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The new ones: controlling the middle of the field

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“Making the Arsenal”is available on Amazon, Arsenal on line, the Woolwich Arsenal site and in the Arsenal store.

By Walter Broeckx

As I mentioned at the start of my last article in this series on “The New Ones” there were many who thought at the start of the season that all we had bought was utterly rubbish. So after 3 months it might be a nice moment to see how rubbish they were.

Let us move to midfield and see what we can find about Arteta. First of all Arteta is Basque. This means that he was born in the Basque county which is part of Spain and has a partial autonomy like Cataluña.  So he could be called up to play exhibition games for the Basque team one day.

As you probably know he started to play as a kid with his best friend Xabi Alonso and they both dreamed to play for their local club Real Sociedad. It never came that far. Arteta joined Barcelona but couldn’t get himself in the team. A loan to PSG was next and then he went to Rangers where he won everything in one season. He was a fan favourite over there and then he went to his dream club Real Sociedad to play with Alonso… who then left for Liverpool.

But they reunited somehow in the city of Liverpool as Arteta went to Everton and Alonso played for the red part in Liverpool. And then this summer he came to the Arsenal.

He made his debut in the home game against Swansea. In the EPL he played 11 games so far of which we lost 2, had 1 draw and won the others. That is 8 wins with Arteta being on the score sheet 3 times. During his career he has been very constant in fact with having a goal or an assist in every 4th game. He is right on that number at Arsenal again. And I do think he will improve on this in the next weeks and months.

Because of his background and position he is of course compared with Cesc.  No midfielder wants to be compared with Cesc. As it is impossible to be better than Cesc. (I still have to admit it that I think Cesc is probable the best all round midfielder in the world even if he now plays for the **** inBarcelona). So let us all do us a favour and certainly do Arteta a favour for not comparing him to Cesc.

Arteta is someone who runs the show in midfield. But not the show in show boating. No, he has some other qualities that sometimes go unnoticed. Cesc could do the world class pass a few times in each game. Arteta doesn’t have the killer ball in his feet that much. But what he does have in abundance is a fighting spirit.

And he is not just there to show his quality and try a stupid back heel in dangerous position. You will hardly see such things from him. If possible he will try to play football but if needed he will kick the ball no matter where it will end as long as the ball is safe and away from our own goal.

Things that go unnoticed like holding himself back when others go forward. Believe me managers do love players who have this vision on a pitch. Of course he has great skill. But he is not the player who wants to show his skills just for the sake of showing them. He wants to keep the ball in the team and help the team with his passing.

His defensive work is unseen and certainly if you compare it with Cesc then we can only come to the conclusion that Arteta puts a very hard shift in. He is also a man of the clever foul. A little nudge here, a little push there, a little clip of an opponent who has won the ball…. Those little fouls that are sometimes so needed to stop the other team trying to start a counter attack. If Arteta is near he will make the needed foul if he sees a counter is on. Again not what we come to the stadium for but very much needed at times….even for Arsenal. Maybe even more for Arsenal than before. He makes most of the fouls apart from Song at Arsenal.

And him putting in this defensive shift in all his games might be the difference between the Arsenal of the past seasons and the current Arsenal. Last season our defence was left to deal with defending on their own. But now the midfielders like Arteta (and also Ramsey and Song of course) are helping out the defence whenever it is needed. Maybe we will get hit on the break in games as this is inevitable at times but you can always see Arteta putting in his best effort to come and help the defenders.

I think that by his example the team work rate has gone up a lot. I even think he will point at his team mates and tell them to put their foot in. He is always running and trying to be free to collect the ball and doesn’t spill the ball that much. And for a team like Arsenal that wants to keep possession this is very important.

When it comes to scoring he can score from outside with his decent shot or from close range. He has a well controlled shot when he finds himself in a good position. And maybe this is the key word about Arteta: “control”. Defensive control, offensive control, ball control. He likes to be in control of the game and so Arsenal and Arteta are a perfect match.

Control and experience is what we wanted after Cesc and Nasri leaving and certainly after Jack was known to be out for a very long time with his injury. I think Arteta has brought this all to Arsenal this season. The only worry I have is that he would get injured before Jack or others like Diaby are completely fit again. I do think he will be the perfect role model for Jack and once Jack is back he will finally have a bit of rest because he sure does play a lot. Meanwhile just keep our fingers crossed.

I must say another great deadline buy for Arsenal. Another one leading by example. Another one very happy to be at a club at the top and playing Champions League football. Finally for him I would say the missing piece in his career so far.

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11 comments to The new ones: controlling the middle of the field

  • LRV

    Very precise, Walter. That’s our Arteta to a T.

  • Damien Luu

    “Things that go unnoticed like holding himself back when others go forward.” Couldn’t agree more. Arsene himself has also praised Arteta for this, said that he had to sacrifice his desire to go forward sometimes. Arteta is surely smart, and mature. I love it since the first time I saw him playing (for us).

  • dan

    3 seasons ago I dreamed about Arteta playing alongside Cesc, and what a great understanding they would have. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be but he still ended up with us.

  • Arvind

    Big big fan of Mikel Arteta. Hope he stays with us till he retires.

  • Anne

    @Walter:

    I really enjoyed this. Very informative.

  • steve vallins

    A little thought when Jack is fit where do you think he will play ? Along side our existing midfield 4-4-2 dropping a forward or replacing 1 of our very successfull midfield players to keep our normal shape . I endorse everything what you have said re Arteta

  • Johnny Deigh

    You can see that Arteta has been playing as a DM alongside Song with Ramsey taking the more advanced role. Arteta has not replaced Cesc. He has replaced Denilson.

  • John

    I thought Cesc defensive side is lacking?

  • Dan

    I think his addition to the team is also fantastic for our upcoming players like Ramsey and particularly Wilshere. To have spent time playing with and learning from Cesc and getting the creative vision and killer pass and now with Arteta learning that the game is not all about fancy tricks and beautiful football all of the time and that work rate and solidity is equally, if not more, important.

  • Aan

    This was the most sentimental piece in this blog so far.

  • Russell

    Arteta may never be able to ‘replace’ Fabregas but I think he is a better player for Arsenal. Fabregas was a fantastic midfielder during his time at Arsenal but his reluctance to defend meant we had to stick to a very rigid formation with two defensive midfielders. Instead, now we have 3 very gifted midfielders who are equally capable of defending and attacking. This gives Arsenal a far more fluent system making them a lot less predictable for the opposition. In many previous years it has been possible to strangle Arsenal by man marking Fabregas out of the game, this is no longer an option for the opposition.
    Arteta’s willingness to defend has allowed Alex Song a lot more freedom, just take a look at his run down the wing against Dortmund and his fantastic assist to RVP against Everton.
    Don’t get me wrong I appreciate everything Fabregas did for us and he was without a doubt one of the finest midfielders in the premier league in his time with Arsenal but his loss may just be Arsenal’s gain (and I never thought I would have said that!)