On first look, Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira are completely contrasting players. One is tall, Lanky and a hard tackler; the other a small, creative Spanish midfielder, a product of the famed La Masia Academy and far more technically inclined.
But their importance to the team is exactly the same. Their tactical awareness and leadership skills, make both of them formidable opponents, as many found out against Vieira. Mikel Arteta has to be one of the calmest footballers I have ever seen, exuding calmness all over the field. His importance to the team can’t be expressed enough, it is no wonder Wenger had to gamble on his fitness to start him in the last game of the season at St. James’ Park. Last season, the only league game, Arsenal managed to win without Arteta was the last game of the season where, incidentally, Koscielny scored a similar winning goal.
Arteta might be physically small, but his positional awareness allows him to intercept passes smartly, tackle well and he has managed to learn the act of starting counter-attacks at a splits seconds, which Arsenal can use well, with the speed in their ranks, with speedsters like Theo Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Lukas Podolski available. Many fans had doubts at the start of the season on whether he could succeed as a defensive midfielder, and needless to say, he has proved them wrong. Arteta had started out his footballing career as a defensive midfielder, playing alongside the likes of Xavi and Guardiola, but soon converted to a more attacking midfielder, a fact which surely eased his transition as the Arsenal DM. Also, the difference this season with Arteta as a DM, and last season with Song as the DM, is that Arteta offers much more protection than Song did, contrary to popular belief.
Playing in the pivot position has offered Arteta space in which he can play his passes, having played the most number of passes in the top 5 leagues in the world in the last season. His pass completion rate is also one of the best in the top 5 leagues.
The drawback to this shift in position has been a reduction in his attacking contribution to the current Arsenal team. His attacking contribution to Arsenal in the just concluded football season is very much unlike last season where he was not only creating goals scoring opportunities but also getting the goals. Goals such as the ones against Manchester City and Aston Villa the penultimate season will be remembered for a long time, for the distance over which they were scored, both of them comfortably over 25 yards. Arteta has managed to match his last season’s goals tally, but that was mainly because he was Arsenal’s chief penalty taker, missing one in six, and scoring only one open-play goal, against QPR, a game remembered for Jack Wilshire’s return to club football after more than a year out in the sidelines.
Mikel Arteta has been such a monumental player this season for Arsenal, still his achievements have gone unrecognized, but it doesn’t affect him, as he continues to work dedicatedly behind the spotlight. In my opinion, Mikel Arteta should have been named instead of Michael Carrick in PFA’s Team of the Year, simply because of such wonderful stats and his effect on the team that is very obvious to both Arsenal and nor Arsenal fans. Not that I am begrudging Carrick his place, it’s just that there seems a strange preference to Man United players, though Carrick too has been immense this season for United in the season just gone by, his contribution to his team can however not be compared to Arteta’s contribution to Arsenal in the just concluded season.
Do you agree or disagree with me? Air your voice in the comments section of the blog. They ( your comments ) will be treasured.
Written Manan Agrawal