Monday, 9 April 2012

Why Arteta’s match-winning performance against City repaid Wenger’s summer gamble

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Today Joss Bennett looks at Mikel Arteta's performance against Manchester City.

Labelled a ‘panic buy’ and desperate reaction Arsenal’s humiliating loss at Old Trafford in August last year, Mikel Arteta has since become one of the best summer signings of the season, with only the likes of Demba Ba running him close.

The Spaniard, signed from Everton for £10 million is by no means a direct replacement for Cesc Fabregas, but his experience has been vital to Arsenal’s resurgence in the last few months of the season.

Since his arrival in North London, Arteta has won three ‘Man of the Match’ awards from statistics website, WhoScored and is on a par with Chelsea’s Juan Mata in terms of goals scored, with 6.

Three screamers against Wigan, Aston Villa and now Manchester City has put Arteta firmly in the hearts of the Arsenal faithful, while his consistently excellent passing (he averages 90.6% accuracy this season*) has helped the Gunners control games with ease.

Another excellent display against Manchester City, this time in a deeper midfield role helped Arsenal to their first three points in this fixture for three years. Despite starting at the back of a three man midfield with Alex Song, Arteta was part of a well organised and disciplined trio that pushed up and pressed as a unit to force the opposition into their own half, with the Spaniard himself making the most tackles of anyone on the pitch (4)*.

Tactically, Arteta’s role in the side is rarely over-complicated. As a distributor, he is a completely different player to Jack Wilshere, who one would assume would be his main competitor next season.

Against Man City, Wenger took several risks – deploying a high defensive line, and starting Yossi Benayoun, for example – but was more cautious with the midfield.

Alex Song was relatively withdrawn, with Arteta restricted to runs off the ball and even then, clearly instructed to pick the ball up and almost immediately move it out wide (where Walcott did well to find space by hugging the touchline on the right), making 78 passes compared to his average of 72 per game this season*.

Instead, it was left to Tomas Rosicky and Alex Song to be the main creative forces, who attempted three and four through-balls respectively during the game compared to Arteta’s one*.

Arteta’s deeper role allowed the former Barcelona man to control the game as he usually would (denying Man City a chance to get settled and establish a foothold in the game) but also meant Arsenal were far better equipped to deal with opposition counter-attacks.

In addition to making the most tackles, Arteta also made the most interceptions (5) and committed just one foul*. It didn’t take long for City to realise that they weren’t going to get much joy attacking through the middle, but with City’s forwards preferring to cut inside and make runs behind the defence, the away side struggled to find the target with most of their more ambitious passes.

In many ways, Arteta’s 87th minute goal (not – as many have claimed – the Number 8’s eighth goal of the season in the 88th minute to put Man Utd eight points clear) epitomised the cool simplicity with which he operates.

Pushing forward only to close down a typically sloppy pass out from the back, Arteta took one touch before firing the ball into the back of the net to give Arsenal a deserved win and move them two points clear (with a game in hand) of Spurs.

Arteta’s slick passing and no-nonsense approach to attacking has been a welcome addition to an Arsenal squad in much need of something different. At 29 years-old, signing Arteta posed a significant risk for Wenger, who thankfully ignored suggestions the Spaniard is two years too old to make his mark at the Emirates – proved once again by his performance on Sunday.

Follow Ashburton Grove on Twitter, chatting Arsenal throughout the day. To receive the blog everyday you can subscribe via e-mail or take the RSS feed to your favourite reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment