In the dying hours of the summer transfer window, it was announced that Mikel Arteta was the final item on Arsene Wenger’s deadline day shopping list. Although his pedigree was undoubted after six stellar seasons with Everton, it had been feared that Wenger had once again opted for the cheaper option in the club’s bid to fill the gaping hole left by the likes of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas.
Thankfully though, the Spaniard has proved to be exactly what the side needed. Blessed with an abundance of technical ability and battle hardened by six years in the Premier league, Arteta has played a pivotal role in the transformation of an Arsenal side that has went from an 8-2 Manchester United drubbing to one brimming with confidence on the back of a seven game winning streak.
The 30-year-old midfielder has become what most Arsenal fans hoped Denilson would. Lying deep (often the furthest back of the midfield trio) Arteta has proved to be a slick, efficient dictator of the ball.
The accuracy of his passes, given the variety he attempts, is nothing short of astonishing. In the Premier league this season, Arteta has completed a mammoth 1,792 passes- a tally only bettered by Yaya Toure. Considering the fact that he has a 90.5% accuracy with these passes, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were simple without much potency, which couldn’t be any further from the truth.
In the 25 games Arteta has played this season, he has created 54 chances at a rate of 2.2 per game- the second best in the Arsenal squad (behind van Persie with 2.4). More impressively, out of the top 10 passers in Europe, only Andrea Pirlo (3) and Xavi (2.4) have made more key passes per game than Mikel Arteta.
Next Page: More on Mikel Arteta’s passing…
There is also great variety to his play, with the Spaniard completing a total of 24 accurate crosses with an accuracy of 25% (a very respectable percentage accuracy)- the second most in the Arsenal squad with the joint best accuracy. He has also completed 5.3 accurate long balls per game (the highest average in the squad) with an impressive 87.5% accuracy. Not bad for a last-minute “panic buy”.
Beneath this ability to stretch and dictate the play with his evident passing ability lays his often overlooked defensive contribution. During previous seasons, an all too common sight when watching Arsenal was being caught out on the counter as the midfield three left the back four exposed. But, with the inclusion of Arteta in the side, this has become a much rarer sight at the Emirates. Averaging 1.9 interceptions and 2.5 tackles per game, Arteta’s defensive contribution is one that most predominantly defensive midfielders would find respectable. This has given the midfield much more balance, giving Song the license to contribute offensively as Arteta sits back and clears up the play when needed, as opposed to- as mentioned before- Song being caught up-field with Wilshere and Fabregas as the opposition break quickly.
All in all, Arteta is efficient and extremely effective. He’s no Cesc Fabregas, but still a vital cog in the balanced midfield trio which has been key to Arsenal’s resurgence. While not the most glamorous of signings, Arteta’s quality is (as it has been for some time) undeniable and his experience essential. His passes are often short, crisp and to a nearby team-mate as he looks to keep the ball rolling, although Arteta has it in his locker to pluck a 35-yard pass out of thin air with pin-point accuracy to stretch the play or split the defense with a telling ball.
While Wenger has since admitted his intention to get transfers done and dusted a lot quicker next time round, he must undoubtedly crack a wry smile at the excellent £10m bit of business he pulled off this time round. Hats off to Arsenal’s pivotal playmaker Mikel Arteta.