With Mikel Arteta now signed and sealed as an Arsenal player, a £10m move confirmed as late as can be on transfer deadline day, Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has pinned his hopes of reconstructing the Arsenal midfield following the sales of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas on the 29-year-old.
Arteta will be faced with the responsibility of knitting together the precocious talents of Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, 19 and 20 respectively. Having played primarily as a deep playmaker during six and a half years at Goodison Park – with some spells as a narrow winger too – Arteta is the kind of metronome Wenger often employs in midfield, in the kind of role Wilshere often seeks to take up. Wenger has however described Wilshere as “a
Statistically, Arteta should fit in at the Emirates Stadium without much trouble. His own pass completion rate last season was superior to Arsenal’s as a whole – 87% to 84% – but Arteta may not have completely shaken off those overtly defensive inclinations, managing 22 shots on goal in 29 league appearances last season, a figure down from 27 two years earlier and perhaps representative of his deep midfield role. It was around the 2008-09 season that Arteta was in his Everton pomp as a deep lying playmaker, winning more tackles and creating more goals than at any point since. 2009 is, however, the year Arteta suffered a serious knee injury, missing Everton’s FA Cup final appearance in the process, and much of the story of his career since then has been the long, slow recovery.
Returning to action almost a full year later, Arteta signed a five-year contract in the summer of 2010, but last season his influence over Everton waned, marked by David Moyes’ decision to remove Arteta from the centre of midfield and back to a wide role, a position Arteta had not regularly occupied since 2007. Four years ago, on the right wing, it was a position in which Arteta excelled, twice being named Everton Player of the Year in recognition of his performances there, and, after a season spent largely struggling to inspire Everton, Arteta found himself on the left of midfield for the trip to Newcastle United. A 2-1 win, with Arteta rampant from his unorthodox position, followed, but another serious injury soon followed that. A torn hamstring ended Arteta’s season in March.
Nonetheless, Arteta’s ability to play centrally or on either flank will provide Wenger with some useful versatility, although it would be a surprise if, after the sale of Fabregas, the Frenchman sees Arteta as anything other than a central midfielder. Arteta’s style is reminiscent of the departed captain and, considering Arteta’s Premier League experience, the bedding in period should be minimal, giving Arsenal a second dose of Iberian inspiration.