Mikel Arteta – come on guys, cut him some slack!!!! by Jonestown1
I will first preface everything I say here by stating I have no particular allegiance to, nor soft spot, for Mikel Arteta. It has to be said he has not had much luck in his career. He was a stand-out creative performer at Everton for many years and ended up with nothing to show for it. He moved to Arsenal at a particularly difficult time in our history and was then asked to take on a role he was not accustomed to.
He has now been afforded the ultimate Arsenal curse of late – the captaincy. He has also seen his career coincide with a golden age of Spanish international football and has never had a look in due to the talented options – but could have probably walked in to the English national team anytime in the last 10 years but for his place of birth. I do feel however he may be on the receiving end of some rather unreasonable and spiteful criticism of late. There are fair criticisms and observations to be made but I think we may be a little off target here with some of the stuff being spewed out.
The clamour for Wenger to acquire a defensive midfield “beast” or “destroyer” is loud and ferocious. The general consensus is that this is the missing vital element in our quest for returning to former glories. I have also listened to idea that the crushing defeats away to our biggest rivals would have been avoided if we had had for example a Schneiderlin, Carvalho, Martinez or Khedira etc in our line-up. I do not want to dwell on these hypotheses here but my personal opinion is that we could have had all four of those in our line-up on those fateful days and we would have still lost. The team’s defensive performance was abject – inadequate CDMs may make a difference in tight games but they are never solely accountable for 0-6 and 1-5 score lines.
We all have our opinions on players and often these are based on subjective criteria as opposed to objective analysis; a player’s style and grace or diminutive stature or lack of pace may distract us from the measurable effectiveness of the same player. We also have a natural herd mentality and if an observation or perception is repeated often enough in a mantra-like fashion it somehow becomes a “truth” and it then becomes very difficult to persuade people that all may not be quite as it appears. I confess that I have been somewhat led down this path myself over the past few weeks having been bombarded with the idea that Mikel Arteta is the problem.
So is Mikel Arteta really that “bad”? I undertook the dreaded “stats” comparison on Squawka just to get a feel for how he measured up in the 2013-14 PL season. I compared him to Matic (NM) (the “beast” so envied by many), Fernandinho (F) (the PL champion’s engine room), Schneiderlin (MS) (probably the Arsenal fans most coveted option) and Lucas (LL) (the invisible man behind Liverpool’s good season). I will not rehearse the usual caveats regarding “lies, damned lies and statistics” other than to say it is the closest we have to objectivity and whether we like it or not statistics are indispensable aids for football coaches (and sports coaches in general) around the world. This is how he rated (using the average per 90 minutes metrics):
Total Score (overall statistical assessment as a football player): 1st.
Tackles Won: 3rd. The range behind highest and lowest is small (2.45 to 3.07). LL is 1st.
Tackles Lost: 2nd. Again the range is small (3.12 to 4.08). MS is 1st.
Interceptions: 2nd. 2.36 compared to LL’s 2.40 so no huge difference.
Blocks: 2nd. LL is 1st.
Clearances: 3rd. Averaging over 2 a game he is ahead of MS and F but significantly behind NM (over 4) and LL (over 3).
Errors leading to goals: Nil and equal 1st – perhaps surprisingly none of the 5 made an error leading to a goal.
Defensive Errors: 5th. In context the range is again small, 0.00 to 0.15 errors per game that did not result in a goal.
Fouls Committed: 1st. i.e. commits less fouls than the other 4!
Fouls Suffered: 1st. i.e. best ability to win a fee kick.
Cards for bad tackles: 1st – less than half the number of cards per game than the others for reckless tackles.
Total Duels Won(%): 3rd but very narrow differential behind highest (49.34% – MS) and lowest (44.77% – LL) so not really significant.
Aerial Duels Won: 5th. A result that will not surprise and an obvious relative weakness.
Total Possession Score: 1st and by a very wide margin.
Pass Completion: 1st and the best by any midfielder in PL with over 10 games under their belts.
Total Successful Passes: 1st.
Total Backward Passes: 1st, but before you draw any conclusion from that…..
Total Forward Passes: 1st.
So what do I conclude from that? I would say that his defensive abilities are being underrated by the detractors, his overall effectiveness and stats stand comparison with the best in PL. How the stats stand comparison with the world elite is another question but if his PL peers are anchoring the success for their teams then I cannot think why Arteta is not up to the task to do the same for Arsenal. He is also by some distance the best technical footballer of the 5 five selected. I figure Wenger is looking for a big, big defensive improvement from the TEAM (I think I saw signs of this in the Man City game – here is hoping) and sees Mikel as a perfectly reliable and effective CDM who can also play football the Arsenal way. Other CDMs may have the edge in some defensive duties but may be less well-equipped in possession/passing ability etc. It is a balancing act, a delicate one but Wenger obviously prefers the balance to favour footballing ability. Additionally, Mikel obviously brings much more to the club as evidenced by his recent appointment as captain. He is a very good ambassador and role-model.
Is he really the problem being portrayed by many on here? Bottom line, looks clear to me that no new CDM is on the way so lets support our new captain and at least try and appreciate what Wenger clearly thinks he brings to this team.