This weekend is a huge contest between Arsenal and Everton and it sees Gunners boss Mikel Arteta square up against the side that he first started his playing career in England. He first joined the Toffees on loan on transfer deadline day in January 2005 before signing permanently in the summer where he spent a further six years on Merseyside.
The Spaniard arrived at Goodison Park on loan from Real Sociedad and it was David Moyes who introduced the future manager to the beauty of English football. As soon as he arrived in Liverpool, he had an instant impact as the Toffees chased Champions League football and he helped guide them to fourth place in the Premier League.
They were subsequently eliminated from Europe’s most glamorous competition by Villarreal in the third qualifying round. But that was not the only taste of European football Arteta had with Everton as he was part of two UEFA Cup (Europa League) campaigns in which they reached the round of 32 stage.
In the years since his Everton days, many only seem to remember his time as a Gunner, but for Everton the 39-year-old was a superstar and played such an integral role in those peak years under Moyes. He was technically brilliant, so brilliant that he could effectively play as a number 10 or sit deeper, which he did a lot more at Arsenal. He boasted an incredible passing range, neat footwork and such a broad intelligence of what was happening around him. Not to mention that he had the occasional goal in his locker, many of them being stunners. Across 209 appearances for Everton, Arteta found the back of the net on 35 occasions, with his best season return in the Premier League coming in 2006-07 with a tally of nine.
Following an impressive spell in the north west, London came calling for the talented Spaniard who joined Arsenal in a £10 million deal in the summer of 2011. It is quite hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Arteta wore the colours of Everton and when Arteta squared up against his former manager Moyes in 2020, the Scotsman was full of praise for his former midfielder.
The West Ham United boss said: “He always was a really good football player, but once he got used to the physical elements of the Premier League he developed into a really good captain, he was always a really good professional.
“His professionalism rubbed off on a lot of people at the time, and I was really fortunate to have people like Mikel and others around me who were really good players.
“Mikel gave us something different. Probably the biggest disappointment was when I had to sell him to Arsenal.”
Arteta has always been public about his admiration for his old coach, praising the effect that the Hammers boss had on him as a person. Speaking earlier this year, Arteta said: “I think he made me a better person, made me mature in the earlier stages of my career. He was really demanding and challenging but at the same time, really supportive.
“I really liked how he managed the group as well as the individuals. He really installed a real belief around the club to be together all the time, to look after each other, and nobody was more important than the team. He really created a special atmosphere when we were together.”
He may have a deep connection with Arsenal having been a player at the Emirates Stadium and now manager, but Arteta will always have a strong attachment to Everton as well because they were his first memories of English football and were some of the most memorable years of his career.
“I always felt part of the family at Everton,” he once told the club’s media.
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