Mikel Arteta was furious and locked us in the changing room – even Arsene Wenger was scared

Mikel Arteta and Arsene Wenger
-Credit: (Image: Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Former Gunners forward Theo Walcott has shed light on an incident displaying Mikel Arteta's leadership qualities, suggesting he was always cut out to manage Arsenal after a particular event left Arsene Wenger "scared".

Arteta, who arrived at the Emirates Stadium from Everton and wore the Gunners colours for five seasons before hanging up his boots, evidently impressed Walcott with his influence. Walcott, speaking on Up Front with Simon Jordan on William Hill's podcast, remembered Arteta as "such a strong character that even Arsene was afraid of him" and shared how Arteta proved his managerial mettle early on.

"The turning point for me in terms of how I viewed Mikel Arteta was an experience I had with him as a player at Arsenal," Walcott revealed. "It was at a time when we weren't making the top four.

"We had training in 30 minutes and he locked all the players in the dressing room, as if he was the manager. He was taking control of the whole space and telling us how it is. In that moment it was like he was the manager, and that was the turning point for me.

"That's when I thought he could go on to be a manager. Arsene Wenger was waiting for us to come outside for training but we weren't coming out because Mikel stopped the training session. He was such a strong character that even Arsene was afraid of him."

Arteta has often expressed his deep respect for Wenger, and last year he revealed that the Frenchman's loyalty is a quality he has tried to emulate. "I'm so grateful to have played for Arsene at this club in my career. He chose me to be one of his players and selected me to be the captain of the club and that's something I will never forget," Arteta shared with the club media.

"He chose me to be one of his players and selected me to be the captain of the club and that's something I will never forget. Towards the end of my playing career, I started to speak with Arsene about transitioning into coaching and management myself, and he told me he had already anticipated that. Even in my first year here, he said to me 'one day you are going to be a manager', and I wasn't really considering that at that time.

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"I learned a great deal from him and if I had to choose one of his many admirable qualities, it would be his unwavering loyalty and how fiercely he defended the club, its players and football in general. His passion for the game is simply extraordinary and it was always evident. He had a deep desire to honour the game and wanted it to be played in a certain way.

"Also, his consistent prioritisation of the club over any personal interest is something that I have tried to learn from him. The way he defended the club, the way he conducted himself, his loyalty to the players and his staff is something that I truly admired. He is a role model for me."