So on the 31st of August 2011, still reeling from an absolute drubbing by Manchester United, Arsenal went into the transfer window in a mad trolley dash that brought mixed results (more bad than good to be honest)
The team had lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively. The fans were baying for blood and Arsene was in one of the lowest points as manager, many felt that Arsenal weren’t a big club anymore and that probably Arsene should leave (people still feel that way). Everyone wanted signings and wanted them fast, so in the week preceding the close of the transfer window, Arsenal brought in Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos. On deadline day, Arsenal did 3 more deals: A loan move for Benayoun, a hijacking of Park and finally, Mikel Arteta. The last seeming like a deal that wouldn’t go through till the very last minute. It did go through and like all the signings made by Arsenal in that window it was met by mixed reactions.
Some felt that due to sheer volume, we’d be okay, many were looking at the players individually and weren’t happy. Arteta was no stranger to anyone as he was coming from Everton and many felt he’d be a kind of Class B Fabregas, which I guess he was supposed to be.
Well, 4 years down the line, we can see that the signings made that window didn’t age well…Per and Mikel being the exceptions of course. Park was a dud, so invisible at times that Sue Storm would have been proud. Andre Santos grew tubby, sped a lot and didn’t defend a lot and Benayoun was good, but could only do so much. As of today only Per and Mikel are left and only Per seems to have people’s goodwill, maybe it’s cos of the position plays, or his approach to the position or the kind of player that ‘reigns’ in that position, but there’s a sense that a large portion of the fan base don’t like him. I guess this is because we sometimes watch the game through the prism of what we hear from those godawful commentators.
They watch a game and one opines ‘Arteta isn’t very good is he? He’s losing his legs’ now not everyone who hears this will believe but some will, now one of said people who does believe will probably be a journo who would then view Arteta’s game from that angle and when he writes his correspondent’s column, he’ll state that Arteta is indeed not so good anymore…more people will begin to give this credibility. Then they go to their favourite blogs which may have a an article on Arteta and then in the comments sections they meet people who already believe that Arteta is shit, they propagate the theory and before you know it, everyone is thinking it. Then there’s twitter…I could go on.
Now do not get me wrong, I do agree to a large extent that Arteta is old and probably can’t run that midfield again, but then again hardly is he to be discarded either. I feel he still has something to offer both on and off the pitch. He’s no Coquelin or Matic or Minotaur man, but he is professional, over the last 3 seasons, his pass accuracy has never dropped below 90% and he makes a surprising amount of tackles. In the game against Crystal Palace, in the 15 minutes in which he was on, he made 4/4 tackles including a match saving one on Chung.
I won’t forget the game against Andertlecht where we were 3 goals up and Arteta leaves and boom suddenly we’re pegged back. Now I won’t say it was his absence alone that caused the collapse but it was certainly a huge contributor.
In some games you need an Arteta, to keep things ticking and also as a calming influence to the younger players on the pitch. He is underrated, I feel he should be given his due praise.
Should we upgrade? Probably, but that doesn’t mean we completely diminish his importance to the team. I for one hopes he can keep fit all season and be useful when we need him, league titles are won by teams, not individual and Arteta is clearly a team man.