There might have been a few Arsenal fans whose heads would have dropped at the thought of a player approaching his 30’s and ravaged by injury for the past two seasons coming in and challenged with the job of filling the huge gap left by the departed Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. But Mikel Arteta has been a revelation at Arsenal this season, contributing hugely to their resurgence and allowing the youth around him to take centre stage.
What Arteta does in this Arsenal side is greatly contrasting to what Fabregas brought. Playing alongside Alex Song and Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the Arsenal midfield, the former Everton man offers Ramsey the space and support to be creative further up the pitch, whilst at the same time offering cover for Song, who does like to contribute in the opponents third of the pitch. Moreover, Arteta adds a sense of calm to an Arsenal side very much in another transitional period. He retains possession while never trying to be overly sensational in his play. But, his creativity and coolness in front of goal is just another option he gives manager Arsene Wenger from midfield.
It might also be interesting to consider the effect Arteta might have on the long-term success of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere over the influence Fabregas might have had if he opted to remain at Arsenal. There’s no doubting that Wenger would have continued to model the squad around Fabregas, adding players and tweaking formations where it was needed, yet, at the same time potentially holding back Wilshere and Ramsey from fulfilling their maximum potential. With Arteta in the side, not only does he offer the young players the opportunity to grow, he also brings with him the greater experience and guidance of a player almost a decade their senior.
Robin van Persie has also been quick to acknowledge the contribution of the Spaniard stating, “Arteta is playing really well. He’s so intelligent. He knows when to go forward, he knows when to sit back. Sometimes Alex Song makes a run forward, and because of his experience, Mikel can read the game perfectly, knows when to go forward, when to help his team out, or when to play others.”
Rather than having one central figure the team always looked to for inspiration in Fabregas, Arteta allows for the responsibility to be shared throughout the team. And unlike previous years, Arsenal finally have a player who is willing to raise his voice to those who are careless with their play. A far more vocal and outspoken member of the squad than Fabregas or Nasri were, Arteta is a perfect example of what Arsenal have been lacking in recent failed title challenges..
A leader at Everton and now a player who can bring his wealth of experience of the Premier League into this Arsenal side, the Gunners have never looked a more united group in recent years under Arsene Wenger.