Player Performance Analysis | Mikel Arteta

Player Performance Analysis | Mikel Arteta

Going into a tough game against Liverpool, some Arsenal fans wondered how the team would perform without their enforcer, Mathieu Flamini.  Mikel Arteta showed them they have nothing to worry about.  Arteta’s passing was very good, as to be expected, but Arteta was strong defensively, helping Arsenal to a dominant win over Liverpool.   After this performance, fears that Arsenal are thin at the defensive midfielder position should be quelled, after Arteta showed they do in fact have two solid defensive midfielders.

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This was one of Arsenal’s toughest tests of the season, going up against arguably the best strike force in the league.  One of the worries was that Arsenal’s back four would not be able to handle “SAS” on its own.  With Mathieu Flamini out through a groin injury, people worried that Arteta’s lack of athleticism would be exposed.  Arteta controlled the midfield in both offence and defence putting in a complete performance.

Passing

CaptureArtetaPassingArteta’s passing and technical ability have always been his best traits.  Arteta dominated the ball taking 120 touches, 24 more than any Liverpool player.  He attempted 106 total passes, 27 more than any other player on the pitch.  Arteta also kept play ticking over and moved the team forward all day long.  31% of Arteta’s passes were forward and he made seven more final third entries than any other player.  He passed the ball with great accuracy, completing 94% of his passes.

Arteta’s passing and control of the game was key for Arsenal’s victory.  He also played a huge part in Arsenal’s first goal.  Arteta picked the ball up from Aaron Ramsey, then drove the ball forward before slotting a great ball through to release Bacary Sagna.  Sagna then crossed to Santi Cazorla who, after playing a one-two with the post, put the ball in the back of the net for a crucial goal.  Arteta’s ball was perfect putting it on the outside of the wing back, Aly Cissokho, and allowing Sagna to be released to put in the cross.  This part of the game is where Arteta has a huge advantage over Flamini.  Where Flamini can give the ball to other players to make that defence-splitting pass, Arteta can just do it himself.  While Arteta does have that ability, his real strength in that defensive midfield role is as a midfield metronome, where he just picks up the ball deep and sprays passes about, picking out players all over the pitch and helping Arsenal switch play very quickly.

Defending

This is what everyone was concerned about when Flamini broke down.  People were concerned that Arteta would not be able to do the defensive work.  While Arteta did have one or two shaky moments, overall he was superb at defending in the midfield.  He completed six out of seven tackles and won nine of twelve ground duels.  Arteta recovered the ball 13 times, and all of those were either in the defensive third or middle third of the field – he also made two interceptions.

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ArtetaTackleArteta did have a shaky moment early in the game.  Jordan Henderson picked up the ball off Santi Cazorla and ran from the half way line to the penalty box, when Arteta really should have got a challenge in.  His decision to not close down did not prove costly as Bacary Sagna did come back to pressure Henderson, forcing him to take a shot which he scuffed tamely into the hands of Wojciech Szczesny.  While that did not prove costly, that moment was worrying and exactly what people were worried about when Flamini went down injured.  Arteta did not get down on himself and, outside of a missed tackle that resulted in a 30 yard shot from Daniel Sturridge, made tackle after tackle to break up play in the midfield.  Arteta did his job by stopping  the danger before it was real danger.

All but one of Arteta’s tackles and interceptions were outside of the box and he stayed behind the halfway line for most of the game, making sure he was there to help prevent the possibility of a dangerous SAS counter attack.

New Selection Headache

Arteta showed why people thought he was so important last season in this game of controlling the midfield.  He will be playing the games in that position until Flamini comes back from injury but when he does come back that creates a selection headache for Arsene Wenger.  With Flamini playing so well earlier in the season, it will be interesting who Wenger chooses to be his number one defensive midfielder.

It will be interesting to see if Wenger starts using both of them as an axis. Regardless, it is a problem Arsene Wenger and Arsenal will enjoy having.