With reports emerging from within the media of club captain Mikel Arteta signing a new one year contract extension, I have to ask the simple question – What purpose is served by the retention of his services?
The argument I’ve heard from some supporters is that his experience is vital if we are to be successful during the coming season but I would strongly challenge this theory by questioning whether a squad containing two World Cup winners amongst others, would significantly mourn the loss of a player who made only seven league appearances during the last campaign and has for some time looked like a player with his best days behind him.
Not only does our squad contain world champions Per Mertesacker and Mesut Ozil, thirty and twenty six years of age respectively, but also thirty three year old recent signing Petr Cech and his thirty four year old compatriot Tomas Rosicky, who are joined by Santi Cazorla (thirty), Nacho Monreal, Matthieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny (all twenty nine), Olivier Giroud (twenty eight), Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott (both twenty six).
It should also not be ignored that Kieron Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny (both twenty five), Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck (both twenty four) and Jack Wilshere (twenty three), are all established internationals, whilst I have deliberately excluded the names of David Opsina, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini from the list due to them either being expected to request a move or in the case of the latter two, because I consider them surplus to requirements, which confirms the theory that our first team squad would be bereft of experience should Arteta be allowed to depart, as no more than a fallacy.
Whilst Arteta is undoubtedly an intelligent individual and one of the squad’s elder statesmen, it is evident even from the outside that a leader in the Tony Adams mould, he is not.
The emergence of Francis Coquelin last season demonstrated the importance of having a defensive midfielder in the side who is able to cover ground with both pace and fluidity, two qualities that Arteta sadly does not have in his locker and although he performed his role commendably during his first couple of seasons to help steady the ship following the departures of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas for which he has my gratitude, he has never been of the highest quality that I’d associate with a team harbouring ambitions to win either the league title or the Champions League and whilst it could be argued that as a club we weren’t set up to challenge for those trophies at the time of his arrival, I now believe that we are in a position to take the next steps that would enable us to do so.
Although it would take away a lot of his natural game and he’d have to curb his attacking instincts, playing Wilshere in the holding role would be a preferable alternative to Arteta, although not an ideal solution especially when taking into account his own fitness concerns, should Coquelin suffer any long term injuries and when an attacking midfielder is considered more suitable for a defensive role within the side, the writing really should be on the wall for a player of Arteta’s age.
What concerns me is that Arsene doesn’t appear to recognise the need to add another defensive midfielder in the mould of my first choice William Carvalho, who can also play in central defence, to our ranks or share my preference of playing Wilshere from the players currently available in our squad, in the role.
However, it is my opinion that we will not challenge for the top honours should we be forced to revert to relying on the likes of Arteta or Flamini for that matter, to form the base of our engine room, which would also have a detrimental effect on both Monreal and Mertesacker who’s form improved by no coincidence when their lack of pace was given significantly more protection by Coquelin’s presence.
It is also believed that Wenger considers Arteta to be future coaching material but this should not have played any part in the decision to offer him a contract extension as a player, after all, his reported current annual salary of around four million a year by far exceeds what the manager earns in a year, let alone a member of the coaching staff, at the majority of clubs and I am of the opinion that it’s not necessary to have Arteta performing the role of a glorified cheerleader in our squad, even if his new deal has been agreed on reduced terms.
So please Arsene, continue to demonstrate the new found ruthlessness you gave us a glimpse of when you selected Walcott in place of Giroud for the FA Cup final and replaced Ospina with Cech this summer, by continuing to ship out the deadwood to free up wages and valuable squad places for the players required in order to take us to where we have the potential to go in coming seasons, as the late great Bill Shankly once said:-
“Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling, aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor….”
Thanks for reading @GunnerBirchy