of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is something that Arteta wished was not the case. He "would have loved to have been much closer to him" over recent years.
That Arteta has not been able to turn to Wenger for advice is perhaps all the more curious given that he spent the final years of his playing career with Arsenal preparing himself for a future career in the dugout.
Asked what the most significant lesson he had learned from Wenger was, Arteta said: "If I have to describe him — one word is integrity. The values he had as a person and how he protected always the club. Every decision was for the benefit of the club. Obviously, as well, how he treated the players: we all loved him because of who he was as a person. He inspired us with his way of thinking about the game.
"He was a key person for me to make the decision to try to go into management. He was very supportive with it and I got a lot of ideas and ways of thinking that probably before knowing him I didn't have. Then you have to add your own ones, evolve and try to be yourself but you always get the influence of someone like him."
Arteta, who managed his 100th game in charge of Arsenal in Sunday's 1-0 win over Watford, has seen plenty of drama in his early management career. From being one of the first high profile individuals to test positive for COVID-19 in the UK, to his side's thrilling FA Cup win and runs of form that have oscillated between impressive highs and dispiriting lows, the Spaniard has seen a great deal for a rookie manager.
What might the documentary of his managerial career be? "Mine is a mini-film still," he laughed.