An emotional day on Sunday drew a close to Mikel Arteta’s career as an Arsenal player and the midfielder believes it was time.
After three brilliant seasons in north London, Arteta’s two years as captain have seen him constantly injured and struggling to reach his best form.
It must have been incredibly frustrating, but Sunday’s send-off was perfect.
“It was unbelievable because the last few months have been really difficult and I have been through a difficult position as well with my role in the team,” Arteta said after the 4-0 win, all but confirming his retirement.
“It is very hard to stop but I wanted to leave it… I wanted to decide and I thought for the last few months I wasn’t good enough to represent this club on the pitch.
“You have to accept it. It’s been a long time to be playing football and I didn’t want to cheat them or anyone. It is time.
“You have to be honest with yourself. That’s what I haven’t been upset with the manager, I have been upset with myself.”
It must have been an incredibly difficult decision to close the curtains on a superb playing career but, if he felt he was only going to let people down, it feels as though the timing is right.
What’s fantastic, still, is to hear the captain talk about the high regard he holds the club in. It’s not about ego or pride, but about repaying the fans and being the best you can be.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Arteta feels Arsenal should be playing at the very highest level and that demands players who are at the very top of their game.
“When you can’t get it right and you have been through injuries and difficult moments at this level… for me to play at this club you have to be the best in your position.
“When you lose that, I think you should be away from this place. I have probably been here too long. In the last few months, I probably didn’t deserve to be here but at least I got the chance today to stay in touch with them and it has been amazing.
“For me, the standards you need to play for this club, it cannot be eight out of 10, it has to be 10 out of 10. When you cannot deliver that, it is not good enough.”
Arteta’s programme notes on Sunday echoed the same message: that his time at Arsenal has been brilliant and the two FA Cups will be cherished, but we have to win more.
That level of ambition doesn’t always seem obvious from those higher up at the Arsenal hierarchy, but the midfielder understood what a big club we are and what people should be expecting of us. He understood that it’s down to the players to live up to those expectations.
Hopefully we see him again one day. He already appears to have an offer on the table from Arsenal, but is expected to join up with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.