An Analysis of why Arsenal should appreciate Mikel Arteta more

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.


Tags Mikel Arteta


    1. Couldn’t agree more. I must admit I was shocked and please with his statistics though…
      Fact is he is a great role model for the captain roll, but can he be compared to other captains? He is no kompany, terry, Rooney who are beast captain, but he IS like Gerrard, in that he is a great passer and leader, but lacks the physicality. Gerrard cost his team and England last year and I hope Arteta can back up wengers choice, because it cost brendon.
      When comparing his physicality, he will do well against players his size and speed, but what happens when someone faster knocks it round him, or stronger waves him away? You think messi would feel the same way running at YaYa as he would Arteta? That’s my point. Great player, ok dm.

  1. Its not easy to convert from attacking player to defensing player, reverse is much easier, and that’s shows arteta is a biig character. We still need a better DM though

  2. Arteta is a good man but his time has gone, we need some muscle to drive the team forward, a world class dm and we would be in business, Chelski are going to take some stopping, we need someone to stop them bullying us, I hope Wenger knows this, because Maureen certainly does!

  3. Very good article, and a very intriguing read. These statistics show that our Mikel is one of the best defensive midfielders in the League, but he is getting older now. He is now 32, and you cannot expect him to play twice a week anymore. This is why we need a new defensive midfielder, and keeping Mikel as a very good squad player who can serve us for the next 2-3 years. My pick right now would be William Carvalho. Schneiderlin is a very good choice as well but he wants to join Spuds.

    Also, I never knew Lucas Leiva was this good. Everyone was praising Jordan Henderson last season, but man those stats from Lucas are really impressive. About 2 seasons back, those Liverpool fans called him ‘useless’, and wanted him out. Seems like Lucas had a Ramsey-esque improvement as well.

    1. On a side note, those thrashing last seasons was not solely down to a lack of a beast in midfield, but poor defending as a team as a whole. Things like not tracking your man, not running back, poor defensive positioning are why so many goals are shipped in a particular game, and not just because Arteta is our DM. Signing a new DM would definitely give us an edge in the midfield battle, but defending as a unit and positional discipline from the whole team is much, much more important. In the Community Shield, I thought that most players had good discipline, even Wilshere who’s not known for his discipline. To win the big games, it must stay this way.

      1. Agreed. He has played really well and it is easy, same with Giroud, to throw most of the blame at him. However, I still think a bad ass CDM would solve a lot of problems- Javi Martinez, Carvalho, Schneiderlin are my favorites for that role.

        Injuries played a part in some of those big defeats, but it was also our tactical naivety. We were still trying to play full possession and with a very high line, which teams like Chelsea and Liverpool ruthlessly punished. When we succumbed to one of those thrashings it affected team moral.

        Flexibility in our tactics will instill more confidence in those big games. I know this won’t go down well, but we should consider playing with three defenders at times, and now with more pace, as shown against City, we can play on the break. Our lack of pace through injuries and not enough signings was a big handicap in those away defeats. It looks like we have addressed many of the issues with new signings and hopefully our improved ability to avoid injuries. With Alexis, Campbell, OX and eventually Walcott available we truly have the option of transitioning from our typical passing game into one brimming with raw, explosive pace. Let’s get started already!

    2. ALL the pundits, reporters that I have heard/read from, point all these stats out, and, unanimously believe Mikel IS an important player for us.
      Now, I am NOT going to say that HE is integral to us winning tropheys, or, that I would not like a SK, MS, AV to come in, but, Arteta does NOT have to play every game. Yes he is Captain, CLUB captain, but that does not mean he has to play.
      We have Flamini, Chambers that can also fill that role, and though I agree, great player that he is, Mikel IS getting on, but, so is Rosicky, and he still has class when he plays.
      TOO many people on here just do not appreciate Arteta, and, use his age and lack of devastating pace to criticise him, and, blame HIM for big losses last Season.
      Well, there was a rumour we were interested in Tiote again from the Toons. Would you really prefer him in our midfield to Mikel, accident waiting to happen.

      1. I’d much rather have Arteta than some big, muscly player who’s there simply to break up the play and has very little footballing talent in comparison. That’s not how Arsenal play.

        But that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t players capable of bringing a physical presence as well as a good footballing ability. For me, as I’ve said before, I’d love to get Javi Martinez. He’s big, strong and a good footballer. Playing for Bayern, he’s also experienced playing the passing system and has experience in the CL & he can be 4th choice CB.

