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Thank You David Moyes, And Welcome The Wise Old Head

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Thank You David Moyes, And Welcome The Wise Old Head

Mike Urbanski

Yes, thank you, David Moyes.  And welcome the “Wise Old Head”.

A year ago Denilson, in perhaps the most astute observation he’s ever had, mentioned in an interview that our beloved Arsenal were lacking.  Lacking in leadership on and off the pitch.  Blasphemy, many cried!  How dare you?  We have Cesc!  We have Robin!  Wanker!  Tw**…well, you get the picture.

His comments hurt because many of us knew in our hearts it was somewhat true.  We all love(d) Cesc.  Many of us still do.  We all love Robin, he of the blessed goal.  And, of course, we love Arsene and The Arsenal.  But what if…what if it was true?  What if the leadership needed for the team just wasn’t happening?  There’s no denying Cesc’s exploits while wearing an Arsenal shirt.  There’s no denying Robin’s love of the Badge.  And I’m not in any way laying this off on them as the more senior players in the squad.  Even Cesc mentioned that the lack of a senior player…a Vieira-type bloke to really take command was perhaps missing at times.

The Arsenal, under His Lordship Arsene Wenger, has taken football to heights previously unseen in England.  The style.  The panache.  The goals of absolute beauty.  The Invincibles.  We’ve been drowned in talent for so many years it’s hard to remember what “One Nil To The Arsenal” matches were really like.

David Moyes never had that talent.  David Moyes never fielded a team on the pitch the likes of what Arsene Wenger could draw on, even on Moyes’ best day.  David Moyes and his players simply had to make do.  And for six years under Moyes, Mikel Arteta learned how to lead under those circumstances.  He learned how to win with a squad that had heart, but not great talent.  Knew how to fight, but was often bereft of technical skill to equal the top sides.  The spirit of fighting for points, leadership through hard work and guts was what Mikel Arteta learned under David Moyes, and Arsenal owe them both a debt of gratitude.

Early this season it was all a bit shambolic.  The dreadful draw against Newcastle.  The second half failure against Liverpool.  And United away.  A worse beginning could not have been scripted.

Then in came Arteta, released at the last possible moment by Moyes on deadline day.  But what did we get on this last minute deal?  Cesc part deux?  No.  A flashy play maker of the sublime pass?  Umm…not really.  A gut-busting runner in the middle?  Nope, not that either.

There have been some frustrations vented at Mikel Arteta so far.  Not many, but a few.  I would caution against that.  Watch closely what he does on the pitch.  He runs the attack, allowing Ramsey to venture forward.  Or he lets Ramsey run the attack by sitting deeper.  He defends the middle higher up the pitch, freeing Alex Song to connect to the back four without fear of losing the middle.  He’s smooth on the ball.  He makes SMART passes, if not always flashy.  But most of all he is CALM in the middle and he does what’s needed and quietly leads from the center of the pitch.

There are many kinds of leadership.  I’ve had the pleasure, and sometimes the misfortune to be under several managers kinds of managers in my life.  And, depending on the situation, different styles fit different situations.  Denilson, I think, was calling for a Tony Adams or Patrick Vieira guy.  A lot of Arsenal supporters agreed with that.  But I think Arsenal have moved past that situation to where a more cerebral leadership is required.  Certainly fire and passion on the pitch are necessary, and the odd bollicking doesn’t go amiss.  But the thunder-voiced hard man would seem terribly out of place in this squad.

Cesc was a leader on the pitch through his performance, but not perhaps, the leader of the squad.  Does it not seem that this Arsenal side “belongs” more to Robin van Persie with him taking the arm band?  Why is that?  Robin is not a yeller.  Robin doesn’t go around clouting people on the head to get things done.  And yet, he LEADS.  And, I would argue, Mikel Arteta leads as well.

What Mikel Arteta has brought to this side, what Denilson was asking for last year, was the Wise Old Head.  Someone who’s been through the wars, been forged in the fight.  Someone who understood that it’s easy to lead when you’re winning, but infinitely harder to find it inside when things go against you as they so often have done in recent seasons for us.  A Wise Old Head gets through adversity.

A Wise Old Head doesn’t put that head down when Chelsea score the go ahead goal just before halftime or equalize late in the match.  The Wise Old Head digs a bit deeper, calling on reserves of mental strength and leadership to find a way to win.

