Arsenal’s midfield metronome Mikel Arteta has proven to be one of Arsene Wenger’s most successful signings over the past number of years. Along with Per Mertesacker, the Spaniard came in and stabilised the team when the squad was crying out for a game dictator. A secure maestro if you like.
His awareness, distribution and positioning has helped him adjust to a deep lying role; the position he has been permanently deployed in since Alex Song’s exit. Now, it’s time to bring in an upgrade; a deep-lying playmaker who balances his game with intelligence and technique, yet who also takes no prisoners. Step forward, Nuri Sahin.
Only very few midfielders can match Mikel Arteta’s passing statistics. In the last three years, the 32 year old has racked up the possession numbers, being ranked among top passers like Andrea Pirlo, Xavi Hernandez, Steven Gerrard and Yaya Toure.
Although some may dispute that the reason why he has a high percentage of pass completion stems from his “low risk” style, it is very much satisfying that his passes are extremely accurate, with the Spaniard averaging 92% pass accuracy per game, according to Squawka.
Now, Sahin’s pass accuracy isn’t bad either. The Turk averages 80% pass accuracy per game but what’s more interesting is his average pass length of 20m compared to Arteta’s 17m. This gives us a hint of what to expect from the Dortmund star.
He’s got a sublime long ball ability which would help the team spread possession quicker and benefit the likes of Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, who thrive on diagonal through passes.
Arteta has shown his penchant for long balls a few times but we’ve not seen it as often as we should. We’ve seen the team look lethargic on a couple of occasions when in transition, but having a player who could use the full width of the pitch on a regular basis means the team would launch attacks more swiftly. The Arsenal way.
Sahin is a possession expert.
Nuri is no pushover. If anything, he’s more aggressive than Arteta. A cross section of the fans have been calling for a destroyer/cunt to be brought in to marshal our midfield, especially against the Stokes and West Hams of this world (I thought Mathieu Flamini was that man).
However, Sahin has proven that he’s more than capable to get stuck in when necessary. We saw that in both games against Arsenal in the Champions League group stages and this has been evident during the course of the season. The Turk averages an impressive 3.6 tackles per game, which is a slight improvement on our Vice captain’s ratio of 3.2. Thanks to his superb positioning, the same goes for his ball interception statistics, with the 25-year-old averaging 2.7 per game, few points better than Arteta (2.0). Stats don’t reveal everything and Sahin might not be as “beasty” as we want but he’ll get the job done. Much like the way other deep lying playmakers have gone about their midfield business.
Perhaps the main criticism of Arteta is his lack of pace when tracking back to cover the lines, there by exposing an even slower Per Mertesacker and the rest of his back four. The Anfield “accident” and the Stamford Bridge “Plane crash” clearly highlighted this. In this respect, Sahin’s engine would significantly improve our recovery rate, when facing counter attacks.
Before Wednesday night’s 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid, Sahin was top of the “distance covered” chart in the UCL this season, with 96km. This excellent mobility he possesses also enables him to execute the pressing game, without worrying on how to return into position. Make no mistake, a potential partnership with Aaron Ramsey would bring a handful of celebrities to the Emirates!
Sahin’s work rate and energy also means he’ll comfortably partner any of Jack Wilshere or Arteta, without affecting the midfield balance, contrary to what we’ve seen whenever Jack and Mikel have been used as the midfield pivot. Sahin – Flamini, Sahin – Abou Diaby, Sahin – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The possibilities are endless.
No other player has covered more ground than Sahin in the UCL.
At 25, Sahin is nearing his peak years. He’s learnt the basics at Dortmund, where he’s spent the better part of his playing career. The Bundesliga is proving to be the best hunting ground for genuine quality in Europe – which has been highlighted by Arsenal’s recent purchases – and adding another established player from Germany’s top flight would only upgrade the technical prowess in the team.
The Turkish International has 8-10 years of professional football left and is in a great position to emulate the current deep lying playmakers in Europe such as Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick and our very own Mikel Arteta. Seems he’s (Sahin) a blend of Pirlo and Alonso. Big shoes to fill to say the least, but the sky is his starting point.
Pirlo is a near-perfect modern Regista.
Being a midfielder who has a penchant for long balls, his best role remains in the pivot, where he’ll have the time and space to build attacks from his own half. But I was crazed in the manner in which he was used at Anfield. Perhaps due to lack of attacking midfield options, Brendan Rogers deployed him in the #10 role and this clearly didn’t favour him, with games passing the Real Madrid man. This attracted numerous criticisms from the press which ultimately led to him exiting the EPL.
Having regained his fitness and played regular 1st team football at BVB, perhaps a second crack at cutting it in the Premier League to silence his critics wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Work to do. Sahin could do with a second chance.
Every beginning has an end and we’re fortunate to have signed a top pro in Arteta, just hours before the 2011 summer transfer deadline. The Spaniard arrived at a time where we were desperately in need of midfielders, and his experience ensured he made an instant impact. He settled the dust almost immediately, got things ticking and became a fan favourite in a jiffy.
Since then, we’ve brought in more technically gifted playmakers in Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil. I see no reason why the trend shouldn’t continue with a move for yet another extremely talented maestro. Arsene has shown his obsession for top midfielders and tried for him (Sahin) before, but perhaps the timing wasn’t right. Now, it’s time to rekindle our interest and ensure that we possess the most gifted midfield in England. Technique they say, is a match winner.