Arsene Wenger has always been one to alter a players’ position. He spots the key attributes and is able to visualise a suitable new position, making that player better than they already were. It’s always been one of the great things about him. He transformed Lauren from a right-midfielder to a powerful full-back. Thierry Henry from a flying winger to a prolific striker, and there’s many more examples which I can’t really think of. But the most recent could perhaps be seen as one of his most effective.
Signed from Everton for £10M, Mikel Arteta was not seen as an important signing. But Wenger knew what he was doing and his exemplary judgement has provided Arsenal with possibly the most important man in the squad. Mikel’s comprehension of a methodical way of football and slick passing mixed with his tactical nous and beautiful hair make him the leading man in the Arsenal’s talent packed midfield. He’s always been a ball retention expert: spraying the ball left and right, getting forward to offer support, chipping in with the odd goal and all that jazz, but in his most important role yet, Mikel is excelling.
I will throw my hand up as high as I can and admit I was wrong. I wasn’t excited about the signing at first. I saw him as old, knackered, past his best; the usual. But his experience has helped him settle into a very much disrupted midfield after the departure of Cesc Fabregas. I don’t like being wrong. But I like it on this occasion. I will find it hard to doubt Arsene Wenger’s decisions ever again. He knows what he’s doing, I don’t. Simple.
After the departure of Robin van Persie (Boo!) the media need a new man to use as ammo against Arsenal; ‘One man team’ and all that. I nominate Mikel Arteta as the perfect candidate. In the middle of pitch he does an outstandingly outstanding job, acting as ‘the messenger’. Basically, he gets given the message (ball) and he passes it on. He gets the ball and just does what he needs to. He is such an elegant player and I cannot believe how well he has settled in and how quickly he has become an integral part of the squad. This season he has averaged 96 passes per game, with a success rate of 93%. Looking at that you may think all he does is pass. And a player who just passes with no penetration or added skill is just, well, just another Denilson.
But Arteta is different. Not only does he pass like a laxative he also manages to act as the doorman. “Sorry, you’re not getting past” seems to be his on-pitch mantra, and that’s given foundation by his impressive tally of an average 3 interceptions per game, alongside an equally impressive tally of 4.3 tackles per game. Arteta has a naturally calming effect on the midfield; his cool-headed approach means the young stars of tomorrow have someone to look up to and learn from. On top of that his ability to scan the pitch and read the minds of the player in possession allows him to protect the back 4, along with the corresponding midfielders.
It’s these sort of decisions that reinstate the faith in Arsene Wenger and his brilliant brilliance at being brilliant. Some fans were happy with the Arteta signing: classy midfielder, Premier League experience, lovely hair, possession master, free-kick expert, and lovely hair. Did I mention lovely hair? But if the club had said last summer, “Hey Arsenal fans, we’ve replaced Cesc Fabregas… With a 29-year-old central-midfielder, and we want to play him deep”, I’m sure the fans would’ve reached for their bin bags – where has our Arsenal gone?
He’s comfortable on the ball, providing the platform for many attacks but also calming the team by knocking it back to Per Mertesacker, or Vermaelen. And when knocking the ball forward both he and Santi Cazorla combine well. They’re both naturals with the ball and their instant understanding gives Arsenal a dominant duo, coupled with the other midfielder (Diaby, Ox, Coquelin, whoever) means Arsenal now have a class midfield packed with quality passers, something that the club have long been recognised for.
Being the deepest midfielder is a demanding job but Arteta hears those demands and stamps on them, then stamps on them some more for being cheeky and demanding. He is, naturally, a pivotal midfielder and no top club can do without a player of his importance. He didn’t replace Cesc Fabregas or Samir Nasri position-wise, but he did replace them in terms of importance. The fans feel a genuine affinity with Mikel because of how much he gives the club; he leaves everything on the pitch behind him. So allow me to say: Thank you, David Moyes, you beautiful Scot. We, the fans, of Arsenal Football Club est. 1886, are thankful for you accepting the bid made by the club. Love you xox
126 years ago, workers at the Royal Arsenal decided to create a club. And throughout the years that club has had many different owners, different managers, different punters and many different doormen. And now it’s Mikel’s turn to mind the doors. You’re not getting through there, pal. And if somehow you do, you’re faced with a pair just as tough to get past: Per ‘BFG’ Mertesacker and Thomas ‘Verminator’ Vermaelen. Or Laurent ‘Ninja’ Koscielny. (Psst! Other teams may score. But that’s because the doormen are feeling generous. Just hopefully not too generous.)
Every club has their own unsung hero, and outside of the Arsenal fandom, you rarely see the importance of this man noted. I personally think the club can adequately replace the inventiveness of Santi Cazorla, we coped okay without him last season, but not Arteta. When he was out injured at the end of last season Arsenal really missed his presence. He’s not the biggest guy in the world but his work-ethic, precision tackling and being able to intercept a pass make him a 10ft tall, dominant midfield battling Doorman.
Till next time.
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