Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Mikel Arteta

Midfield Maestro

When we signed Arteta on deadline I couldn’t help but get engrossed in the whole ‘panic buy’ mentality. We had replaced our captain with a budget equivalent from Everton. When Arteta took the field against Swansea I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew he was cultured and usually at the forefront of all things good in an Everton shirt but what could he add to our side? To my surprise he settled into the middle part of our midfield three, with Ramsey given the licence to roam. This puzzled me somewhat and to be honest by the end of September I was wondering if we had bought Denilson II. He had already scored away to Blackburn but we were left with more questions than answers that day. In truth what was developing was a solid partnership between him and Song. We all know Alex looks a good old charge forward but Arteta’s discipline allows Song to good forward at will. He (Song) still recognises the need for protecting the defence as well but if he does have the rush of blood he is susceptible too, then we will Arteta protecting the back four, whereas previously there wasn’t anyone. Since that horrendous afternoon at Ewood, we have conceded 10 goals in 11 games (3 of which were at Chelsea) which is a huge improvement. I want to give the defence a lot of credit as well but we’ve had that many changes at the back that indicates to me Song and Arteta are the reason why we’ve had such an upturn in our fortunes. The protection they offer now is so much better that what was happening previously.


Arteta’s passing statistics since Blackburn have been phenomenal.

Opponent         Passes/Successful         Completed %
Bolton              62/71                           87%
Thursdays        79/87                           91%
Sunderland       66/73                           90%
Stoke               77/87                           89%
Chelsea           73/78                           94%
WBA               84/93                           90%
Norwich          63/71                           89%
Fulham             78/88                           89%
Wigan              85/97                           88%
Everton            57/64                           89%
City                 67/73                           92%

Now before we all get a bit Denilson about this, those figures are fantastic. Is it a coincidence that has best passing completion ratios are in our 3 biggest games in that list? He takes care of the ball and this clearly eases the burden off our back four. 

Only misplacing five passes v Chelsea (below) is some achievement but even more impressive is he only lost possesion once in our own half.. This game also provided his only assist of the season but that's not to say he isn't creative. He is also the leading league scorer from midfield as well; he has 3, Song and Ramsey are both stuck on 1. Obviously it goes without saying that Cesc’s goal can’t be replaced from midfield but we are currently accommodating that with RVP’s stunning efforts. I do think we need to get more from Aaron Ramsey and I fear it could be his position up for grabs in once Wilshere returns.

Arteta performance against City was equally as impresive. Only misplacing six passes on this occasion. He does seem to have a phobia of the opposition box if you compare the two graphics, but i'll let him off. His work rate is tremendous and in such a competitve envoirment in a packed midfield  it's good to see he can get on the ball and really dictate play. There was a notion from some quarters of Everton support that he went missing in big games. For me, he was probably just surrounded by lesser players. It has a huge impact, imagine the joy of passing to Van Persie instead of Anichebe?

He will never replace Fabregas as he's a completely different player. He's slotted in extremely well at Arsenal and he's only missed 10 of the 1160 minutes available to him! Which is a credit to him given he was thrown into the mix from the word go and he was injured at the beginning of the season. I think we've struck gold with Arteta and whilst Scott Parker laps up all of the praise, it's time Mikel started getting some recognition.

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