        I think Arteta is a very good player against smaller, less physical sides where he has time on the ball, but for the big games we need someone who won’t get pushed around and bullied. The statistic that he gets fouled the most isn’t necessarily a good one. Consistent fouls just break up the play, not letting us build momentum and giving the opposition a chance to regroup.

        On a side note. I hate seeing Arteta get criticised all the time. He works hard for the team, not just on the pitch either, and is committed to the club, you can tell he’s proud to be here.

        1. I totally agree, he does get a lot of criticism thrown needlessly his way. And the point about getting fouled often is a very good one. He is a target for the opposition and with Ramsey out, he did become of focal point for our build up play.

          And I agree about JAVI MARTINEZ. He has been my number one choice from the start and would fit into our system very well. With his strength, height, passing game, ability to break up play and provide cover as a CB. He would be a clever quality signing.


            all the best for your recovery.

  4. Arteta as done his job for ARSENAL but i do not think he shouls be captain for ARSENAL as i only see him as a squad player for arsenal. We need someone much better to replace him, He is a weak link in out team,

    1. For anyone that dont like this link must think Arteta is not a weak link for ARSENAL, There for i see why we have not done much good last 10 years with thoughts like that !!!! Arteta is a weak link he should not be in the team as we should have someone better to take over his role !!! For anyone who thinks different then you must be watching a different player to me each week, By the way i am not saying he is the only weak link, But one we need to deal with right now

  5. Very long article but
    it did not make me think Arteta
    is any thing other than a battler.
    Diaby Flamini Rosicky Sanogo
    are battlers too. Coquelin and Ryo
    are no where near good enough.
    OX and Wilshere play one good game in three
    and are often injured. Walcott is injured.
    Monreal is a liability and Podolski sparks one game in 6.
    12 players we would not miss.
    The fact that an aging battler is our captain
    and a B grade striker is our most prolific goal scorer
    is indicitive of where the team is.
    We can but get better.

    1. i like your comment !!!! the players you listed should be replaced or sold over the next 2 seasons if they dont improve, We if we want to dive forward then we cant afford to cary weak players no matter who they are

  6. Useless stats, arreta never was and never will be a d.midfielder. Like most of the world ud rather watch games and judge a player, Uts simple if arsenal dont strengthen in that department then its a battlr for the 4th place trophy again FACT. Arteta has no physical presence,no pace, doesnt pass f orward, cannot slot into the c.bk position if kosc or bfg push fotward he just doesnt look comfortable,
    numerous times in the past 2 seasons players just brush pass him with ease. If a d.m in my eyes doesnt have the height and physical presence then for a small guy he needs to be aggressive,energy and have that bite for e.g mascherano,demel,fernandinho etc arteta doesnt have any of those quality.

    This is not a bashing if ppl on here want to believe by the stats above arteta is 3rd,2nd best prem more fool you, lets hope khederia or sum1 of that quality is brought to turn a hopefull season into a really really stromg one . And we all know it.

  7. I think Arteta is extremely valued by his team and the management staff at Arsenal, but it’s the fans and media that tend to be negative about his ability.
    Arteta is an integral part of the club due to his workmanlike attitude but like all players he is getting older and as such fans are now looking at possible replacements that are job specific and this relates to this elusive holding midfielder that everyone seems to be crying out for.
    In truth I think everybody is looking for the next Viera and Arteta isn’t that player.
    I think Arteta is respected by most but probably isn’t the grade A player that the fans want and now the club are flexing its financial muscle and buying better players then we have done for many a year, it’s the midfield spot that fans want to see a world class player in.
    I know we speak about captaincy now TV5 has gone but for me I would look no further then Ramsey, he leads by example and respected by the team, he also has age on his side and could be the captain for years to come.

  8. Arteta is “competent” in the deep lying playmaker role, but he is not want will take Arsenal to the next level, especially in big games. Arsenal, especially in the 4-3-3 formation, have so many attacking options. A physical presence will provide the well needed protection for the back aswell as encourage the attacking players to remain in positions to start another attack. In big games this physical presence because more essential (Look at matic). Arteta is way above average in that position but a player in the Bender mould will enable us compete for the league and champions league (the biggest stage).

    1. You absolutely touched on the core of the problem. Many fans want a pure CDM when Arsene sees the role as deep laying playmaker. A regista can defend but it is not his primary skill and that is leaving us exposed when our midfield is bullied and the attacking players forget their defensive duties. I think we need both options to compete in the EPL through tactical changes.

