Photo: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta holds the FA Cup aloft as he celebrates his first piece of silverware just seven months after taking the job. Arteta has now won the FA Cup as captain and manager of Arsenal. (Getty Images)
There were many subplots associated the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea played at Wembley on Saturday, not the least of which was the clash between rookie managers Mikel Arteta and Frank Lampard.
Both men are legends who captained their respective clubs to glory in the competition and having taken over the reigns at different stages of the 2019-2020 season. They were both looking to become the first former captain to win the title as manager, at either club.
Lampard has been in the job at Stamford Bridge since the start of the season while Arteta took over at Arsenal in December.
Lampard had cut his teeth at Derby County, managing the team for a year during the 2018-2019 season, while Arteta spent his three-year apprenticeship under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, at Manchester City.
The only meeting between the two teams with both men at the helm, before the FA Cup final, took place in January with ten-man Arsenal coming from behind twice, to snatch a point at the Bridge.
Having secured Champions League football on the final day of the premier league season, in a must win game, with a 2-0 win over European football chasing Wolverhampton Wanderers, Chelsea would have entered the final with their tails up and hopes of finishing off the season in fine style.
On the other hand, Arteta had failed in his quest to qualify Arsenal for European football directly, following an 8th place finish in the league and knew that the only way into Europe, was through the back door, by winning the FA Cup and slipping into the Europa Cup.
Things could not have started better for the team in blue in the London derby as the American, Christian Pulisic, put Chelsea ahead after just five minutes. Pulisic became the first American to score in an FA Cup final with that strike, put Lampard on his way to claiming his first piece of silverware as a manager.
However, the Gunners fought their way back into the contest when their inspirational captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drew them level from the penalty spot in the 28th minute, after being dragged down in the box by Chelsea captain, Cezar Azpilicueta.
The problems were compounded for Lampard when he lost his captain Azpilicueta and then his most effect player, Pulisic, to hamstring injuries, either side of the half time interval.
Those two injuries definitely left the Blues hamstrung and they were left exposed and duly punished by man-of-the-match Aubameyang. The Gabon international scored his second, which proved to be the winner, in the 67th minute, with an audacious chip that left goalkeeper Willy Caballero a mere spectator as the ball looped into the goal for a 2-1 Arsenal lead.
The final nail in the Chelsea coffin came in the 73rd minute when Mateo Kovacic, somewhat harshly, received a second yellow card and had to leave the field of play, forcing Chelsea to finish the game with ten men and effectively ending any comeback for Lampard’s boys.
There will be lessons to learnt for Lampard from this loss, not the least of which is about the midfield frailties of his team. He will hope to put things right, starting with new signee, Tim Werner whom he signed from LP Leipzig in the summer.
For Arteta, this is the perfect platform on which to build a team that can challenge for more silverware, both domestically and in Europe next term and beyond. But while Arteta is hopeful of landing the signature of his captain who is yet to put pen to paper on the new deal offered by the club, Aubameyang still remained non-comital in his post-match interviews, which could not have gone down well with the Arsenal faithful.
Arteta will know with absolute certainty, that the way forward for his team lies directly with his captain and so he is certain to make retaining the player his number one priority after the champagne celebrations have ended.