Without any doubt, Mikel Arteta has been one of the best signing by Arsene in the last few years.
We all expected him to play more forward in midfield and, together with Wilshere, Diaby and Rosicky, help to fill the void left behind by Cesc after his acrimonious departure in the summer of 2011. But the Basque turned out to be a versatile player and alongside Alex Song, he developed gradually into our deeper laying midfielder; our midfield ‘anchor’, and protector of the back-four.
As soon as Arteta got injured, towards the end of last season, the whole team suffered, and so did our results. It had become obvious that Arteta was crucial to our team.
Since Song was sold to Barcelona, Arteta has become our undisputed nr.1 for the DM position; although in our formation of 4-2-1-3, he is often supported by the ‘lynchpin’ midfielder, who needs to possess both defensive and attacking qualities. Arsenal started the season relatively strong, especially from a defensive point of view, and Diaby had a key role to play in all of this. Diaby’s physicality and ability to shield the ball, combined with his forward runs and good passing ability, seemed to be the ideal partner for Arteta.
As soon as Diaby got injured, Arsene Wenger struggled to fill the void left behind by the powerful, yet oh so vulnerable, Frenchman, and it is only since Super Jack Wilshere returned to more or less full fitness, that we are starting to see glimpses again of how Arsenal can and should play.
Having watched Mikel Arteta closely during our game against The Latics, I cannot help but feel that Arsenal are running a considerable risk to play Arteta in the pivotal ‘anchor’ role all the time. A feeling I have had for a quite a while, to be frank; and one that quite a few fellow Gooners seem to share with me.
This is not meant to be as a strong criticism of Mikel Arteta. I love his professionalism, and his reading of the game and positioning are very, very good. Without Arteta in the team, we often lack shape and focus and all other players benefit tremendously from his presence and application of his role.
However, what we missed against Wigan Athletics was physical power; on the ground and in the air. Somebody who can win the ball back with a great tackle or by winning a header; and somebody who can shield the ball really well for a couple of seconds, so fellow midfielders can get themselves in the best positions to receive the ball and start an attack, or just to be able to pass the ball round better.
Jack Wilshere worked his socks of to compensate for this lack of physical competitiveness, but Jack and Mikel are together not strong enough to outmuscle opponents, in my view.
It should be taken into account that Wigan’s strongpoint is their midfield play: they have a well-drilled unit who can both win the ball and keep it with relative ease. They definitely kept it better than Arsenal for large parts of the game. We often were able to win the ball of Wigan, only to give it away again within seconds, as a result of the pressure put on us by The Latics.
For me, our first priority is to get a beast of a DM who can fill our current gap in midfield, so we can boss that area much better going forward.
The beauty of Arteta is his versatility, combined with his experience. I don’t think he is as good a player as Cazorla, Rosicky or Wilshere in any of the other midfield roles, currently available in Arsenal’s formation. But I also don’t believe he is the best player to have in the deepest midfield position.
Arteta can play anywhere, and that’s what makes him a very good player to have in our squad, but I reckon we need to find a better player for the anchor role as soon as possible: somebody with the vision and positioning of Arteta and, on top of that, with the physical requirements of a typical DM.
Coquelin and Frimpong might well develop into such a player, but I don’t think they are ready for it anytime soon.
For me, Arteta is to be kept and used wisely within the squad, but going forward we need to get a top class, classic DM, as soon as possible.
This is, without any doubt, my nr.1 Arsenal wish for the New Year.
Written by: Total Arsenal.
With a special thank you to Oz Gunner for the Arteta ‘ Zorro’ picture! 🙂