Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta has revealed how regular conversations with former club manager Arsene Wenger have kept him “calm” throughout the season.
Arteta is preparing to lead his side into Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea and although the pair have not been in contact this week, the 38-year-old has spoken to Wenger on a regular basis since replacing Unai Emery last December.
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Wenger left the club in the summer of 2018 after almost 22 years in charge, including five seasons managing Arteta as a player before his retirement in 2016.
The Frenchman won the FA Cup a record seven times as manager and when asked if he’d reached out to Wenger in the past few days, Arteta said: “No I haven’t been in touch with him [this week].
“I have been in touch a few times in the last few months with him, but not before the final.
“It is a private conversation. It is great to have him on board, he gives you great advice and just talking to him, he has such knowledge, he is such an intelligent person, just knowing he is there that just knowing he is there and he is going to be supporting us and supporting me, I feel calmer.
“I think in the football world, you can talk about anything with him. You just have to learn, get the book out and take some notes.”
Arsenal finished 10 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League and lost to the Blues in last season’s Europa League final.
Chelsea have already secured Champions League qualification with a fourth-placed finish in the league but pressure is mounting on Arsenal given they must win at Wembley or face a season without any European competition.
That prospect will make it harder to attract new players and retain their star names, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has a year remaining on his contract.
Earlier this month, sources told ESPN that Aubameyang is keen to stay but has requested a three-year deal worth up to £250,000-a-week.
Talks are expected to continue after Saturday’s final and Arteta expressed his belief it will not be the striker’s last game for the club, despite Arsenal executives previously insisting players with 12 months left who refuse to sign extensions would be sold.
“No, I don’t have those thoughts [it will be Aubameyang’s final game],” Arteta added. “It’s a package at the end. You need to have a lot of ingredients on the table to persuade a player of his level to be at this football club.
“Don’t forget he still has a contract here with us, we want to keep him and do it more long-term. But at the moment he is with us and I think he should be really proud of where he is as well.
“I think that has a strong link with everything that you want to experience as a player. The fact that winning a trophy helps to really believe and feel — wow, I want more of those moments as well. If you are wearing the armband and you are able to lift that cup, it is such a moment and this is going to help for sure.”
Kante had a hamstring issue while Willian had an unspecified problem.
Willian could be in line for his final domestic appearance for the Blues given he is yet to agree an extension to his deal which expires in a matter of days. The 31-year-old has attracted interest from Chelsea’s FA Cup final rivals Arsenal.
“I know Willian for many years as a player and I have coached him. If anyone wants to see his mentality, it has been shown since restart,” Lampard said. “He’s been fantastic for us, he’s been fantastic this season, shown the right attitude. I would expect nothing less than he has shown already. That’s Willian for you.”
Lampard and his squad are also preparing to come up against former teammate David Luiz.
Despite selling Luiz to Arsenal last summer for £8 million, Lampard said a “bond” remains with the centre-back after their spell together at Chelsea as players.
“What I do have for David is a real respect as a teammate, we played together in the Champions League, we won it in 2012 and the bond of that group over those years is huge and David was a big personality and a top player within that,” he added.
“When I think about preparing for a game against Arsenal with David in the team, I know how good he can be and what an influence he will have on their team. I look at him in that way, absolutely.”