Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Arteta has been crucial to getting the best out of other players"

On New to The Arsenal we'll look at the signings Arsene Wenger made during the Summer transfer window and look at each individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Today Joss Bennett looks at Mikel Arteta's influence since joining in a £10m deal from Everton.

What was considered by many at the time as a rushed, last minute signing made two years too late has turned into arguably one of the best captures of the summer transfer window. Mikel Arteta has been crucial to Arsenal’s recent turn around in form with his unmatched* ability to keep possession and control games.

One of Arsenal’s main problems at the start of the season was a lack of creativity in the middle of the park following the sale of Cesc Fabregas. Although Arteta has helped in this aspect too, it was evident that without controlling games, it would be difficult to create chances regardless of personnel. Arteta’s more disciplined role in what has developed into a more or less flat midfield three, has been crucial to getting the best out of other players.

Capable of moving forward on and off the ball, but equally good at staying put in the centre, Arteta has provided an important balance in midfield and has allowed Aaron Ramsey in particular to flourish in a more advanced role. Not only has he given Ramsey more freedom, Arteta has also helped take some of the creative weight off the Welsh captain’s shoulders.

Another reason why Arsenal have struggled recently is the importance placed on Cesc Fabregas – when the Spanish talisman was injured, there were very few players who could at least combine to make up for the lost creativity.

Ramsey is clearly the long-term replacement for Fabregas, and is the primary creative outlet even now. But Arteta (even if only a stop-gap while Wilshere is injured) has helped share the responsibilities as well – chipping in with two goals and one assist together with 2.5 key passes per game, and 0.4 through-balls per game1.

Arteta’s versatility and ability to get the best out of other players has also helped the other main man in midfield this season. Alex Song’s 7.4 Whoscored rating suggests his best season so far, despite Arsenal’s rocky start at the back, and is clearly benefiting from the added experience Arteta has brought to the side.

Again, Arteta has helped in the defensive phase himself, too – averaging 2.1 tackles per game (the third most in the squad**) and 1.6 interceptions per game in the Premier League this season1.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the signing of Mikel Arteta has given Arsene Wenger an interesting alternative to Arsenal’s playing style. While his main role has been to dictate the tempo and help his side control the game, his passing range has been vital to allowing the side move through the gears quickly and effectively – averaging 5.3 long balls per game in the Premier League1.

This has been even more important in the Champions League, where Arsenal have adapted from all-out attack, to a more counter-attacking approach.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

In twelve games so far for the Gunners, Arteta has shrugged off criticism about his age, passivity and reputation to become one of Arsenal’s best players this season, while a move to a big club seems to have done his own career wonders.

Whether or not Arsenal should have signed him two years ago or not is impossible to argue now, but his stats suggest he is well on his way to one of his best domestic seasons since coming to England.

*Arteta has the highest pass completion rate (91%) in the Premier League and is the only player in England in the Top 10 players for most passes per game1.

1 OPTA statistics provided by

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

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