Mikel Arteta overcame his former boss Pep Guardiola as a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang double saw Arsenal reach the FA Cup final with a 2-0 win over Manchester City.
Arteta left his role as assistant at City last December to take charge at Emirates Stadium, and while it has been far from straightforward for the Spaniard since, he could be on course to finish a topsy-turvy campaign with silverware.
Aubameyang was the hero as he struck twice at an eerily empty Wembley, sending his side through to face Chelsea or Manchester United on August 1.
City huffed and puffed throughout but were unable to blow Arsenal’s well-constructed house down, suffering their first defeat at the national stadium since going out to the Gunners at the same stage of the competition three years ago.
Guardiola fielded the same starting XI that won 3-0 when these teams returned to Premier League action in June, when the master easily overcame his former apprentice in Manchester.
However, the cup holders never hit the same heights in familiar surroundings in the capital, failing to respond after Aubameyang converted Nicolas Pepe’s cross with a half-volleyed finish in the 19th minute.
The Gabon forward had missed a glorious chance earlier in proceedings, shooting straight at Ederson when clean through, but made no mistake when stretching out to poke the inswinging right-wing cross back across the face of the Brazilian goalkeeper and in via the far post.
Shkodran Mustafi saw a header tipped over in the closing stages of a first half that saw a rather sluggish City fail to muster a shot on target.
Raheem Sterling carelessly missed the target soon after the break, but Emiliano Martínez was finally called into action to keep out a low attempt by Riyad Mahrez, while the goalkeeper was grateful to see a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick ripple the outside of the net.
Aubameyang, though, had no such issues locating the goal during a rare Arsenal attack in the 71st minute, running onto Kieran Tierney’s lofted pass before slotting through Ederson’s legs.
Having employed a rope-a-dope tactic to defeat Liverpool 2-1 in league action in midweek, Arsenal once again demonstrated a defensive toughness that has seemingly been missing for so long at the club. Arteta may want to play in a more expansive way in the future, but at least he has laid solid foundations to build on. A first win over City in eight attempts arrives thanks to a coach who used to be in the opposite camp.
Playing in his first FA Cup game of the 2019-20 season, Aubameyang diligently worked hard for the cause when stationed on the left flank and, after an early sighter, showed the clinical edge Arsenal deserved as a reward for their stoicism.
The England international scored the opener against Arsenal at the Etihad last month, but this time his profligacy summed up City’s poor showing, meaning there will be no domestic cup double for Guardiola this term. Sterling had four attempts at goal but failed to hit the target with any of them.
Both clubs have two Premier League fixtures remaining, playing on Tuesday and Sunday. City are away at Watford before finishing up at home to relegated Norwich City. Arsenal also have the Hornets to come, though before that final-day encounter they travel to Aston Villa.