Position : Central Midfielder
Nation : Spain
2011/2012 Appearances : 38 (1 as sub)
Signed from Everton on deadline day in August 2011, for a fee of £10 million, Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta has quickly gone on to become one of the most important players for the club. Having turned out for Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Glasgow Rangers in the past, he came in with a lot of experience.
Here’s how Arteta has fared in his first season as a Gunner.
He made his debut in Arsenal’s first league win of the season, a 1-0 against Swansea. He played alongside Alex Song, more as a ‘pivot’, in games to come. He started against Borussia Dortmund, ending in a 1-1 draw and scored his first goal against Blackburn, though Arsenal lost 4-3.
Arteta slowly showed his qualities were influencing the team with some polished performances against Bolton and Olympiakos. He was well overshadowed by Tottenham’s Scott Parker in the North London derby, with the English midfielder curtailing the Spaniard’s passing.
However, his performances gradually improved in wins over Sunderland, Marseille and Stoke, as his passing looked more composed and he settled into the midfield. The feature was his high pass success rate, and his ability to shift play from defence to attack.
He played a vital role in Arsenal’s 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge, and assisted van Persie for the 5th goal. He scored a fine goal in the 3-0 home win over West Bromwich Albion. More good displays were to follow against Norwich and Fulham in the league. He played a major role in the 2-1 win over German champions Borussia Dortmund, as Arsenal won the midfield battle against the young and exciting Gotze, Kagawa and Kehl.
He followed that up with a brilliant long range shot in a 4-0 win away at Wigan. He played for the first time against his former club, Everton, on the club’s 125th anniversary, which ended in a 1-0 win. More calm displays came in a 1-0 loss to Manchester City and a 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
Arteta struggled against Wolves, but played well in a tight win over QPR. Arsenal’s midfield was completely overriden by Fulham’s as Arteta portrayed a frustrated figure in a 2-1 loss at Craven Cottage. He was awarded captaincy in the FA Cup 3rd Round game against Aston Villa, where he led the team well, as a late Henry goal sealed passage to the next round.
Arteta suffered a calf injury before the Swansea game, and this would keep him out of that loss in Wales and a 2-1 loss at home to Manchester United. He would come on as a sub in the 3-2 win over Aston Villa in the 4th Round of the FA Cup. He controlled the midfield brilliantly against Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland as Arsenal slowly looked to turn around their league fortunes.
A major blow was struck to Arsenal’s confidence as they lost 4-0 to AC Milan on a boggy pitch at the San Siro. Arteta looked completely out of sorts, as Milan maked him down well. He lost the ball far too many times as well. Another disappointing loss followed, as Arsenal exited the FA Cup.
Arteta and Rosicky combined brilliantly to slay Tottenham in an exciting North London derby. Arteta was tops with his distribution as he chanelled the ball extremely well into spaces, helping the Gunners to a 5-2 win. He struggled against Liverpool, where Henderson and Spearing barely allowed Arteta to flourish. He suffered a heavy concussion, when he collided with Henderson, and had to be stretchered off, to an Anfield applause.
Arsenal’s thumping league form continued with a 2-1 win over Newcastle. Arteta looked to slow down the tempo of the game, and it required a late flurry for Arsenal to seal 3 points. He struggled a bit on his return to Goodison, but his patient play kept Everton at bay.
He was at his best against Aston Villa, and capped it with a fantastic free-kick, from way out, to beat Shay Given. A struggle against QPR was followed with a man of the match performance against eventual champions Manchester City. Arteta literally bossed the midfield, and his late long range screamer won the game for Arsenal. Despite being at the receiving end of a few crude tackles, he was again at his best in a 3-0 win at Wolves. His season would end abruptly, after he pulled out with injury, after just 9 minutes against Wigan.
Here is a look at few features of Mikel Arteta‘s game.
1. Midfield Play
As we all know, Arteta is a cultured midfielder. Very neat on the eye, he barely makes a wayward pass, and Arsenal have struggled without him. The Gunners lost to Swansea, Manchester United, Wigan and only drew to Chelsea, Norwich and Stoke before beating West Brom on the final day. Having played as a defensive midfielder earlier in his career, and as an attacking midfielder, at Everton, he seems to have blended both roles to perfection. He has the uncanny ability to dictate play in midfield, as he wills, and this makes him one of Arsenal’s most important players.
With one of the highest pass success rates in Europe, and settled well into a passing team, Arteta is best at keeping the ball. His close control, and ability to pick out a pass, and spot space, allows Arsenal to change gears quickly.
SUMMARY AND RATING
As mentioned earlier, Arsenal have struggled in the absence of Arteta. What makes him so good is his simple gameplay, minimal hassles with neat passing, and composure. He can dictate game play like few others. He gets a 8.5.