He is our new captain and he looks massively honoured and proud about it, he said it himself immediately after lifting the Community Shield at Wembley. Let’s give Mikel Arteta a break, gentlemen – can we?
He’s not a powerhouse, he will never be Patrick Vieira or Gilberto Silva but he’s never failed to give his all when called on by Arsène Wenger and most of the time he’s been very effective, as you will see below. Sure, he fell a bit short at times but not as often as many seem to think and he’s definitely useful more than useless and also far from being a finished player; for those bringing in the fact that he’s slow I would respond that he never had quick legs and never covered much ground so I wouldn’t expect him to start doing it at 32.
Knowing how he coped with a very complicated change of position from playmaker to holding midfielder and how much he has been a role model to teammates and youngsters from day one, he deserves more respect than he actually gets, in my opinion. I’m not here to say he’s the best in the world; I would just like to highlight the fact that blaming Mikel Arteta and turn him into a scapegoat is not fair, at all.
Sure it’s easier to keep in mind those battering at Anfield, Etihad Stadium (he wasn’t event there!) and Stamford Bridge but the Spaniard often provided the ideal platform for Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla to shine – which is not negligible.
Also, he’s often been very good at breaking opponents’ attacks and win the ball back – better than many, including myself, could think. I ran a comparison on Squawka.com in order to have a clearer picture of Mikel Arteta’s defensive record and I was very surprised to discover how good he has been last season:
He’s on par with or better than any other defensive midfielder in last season’s top five teams in terms of tackles won and interceptions bar Nemanja Matic (the Chelsea midfielder played less game, though) and has the best pass completion percentage of the crop, which tells me Mikel Arteta didn’t perform that bad.
He might have lost many tackles last season but apparently he’s not the only one – both Fernandinho and Matic did pretty much the same even if they are bigger and stronger than our captain. Before you say it, I know football is not about stats – not only, at least – but numbers do not lie and show an ice-cold, crude picture of what reality looks like, something that becomes complicated for human being and especially fans – like me.
Seen the impressive volume of stick and blame Mikel Arteta is taking, I would think he’s been a disaster in his three years at the Club but, if you take a closer look, you notice he’s been a great servant of the Arsenal and deserves praises more than critics: he has experience and dedication on his side which could help him cope with his obvious lack of power, moreover he has players alongside him who could run tirelessly for hours – which suggests me that the balance won’t be difficult to find.
If Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere or anyone else playing in central midfield doesn’t leave Mikel Arteta alone in his defensive duties, things could work out very, very well. Where others have fresh legs and energy, he has vision and anticipation; where others have power and height, he has shrewdness and cleverness.
This sounds great to me, especially if I think about all these years I was complaining about our inexperienced midfield and crying for Arsène Wenger to add someone with a better reading and understanding of the game. Mikel Arteta could not look like what we need but might actually be what we need.
This is just my opinion but I like him and the idea of having him as Club captain, perhaps at some point we’ll remember about this Mikel Arteta fella and think he’s been quite a great player for the Arsenal.