Mikel Arteta attempts to get his Arsenal side back to winning ways almost 11 years to the day when he was injured playing against the same Newcastle side in an incident that almost cost him his career and a knee.
Arsenal’s Spanish coach underwent three operations in a year out of the game in which he also suffered a dangerous bacterial infection that left his knee the size of a watermelon and possibly beyond repair.
Arteta looks back on it now as ‘the hardest day and toughest parts of my career’ but one that is helping to make him a better manager in his new career in charge of Arsenal.
Mikel Arteta suffered a serious knee injury playing for Everton at Newcastle in February 2009
That February 2009 clash at Newcastle’s St James’s Park remains fresh in the Arteta memory.
He said: ‘Probably [it was the hardest day of my career]. It was one of the toughest parts of my professional career but the one I learned most from.
‘I took a lot from that. It was a big challenge, at some stages I thought it was going to be over when I had an infection and they didn’t know what it was and it was looking bad.
‘It took me almost a year to get back to playing. After I recovered my form, I started to perform well and I joined Arsenal.
‘I think it was a good thing. At the time I could not see it. But it was a very challenging time in my career that I had to go over. I had to rebuild myself to do that.’
The Spaniard uses his memories of his injuries to help players such as Calum Chambers
Arteta then explained how it is helping him work with players going through similar problems, such as defender Calum Chambers who is also out with cruciate damage.
He added: ‘Now when I see Calum and what he’s going through I know exactly how tough the first four or five weeks are on that injury, how the process is afterwards.
‘I want to be close with them because I think it makes an impact and it’s helpful for them. I know how hard it is.’
Tenth-placed Arsenal have not finished outside the top six for 25 years and host Newcastle with only six wins all season. Only relegation sides Norwich and Watford have celebrated fewer victories.
Arteta does not, however, regret staying as a coach at Manchester City after turning down the Newcastle job when he was offered it ahead of Steve Bruce last summer.
Arteta is enjoying his job managing Arsenal but had the opportunity to coach Newcastle
He revealed: ‘I was considering a situation that could change my professional and personal life. I had to put everything on the table to make that decision. I made the decision to stay.
Hi view changed when Arsenal came calling in December and he said: ‘When something touches your heart in that moment it’s very difficult to say no. Obviously this is a very special place for me.’
‘I believe Newcastle are happy. What Steve has brought to the club has been really, really good. The performances and results, compared to where they were last year, they are above any expectation. He has put together a team with great spirit and is a manager with massive, massive experience.’
Asked whether or not Arsenal were below expectation, he answered. ‘This season? 100 per cent. I don’t know by how much but we are below.’