  9. Saterday, start of the season and we’ll short of CD Class cover.Mr Wenger,finger out,again before we get caught again.

  10. @davidnz, dnt agree with all but sum points very true, in my eyes jack,arteta,giroud,sanogo and throw szensy in there are all wengers favourites he just wont drop them if thier fit, sanogo iv put in there becuase everyone knows he should have bee. Loaned and remy bought in along with campbell then that would be reall competition up front. No c.d.m shows the preference to arteta and jack both deserve the bench nothing more, szencsy wont be dropped no way even though ospina is better way better leys hope sum how he gets his chance.

  11. Arteta has been immense when we needed to fill the void left by Cesc’s departure. We need to pan for the future and find suitable DM with the same talent and added physical presence…not an easy task if you ask me.

    In reply to Davidnz, yes we have areas where we can improve, the left wing, CDM and CF are 3 of them, the LB cover the last piece of the puzzle but I do think the changes will happen over 2 seasons. If we get the right player and use some of new wealth to keep our talent we will triumph in the EPL before soon.

    We are looking stronger, not yet the finished article but the Arsenal rebirth only started a year ago.


  12. Very good article Mr Author. I just feel that against the big teams, especially away, we’ll be defending more and playing on the counter. Your article highlights that Arteta is NOT the player we need in these games but will play against teams where we are expected to have majority of possession.

  13. Arteta has lost his legs and we need william carvalhou, to sit in front of the defense and do the job. Hummels could also do a great job and he’s a good playmaker aswell.
    Cmon wenger stop being stubborn and spend the dough

  14. arteta is a good leader I hope give him a 1 year contract option but don’t think he is our answer for cdm position he goes missing in big games we have seen that last few seasons surely wenger will sign a new cdm

  15. Koscielny is back in training, reports is expected to be fit for Crystal Palace game even though wenger may not play him but hope we do get a new cb coygs

  16. Arteta tries hard and has experience, but for a full season we need someone special and younger at CDM position. It’s really our only weak postion (unless you count striker position)

  17. Mats Hummels is very expensive (+50m). His favorite Club is the FC Barcelona. Bad cards for Arsenal. Ps: Benni Höwedes plays like Frankenstein.

  18. When we attack we attack fully with RB and LB overlapping. One small miscue out front and we are in trouble. The most athletic player on the team should be right there able to tackle any counter attempt and for us to remain on the attack. Granted those players are very hard to come by but it is such a great defensive weapon to have.

  19. I’m actually interested to c chambers in midfield, would be ideal to buy a CB ad promote one, whilst rotating arteta with chambers till he is able to fully establish himself in that role, imagine a midfield trio of ramsey-chambers-wilshere/ozil, we’d be set for a decade

  20. Jaime Carragher is the newest “expert” who thinks Arsenal can’t win the PL (he said we lack a great Goalkeeper and striker) joining:
    Michael Owen
    Gary Neville
    Adrian Durham
    Samir Nasri

    Can’t wait to see them eat humble pie.

    1. To be honest I am surprised anyone understands Carragher, he needed subtitles the last time I saw him speak on TV…

    2. Quite happy with their predictions. MO predicted Chelsea last year, GN predicted Man U and AD predicted it would not be MC. “Expert” is not a term that should be used for these pundits. As for SN – what else can he say and who cares what he thinks?

  21. Cesc at Chelski is making me nervous. I know what he can do and give to a tea. When he is settled. Chelsea could not break down smaller teams that parked the bus, now with Cescs vision a d a wide range is passing and defense splitting balls will add a great deal to them..

  22. Luke Shaw out for a month?!?!? Crazy stuff… Here’s hoping Man U don’t complete any more signings.

  23. I think the point the author is trying to make is that since its unlikely that we are getting a DM we should support Arteta whose stats is not all that bad. well, in my opinion, we certainly can do better than Arteta, but if no one else is coming in, lets get behind him and the team, as criticizing the players won’t help their confidence.

  24. Stats don’t tell the whole story. Arteta is a safe pair of feet and has a lot of touches of the ball and when things are going well (like in the community shield) he contributes a lot by keeping the flow of attacks going. But he’s not Vieira and sometimes we get over-run.

  25. I sure can’t think of anyone else to take our penalties than Mikel.
    Yes, physicality counts but so does experience and professionalism.

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