So, from me to David Moyes, a hearty Thank You.  And to Mikel Arteta…welcome, the Wise Old Head.

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30 comments to Thank You David Moyes, And Welcome The Wise Old Head

  • walter

    Great Mike, just great. Loved it!

    yes I have known a few people being critical for Arteta because he is no Cesc. He never will be a Cesc. He doesn’t have to be a Cesc.

    But I had also noticed that he is a brillant invisible player if you know what I mean.
    A player that almost only is noticed when you review a game (and I do review a lot of games so i should know) and then you see how his influence is very big in each game.

    When we bought Arteta (and Benayoun if you want my opinion) I wrote that those two players will be the best thing happening to Ramsey and Wilshere.
    Arteta will be the one that will give Ramsey the chance to complete his learning curve. And what a major player he is becoming. I hate Shawcross even more when seeing him play like in the last games.

    In our CL game against Marseille our match reporter said that there was no no-mens land on the Emirates pitch; (he was talking about a ball going lose for both teams) he called it Ramsey-land because Aaron was just always there.
    And this was only possible because of Arteta being the invisible force behind Ramsey.

  • Mihir

    Lovely piece Mike! We do owe Everton our deepest gratitude. All in all it was a win win deal for both sides!

  • andy bishop

    Arteta…spot on and just what we needed, calm experienced leadership by example. The team spirit is well and truly back. Van Persie is a class act..no frills or avoidance or scratching the back of his head when he is asked a question..just the plain, level headed truth. The way the club has bounced back (still a long way to go but…) out of adversity is pure class and makes me proud to be a gooner.

  • TheSKAGooner

    Thanks, folks. 🙂

    Oddly enough, the thing that compelled me to write this was a mistake by Arteta against West Brom. In the first half, a ball was sent over to him with not much pace (by Song, I believe), and you could see Arteta’s thinking as he waited for it, was going to let the ball cross his body and then turn left, away from pressure and into open space in the middle. But the ball never got there – it was pipped by a West Brom player and they had their first real venture into our box (which Koscielny duly squelched in fine manner). It actually reminded me of the Anfield match where Shava scored 4. On his second, Arbeloa waited in the same fashion to receive a poorly weighted pass just outside the Liverpool area, Shava nipped in and blasted his second goal.

    In any event, after watching this weekends match, then re-watching it as I always do, it occurred to me that the mistake by Arteta was really the ONLY thing I saw amiss with his performance. It really stuck out, so I decided to watch the match a 3rd time, just focusing on Arteta and it was pretty amazing, I must say. You’re absolutely right, Walter, in that he’s invisible, but that’s what makes him so damned effective. His calmness on the ball, the quick smart pass, the vision to see a break developing and move the attack forward in such a way that it’s just natural instead of flashy…it’s fantastic and you don’t notice it unless you’re really looking. Then you sit back and say to yourself…WOW.

    I have to say also that I think Arteta’s presence in the lineup has helped van Persie with his leadership on the pitch. Robin owns this team. But I would argue that having a lieutenant like Arteta in midfield gives Robin more freedom to lead from the front (and not just in a goal scoring way).

  • Dada

    Refreshing to read a blog who actually understand football. Too many people try to compare Arteta to Fabregas but he is more of a Xabi Alonso type player who hardly gets the credit he deserves. He will be a big player for us this season 🙂

  • Travis

    Interestingly, 3 goals we scored against Westbrom came from 3 leaders of their own areas.

    I mean, we truly have leaders on the pitch. Naturally or forged through hard fights, they are showing a true color of Arsenal with their talents, mental strength and more importantly, the pride and joy to wear the Holy Red and White shirt. I can feel they do really want to win the war against the world. They want to shit on the face of doubters by taking their club through rough patch to the end of the road with their heads up.

    Together, we’re walking talk with their leads.

  • Ik

    I voted him as my man of the match because I knew every other person wld go for Persie and Vermalean but Arteta was like the hardest working player on the pitch, from attack to defence. Thank God we have him.

  • Paul Collins

    Does anyone else think Jack Wilshire might have a hard time getting into the team when he is fit? Arteta, Song and Ramsey seem to be building a very, very nice understanding together and seem to be a lovely mix of styles. It will be a nice problem to have.

