Mikel Arteta believes it was the “right moment” for Arsene Wenger to make his long-awaited return to Arsenal on Boxing Day.
The legendary Gunners manager was in attendance for the 3-1 victory over West Ham, where the north London side returned to Premier League action in style to clinch a fourth consecutive league win.
Wenger’s return to Emirates Stadium was significant as it was his first trip to the club since leaving in 2018, which brought an end to a 22-year tenure.
While he endured a frosty reception from the fans in the latter stages of his spell at the club, Wenger was serenaded by the Arsenal faithful during the comeback victory, where second-half goals from Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah clinched all three points.
Though it has taken time for Wenger to return to his former hunting ground, Arteta believes Monday’s match came at the ideal time.
“Winning, my mood is going to be much better talking to him and to be around the team,” he told reporters.
“He picked the right moment, a really special day because Boxing Day is a beautiful day to play football and I thought today the levels were what he deserved and hopefully he’ll like.
“The players didn’t know [about it]. We wanted to keep it quiet and allow that space for Arsene. Stan and Josh [Kroenke] are here as well and it was a really special day.
One Arsène Wenger pic.twitter.com/agQln82HFC
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 26, 2022
“Thank you so much to him for coming. Hopefully walking through the building he’s going to feel everything that everybody thinks of him, the legacy he left here.
“He is very, very attached to this football club. Thank you to him for everything he did at the club.
“Hopefully he’s going to leave here and be willing to spend more time with us and be more around us because he’s such a big influence for me personally in my career, the way I see the game, but as well for this football club.”
Arsenal round off 2022 with a trip to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, then begin the new year three days later at home against Newcastle United.