Considering he is turning 30 years old on the 26th March next year, it might be reasonable to assume Wenger wanted younger, alternative models and made the late signing out of necessity or, worse, panic. The question this article will endeavour to address is not whether Arteta was the first choice signing for Arsenal (he was probably not), but rather I will address whether he is a good signing capable of enhancing our squad and lineup.
If I was able to meet Mikel Arteta, I would ask him whether thought that his chance to succeed at a top, top club had passed him by. At Barcelona he trained alongside Luis Enrique, Pep Guardiola, Rivaldo and Luis Figo but never made the grade. Years later he joined Real Sociedad for €5.2m in 2004 to play alongside Xabi Alonso, who promptly moved on to Liverpool. Living as neighbour to Alonso and Fernando Torres in an exclusive block of flats on the Albert Docks (overlooking the Mersey), both fellow Spaniards moved on to clubs with more financial clout and left him behind. He watched players such like Joleon Lescott move on for big transfer fees whilst he stayed. The chance to play in Europe’s greatest club tournament with Everton was lost when they failed to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League – losing to Villarreal over two legs in the qualifier stage. He played 42 youth games for Spain at under16, 17, 18 and 21 level but has never been capped by the senior set up. Despite interest, a transfer to Manchester City failed to materialise last summer, and a move to Arsenal would have fallen through without his intervention this summer. Everton fans must surely forgive him for forcing the deal after so often being left behind in his career.
In other words, Arteta arrives in North London knowing he has been given a winning ticket to achieve great things. Arteta had the intelligence and physicality to play an adapted version of his natural technical game at Everton, combining it with the power and passion the Premier League necessitates. With naturally excellent posture that stands him at every millimetre of his full height and proportionate sportsman stature; he has the natural genetic ingredients to absorb greater physical contact from tackling players than Cesc, Modric and Ramsey. Arteta played at an Everton under David Moyes that focused on fast pacing and percentage football. Percentage football is based on playing the game in a statistically efficient way which generates the best of your footballers. They knew that crossing from wide to strong, fast players that can head the ball – such as Tim Cahill – would lead to goals and so they do. Arsenal use multi-dimensional attacking midfielders that run diagonally form wide to central and employ a centre forward (in Van Persie) who drops deep to exchange passes, start moves and hit curling thunderbolt left footers from 25 yards. Those facets of Arsenal’s game style centralise possession and will increase the responsibility of Mikel Arteta’s role. Arsenal might well be one of the most naturally narrow playing sides in the League.
Arteta is a man known away from competitive matches to be equally aggressive to win in training, shouting at coaches that as referees over decisions in training matches. It would appear that Arteta’s joining the club signals an increasingly changed mentality at the club. “I won’t be the first with a joke when we lose,” he said. I don’t think a quote such as “before you start joking you need to analyse the mistakes” could be attributed to the carefree spirits of Eboué or Denilson.
I believe he will be a very good signing. Arteta is hungry to win, hungry to take his chance and will be more than welcomed by Van Persie and Wilshere – judging by their tweets. Being fluent in Spanish, English, French and eat Italian he can sit alongside our cosmopolitan squad knowing he can teach them a thing or two. Academy players will see a player approaching 30 that will undoubtedly want to beat them all in training and has kept his performance and profile high in the world’s toughest league for years. Married to a former Miss Spain, confident, well spoken and considering a future in management (he said thinks about it) he emanates success and professional values. One organic reaction to his presence in a youthful squad should be teenage prospects seeing what it takes to get to the top level and then to stay there. Arteta will nurture and advise youngsters in the way that Guardiola did to him.
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