  • Lawrence Mpundu

    It is a blessing in disguise to have Arteta at Arsenal. Give the guy four months at Emirates, he would never be the same as he was at Everton. Arteta is a different creature on the ball and please stop comparing Arteta to Cesc. These two are different people and they have different style of play. In as much as they born from different mothers, that is how different they are even in terms of play because they are not one and the same. Arteta has hia own weaknesses ans strength so is Cesc and therefore the two cannot be the same. Arteta keep it up and keep on improving each day you are on the field. We fans in Africa love you and cherish you. Bravo Arteta Bravo Wenger

  • Arvind

    Nice article Mike. Thanks. And yes.. Among all the northern clubs I think Everton are the ones who have beaten us without kicking us left and right. The proper way. So I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Couldn’t have called it better Mike..Arteta knows how to fight, no worries about that at all. Every year at Everton, bad start, no strikers, relegation and always always ending up in the top 8. You cannot do that if you can’t fight.

    And lastly, I hope Denilson does well somewhere. He had numerous qualities that many did not appreciate, at such a young age and might have made it had the AAA given the kid more time. He has the exact same skill set as Arteta but with lesser experience. If Denilson had come good, there is no way AW would have bought Mikel. But hey… maybe what happened was best for all.

  • Mike thanks for that piece,but do not forget the invisible lieutenants Bilong,Gervinho makes the Arsenal tick. Rember Titi, he told the premiership defenders to very wary of master Gervinho he makes football look easier in all the whole team is a joy to watch.

  • Johnny

    Re. Dada. Spot on my oldson, that is exactly the type of role he is playing for us. Arteta is the link between defence(song) and attack(ramsey) in much the same way Alonso was for the scousers, he was the link between Mascherano and Stevie Gee in the liverpool side that nearly won the title. Both players are and were unsung heroes but i bet their teamates appreciate them. Mikel Arteta has given this team the balance it has been sadly lacking since Flamini left. Top, top article by the way, its nice to see we still have a have a few supporters who know their football. I pretty much said the same thing at the game on Saturday and all i got in return were a few grunts and vacant expressions.

  • FinnGooner

    Great article and great timing;)
    Arsenal.com today :
    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-we-re-fortunate-to-have-arteta
    and
    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/arteta-we-ve-been-working-to-be-more-solid

    Sadly being amazing but invisible player does mean more critizing than praising (mainly those who just look at how many goals player scores or concede/save). I guess Arteta also needed little time to get to know his teammates and get that understanding with them (knowing what other will do without speaking on pitch).
    Hopefully we have this team without any big changes for couple of years and then others should worry…

  • critic

    if he can only stick to one goal post while defending the corner instead of floating on the goal line…

  • nicky

    @Arvind,
    Agree entirely with your remarks re Denilson. The AAA have a lot to answer for.
    @Mike,
    Agree with all you say about Arteta. In the matter of the Captain though, IMO we have not had a real leader à la Vieira for many a year. Neither Henry, Fabregas or Van Persie was or is the type of leader the Club needs in order to prosper. Each man leads by example only, which is not right. And Henry and Van Persie held and hold positions from which a captain should not be chosen. The captain should ideally come from midfield or the back four, from which he can see all the play before him, most of the time.
    For Arsenal, there is only one born leader to my mind, both in position and character. Vermaelen meets the bill in all respects and by making him vice-captain, Arsene Wenger has acknowledged his qualities.

  • GiantGooner

    Of course, Arteta goes to the bench once Jack comes back – but he’ll be a great rotational player and allow us to not have to run Jack “into the red” the way Arsene did last year. Now we need to get an Arteta equivalent at center midfield and striker so we don’t have to run Rambo and RVP the same way we did Wilshere…

  • sammypels

    nice right up…..frankly speaking Arteta has been class act so far…statistically,he made more passes than the whole WBA midfield put together….i wonder he doesnt ve a gunner name just yet like,robin vantastic,verminator,rambo,fearless,tank and the likes……maybe “lieutenant colonel art”..will do….keep the faith gunners…

  • Richard B

    Isn’t it strange how Newcastle have got rid of their so called leaders – the ones who ‘led by example’, kicked the opposition and berated refs (Barton and Nolan) and have been turned into a side that tries to play football and does so quite successfully?
    The media in this country overpraises what they call spirit and doesn’t give enough praise to quiet leadership and skill. Thank goodness Wenger doesn’t take any notice of them.

