When Bernardo Silva scored for Manchester City against Arsenal on Sunday, Pep Guardiola turned to Mikel Arteta and threw his arms around his second-in-command.
Rodolfo Borrell, another coach given greater responsibility this season, joined in the celebrations, putting his arm around Arteta and slapping him on the back.
The images suggested Arteta had played a significant role in City’s second goal, one which put the game out of Arsenal’s reach.
And it has now emerged that Arteta was indeed instrumental in the Premier League champions kicking off their title defence with a victory.
“Do you remember from Sunday’s game, after the second goal, Pep’s hug with Mikel?” Marti Perarnau, who wrote two books on Guardiola’s three-year spell in charge at Bayern Munich, said on the 93:20 Podcast.
“That was because Mikel said to Mendy, ‘Don’t make a high cross when you get to the end line, make a cut-back along the floor,’ and after that Bernardo scored the goal.
“He [also] talked with Mendy and Sterling to try to make a double pass before the last cut-back.”
And that was exactly how the goal played out. Mendy carried the ball forward from inside his own half, played a one-two with Sterling on the left wing, got to the byline and cut the ball back for Bernardo Silva, who fired the ball into the net.
It proved to be the latest example of Arteta’s growing influence at City. The former Barcelona, Everton and Arsenal midfielder joined Guardiola’s staff in 2016 and immediately impressed the Catalan with his vast knowledge of English football and its quirks.
Arteta has also proven vital in transmitting Guardiola’s ideas to the City players; he was the one who explained to Fabian Delph what was expected from his new role as a hybrid left-back/central midfielder, and that now appears to be what he has done with Mendy in his new role.
Arteta almost became Arsenal manager this summer, only for the club to back out of talks and appoint Unai Emery.
Instead the former midfielder has risen up the ranks of City’s coaching team, after Domenec Torrent, Guardiola’s long-term assistant, took over at New York City.