Arsenal's head coach Mikel Arteta (R) celebrates with captain Martin odegaard after an English Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal in Liverpool, Britain, on Sept. 17, 2023.

We’re delighted to announce that Mikel Arteta is the Premier League’s biggest baller

Forty-something dads up and down the country will be able to relate to Mikel Arteta’s glee on a freezing Tuesday afternoon at Arsenal’s Colney training ground.

Amidst the signs that your body is beginning to fail you – permanently aching limbs, hangovers after two pints, hair turning greyer than the London skyline or taking a one-way ticket elsewhere – we cling onto moments that act as transporters back to our prime.

Arteta is in better shape than most 41-year-olds, even if he offsets the stress of managing Arsenal with a Just for Men subscription, and spends his days around people decades younger than him. There’s no need to order him a Zimmerframe just yet.

Yet the sight of Arteta rolling back the years by filthily nutmegging Martin Odegaard links the Spaniard to creaking dads everywhere.

Just look at how the former midfielder begs for the ball like an X-rated celebrity screaming for a crumb of attention, spotting his captain with his legs carelessly apart and slipping the ball through them with glee.

And just look at Arteta losing his noggin and milking the moment like it’s a last-minute winner in the Champions League final and tell me you wouldn’t do the same with your child in the Estadio Back Garden. Lovely stuff.

Arsenal go into tonight’s match against Lens knowing victory would seal their passage into the Champions League knockout rounds. After going top of the Premier League on Saturday, there’s a growing sense that things are falling into place for Arteta’s side.

“I take satisfaction from where we are,” the Arsenal boss said on Tuesday. “We have to find a way to be where we want to be. This is exactly where we want to be.

“It’s not going to be as fluent, it’s not going to be as hectic because there’s no space to run,” he said. “When you’re sitting in traffic I want to go 100 miles an hour but I have three buses and 55 taxis and motorbikes around me, so it’s tricky.

“We need to want to get to where we want to get. In order to do that we have to be really solid – and we’ve been really, really solid.

“Last year, we scored a lot of goals in the first minutes of the games and then the game becomes different, the opponents are more open up and have to do many other things.

“We haven’t been able to do that that often. So, when you compare the time that we have spent in winning moments last year to this year it is different.

“In the Champions League what happened? We were really exciting. We scored early against PSV, we did that against Sevilla. That’s a big thing.”

The thought of Arsenal contesting this season’s final at Wembley won’t have entered the mind of even their most excitable supporters, but Arteta is already dreaming of progression in the competition.

“To get to the final, a lot of things have to go your way and you have to perform at an incredible level to have the opportunity to do that,” Arteta said. “We are going to try, that’s for sure.

“Except for Real Madrid, who are normally the winners, for the rest winning the Champions League is a dream. But it’s a possible dream. To win the Premier League is a huge marathon. But the Champions League is something special.

“It is moments that have to go your way and it is having that belief in your team that you can create that special atmosphere in those moments and having a lot of luck in those moments.

“A lot of things need to go your way and now I think the Premier League is so tough. But for us as a club, it is the Champions League because we have not won it yet.”

Whatever the 2023-24 campaign has in store for Arsenal, their manager has already tasted the glory of rolling back the years and defying Father Time with a gloriously impudent nutmeg on his own captain.

And, despite the riches that divorce Premier League managers from the rest of us, it was Arteta’s most relatable moment in years.

By Michael Lee

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