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New Season’s Key Players: Mikel Arteta

by on July 31, 2012

Hello again, it’s Reece, here writing in Savage’s absence  where he’s disappeared on holiday in India. I was going to be writing articles any way, but I just thought I’d assure you everything’s OK with Savage. 

So, as the new season draws ever closer (18 days left if you’ve still got your eye on the ball) I thought it would be nice to over a few of the players who could play an important part in a big season for our team. It will be vitally important to hit the ground running as we have Sunderland, Stoke (away), Liverpool (away), Southampton, and Manchester City (away) in our opening five fixtures. We have simply no margin for error in these first few fixtures. The fixtures that undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the season – on occasion.

To begin with, a player who surprised more than a few people last year: Mikel Arteta. Moving in from Everton for a free of £10 million, the transfer came under scrutiny as a ‘panic buy’, a ‘silly’ move for a player of 29 years old, one who could never have the same effect on the midfield like Cesc did.

And of course, no one would ever really have an effect like Cesc, but that’s beside the point. Those people who scrutinised were wrong, because Mikel had an effect on the Arsenal midfield but he had an effect in his own way. Cesc was obviously more of a playmaker but, since his move to Arsenal, Mikel has moved into the ‘pivot’, allowing the more forward players to cause more damage.

Mikel last season was simply sublime. What he did was make the team tick, he made the team able to keep the ball better, and he became the engine.

What he did in the midfield was wondrous at times: he covered the spaces left by the others – he stayed back and controlled the game in front of the defence, rather than go up.  He linked up play between defence, midfield, and attack which made him incredibly influential in the midfield for us.

Much has been said in the past about his ability to cope with physical play, with more than a few injuries playing for Everton in the past, but with an 82% tackle success rate, it’s clear that he can stamp his authority in the midfield when it comes to physical approach play.

And more on the stats side, Mikel averaged the most passes of all players in the Premier League last season and was the 5th most accurate passer too with an accuracy of 90%. Long noted as a visionary and a creative player, Mikel also created 63 goalscoring opportunities last season. With the most accurate passes made of any Arsenal player last season, Mikel was the player that provided the stability we needed in our midfield.

If none of this is enough, he’s a set piece specialist too. 19 of the 63 goalscoring opportunities provided last season by Mikel were from set pieces. And who can forget that free kick against Aston Villa?

Watching him play, you can see how his close control plays a huge part in his game. With it, he’s able to navigate tight midfield spaces. There’s no doubt that Arteta knows how to play the game of football. He’s intelligent, with great composure and ability to see space and where to move. Key when we need to retain the ball.

And this intelligence draws out the best in players.

If any player was to thrive on Arteta’s presence last season, it was Alex Song. Alex Song, now with more freedom to roam in the midfield, picked up a career best 11 assists in the Premier League last season.

So, Mikel may not be a Cesc or a Nasri but now, with Mikel in the midfield, we have much more fluency. With something like 77 passes a game, on average, last season, Arteta is the heartbeat of the midfield. We seem to have more life in there. And that’s why he’s so important to us.

Thanks for reading. Once again you can follow me on twitter @reece_sim and send endless abuse to me if you like. 

From → Reece's Column

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  1. New start. | Mikel Arteta's Small Feet

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