  • Despite the media fawning over David Silva, the only player in the EPL to get into the European top ten passers (by number of passes per game on average) is one Mikel Arteta…
    Other names on the list include; Xavi, Thiago Alcantara, A Mr F. Fabregas Soler (never heard of him?), the usual suspects.

  • brentCPH

    Here’s something all of us gunners can smile about:

    Liverpool-Andy Carol & Jordan Henderson = about 50m pounds..Arsenal-Mikel Arteta, Gervinho, Mertersaker, Park, Andre Santos & Ox Chamberlain = about 50m pounds… difference in points between Title Challengers Liverpool and Relegation Fodder Arsenal: 0

  • Iniez

    Arteta hasn’t been spoiled. He understands what he has and the opportunity he’s been given. A real salt of the earth bloke, really respect this man. I feel santos isn’t far from him character-wise

  • Waleed

    Yes, agree. But why can’t he just stay at his post on corners?

  • Waleed

    I see that critic got there first.

    Anyway, I think the one man team jibe is way off the mark. We are at least a two man team.

    When Wenger bought Arteta, he said he would provide us with “technical security” and you can see exactly what Wenger meant. He allows us to keep possession, to remain calm, to DOMINATE the game.
    And yes, it’s not just his technical ability, but his experience and leadership as well.

    There’s a reason he’s played in every game for us so far since he joined, barring the league cup.

    Let’s hope Wilshere returns on time to provide him with a bit of rest and rotation because we’ll need him at the business end of the season.

    Unlike Nasri and Cesc, he won’t choke when the pressure’s on. He will fight for The Arsenal.

  • Sharpshooter

    I would like to make a bet – that Mikel Arteta will get his first cap for Spain in the next 6 months. Better later than never…

  • Shard

    Don’t forget that Arteta drifting around off his post also got us a fantastic goal line clearance a few matches ago. Can’t remember which one it was. Maybe Marseille away? Or Olympiakos. So, let’s not be too harsh on him.

  • Clerkenwell Gooner

    Interesting that AW bought Arteta – he’s the only one on that list, aside from the baby Ox, who has bags of Premier League experience.

    While we could have obviously profited from Alonso’s presence (and who knows what might have happened Cesc-wise if we had – although my suspicion now, having seen Fabregas in the current Barça team, is that he always intended to return, simply in order to play with his childhood friend Leo Messi; no trophy haul won with Arsenal, however large, would have stopped that), Arteta is a fine alternative. And a steal at a reported £10m. I bet his wages also are nowhere near what Alonso’s (CL winner, Euro 08 winner) would have been.

    AW doesn’t just watch the players, he watches the fire sales as well. Man City got Silva on the same basis from Valencia, which had to let him go for economic reasons, and Silva is bossing the Blue Mancs in the way expected of a member of the current Spain squad.

    I don’t think Arteta will ever make the Spain team – for age reasons, apart from anything else – but in a way, better for us that he doesn’t. With every other member of our midfield in national side, having one completely rested after the break will be a bonus. (He was in the Spain squad in 2009, but got badly injured, and missed months and months – I remember how concerned his Spain colleagues were for him at the time, I think he’s a popular fellow.)

    I wish him well at Arsenal. He reminds me a little of Eduardo – quiet, unassuming, but efficient and deadly when it matters.

    (It would be an interesting exercise to go back to the AAA and see how many of the names AW signed this summer featured in all the invective about who he should buy in the past few years. I remember a lot about Hazard, possibly Mertesacker – but don’t recall many mentions of Arteta, Santos, Park. Unfortunately, I haven’t got the stomach for it.)

  • Clerkenwell Gooner

    Sorry re: ^^, didn’t mean Ox has “bags of PL experience”, just that he’s got some knowledge of playing in England, while none of the others have.

  • Mahdain

    just look at this an d you`ll realise how impressive arteta is http://twitpic.com/7c60od

  • Ed

    i think he looks more like Tom Cruise than er… Tom Cruise from last season. haha!

    Walter gave a little mention to Benayoun as well earlier, but i also want to say i have been impressed with him. I thought he was excellent at West Ham, didnt see much of him at Liverpool and Chelsea, but when he has come on, hes done a great job, hardly loses the ball, has great quick feet, and always seems to get out of tight situations surrounded by defenders with the ball. if he could run a bit faster, he would be ahead of arshavin in the team selection!