Mikel Arteta: Statistical Analysis

Mikel Arteta: A Statistical Analysis

Mikel Arteta is a player whose career I have followed closely since signing him from Barcelona on Championship Manager to his time on loan at PSG and during positive and negative spells in Glasgow and Sociedad. His arrival at Goodison was a pivotal moment in Everton’s recent history and was a catalyst in changing the style of football we play. This article tells the story of Arteta’s career, investigates the roles he has been deployed in and the impact he has made in terms of style and results during his time at L4. I am a big fan of Arteta but I have tried to be as objective as possible in writing this piece and in terms of the statistics used to supplement various arguments.

Arteta: Key Statistics last 3 years

Arteta: All Round Midfielder

Since Dessailly occupied the anchor role in Fabio Capello’s Milan, midfield roles have delineated across world football into defensive and attacking. For example in the Premier League you will have Mikel who plays defensive for Chelsea with Arshavin at Arsenal almost exclusively attacking. Arteta is capable of playing in numerous positions across the midfield spectrum. He has worked with some great players who have been benchmark performers in defensive and attacking roles. In his early career he played alongside Guardiola, Figo and Rivaldo at Barca, whilst at PSG he played alongside Okocha and Ronaldinho. At PSG his game developed from being predominantly defensive with then coach Fernandez being instrumental in this development:

‘I had a fantastic year in Paris, Until then I had been purely defensive minded, a [Claude] Makelele. But Fernandez made me think about what I did with the ball. I had Jay-Jay alongside me and Ronaldinho in front. ‘I learned so much there but Fernandez almost did me in. It’s no joke. He is a great guy but he wanted to control everything. He liked to push his players hard and he fell out with Ronnie as a result.’ Source: Daily Mail Online

Following 2 productive years at Glasgow Rangers where he built on this new found attacking freedom yielding 14 goals in the process, he made the switch back to Spain with Sociedad. It was to be a disappointing spell though as the club employed Jose Amorrortu, Arteta’s former coach at Bilbao as a youth. His new mentor still held a grudge about Arteta’s defection to Barca’s Academy and froze Arteta out of the first team picture , prompting his exit to Goodison.  Initially used by David Moyes in his natural position in the central of midfield he quickly became a key cog in arresting our decline after an amazing start to the season had hit the buffers with Thomas Gravesen’s departure to Real Mardid.

With him in midfield, we were able to maintain possession better and claim key victories, notably over Manchester United when Arteta played a deliciously whipped free kick for Duncan Ferguson to grab the winner and see us into the Champions League Qualifiers. David Moyes had doubts about his strength to cope with the brutality of some of the Premier League’s hatchet men given his 11st frame and deployed him on the wing from the 2005/6 season. Arteta would occupy a wide brief for the next 3 seasons. It was a role Arteta was comfortable with, often playing as a ‘ghost winger’ cutting in from the right to create chances and score with great regularity. Indeed, the 2006/7 season was to be Arteta’s most productive with 9 goals and 13 assists representing a great return.

I have had few chats with David Moyes in the past about his vision for the team. He told me that he learnt from the movements of the full backs in La Liga (particularly Barcelona) and their tactical relationship with false wingers: the best way to utilise Arteta.” Guillem Balague, 2008

Arteta was no longer a secret in the Premier League and the following campaign was to see him as a marked man, resulting in him taking the dubious honour of being the most fouled player in the league, fouled every 28.8 minutes in season 2007/8. It was another productive campaign though, with an average of 11 crosses per game giving him the second highest cross per game ratio in the league.

The close season was to provide a key moment in Arteta’s positional shift at Everton, with Lee Carsley leaving the club the role of midfield anchor was available. Moyes tried various players in the role during a haphazard start to the campaign but non carried the control and heartbeat which Everton required. It was only after an injury crisis that Arteta was shifted inside at Spurs in October that he got his opportunity to prove to Moyes that he was capable of filling this role. It is a role he is more than capable of being deployed into. In this role he dictates the way Everton play and provides great technique, controlled passing, positional strength and the ability to pass and press accompanied by decent pace. The role is more restrictive and requires greater defensive awareness which is something which comes natural to Arteta due to the tuition he received from Guardiola.

Chalkboard Analysis 2007-8 (right wing) v 2008-9 (Midfield Anchor)

Playing in the holding midfield role does provide a restriction to someone of Arteta’s ability going forward.  This was evident in season 2008/9 and can be seen by the stats which show that despite still slotting 6 goals from his new central position, the bulk of these where from deadball positions and he had 50% less shots on goal than he had from the previous season when deployed on the flanks cutting inside. The central position he occupies does see him much more involved in the play though, as demonstrated in the Chalkboard analysis above comparing when he plays in a right sided role  and from the centre. In the above games when playing out wide he misfired 23 of his 55 passes in contrast to the following season 2008/9  against Bolton  playing centrally were he accurately shifted 72 of his 86 passes. The below Chalkboard’s show his passing heatmap comparison from the 2008/9 season and the 2010/11 campaign. Notice how in the 2008/9 heatmap he distributes just 10% of his passes in the final third and is heavily involved from a defensive point of view, completing 8 out of 10 of his tackles. If you compare this to the chalkboard (below right)  from our most reason game against Spurs he is much more offensive and his % goes up to 41% in the final third. In season 2008/9 Arteta really flexed his muscle as Everton’s centre midfield hub, and he was instrumental in the Blues surge to 5th place in the league table and the FA Cup Final against Chelsea. In a cruel twist of fate his campaign ended prematurely in March as injury would rule him out for almost a year. Regular’s at Goodison will concur that in the remaining games of this campaign and during the start of the following season Everton’s approach was much more route one because of his absence.

Chalkboard Analysis 2008-9 v 2010-11 Season Far Left Shows defensive midfield role v Man City and high volume of tackles. Middle board shows passing heatmap in same season and far right from this season. Notice this season he is playing in a more advanced midfield role.


Since his return from injury in the 2009/10 season, Arteta has played as a more orthodox central midfielder with an anchor behind him and an attacking midfielder in front of him. The Spaniard is fundamental to the Everton strategy towards games. With him, they will dominate possession and play a controlled passing game, playing high up the pitch often drawing numerous free kicks around the opposition area. Without him we will adopt a much more direct approach. This is shown in the below chalkboard from Everton’s game at West Ham this season with Arteta and the corresponding fixture last season without the Spaniard schemer. With him Everton made 429 passes while without him they registered just 246. Another interesting statistic to note between these games with and without Arteta is that goalkeeper Tim Howard’s kicking is noticeably more direct in these fixtures, with him punting 100% more long kicks out of play in the fixture Arteta was absent compared to the corresponding game. The conclusion we can draw here is that with him in the side, Everton play from the back and into midfield whilst without him there is a greater emphasis to get the ball forward quickly.

Chalkboard Analysis Everton with Arteta/Everton without Arteta from Season 2009/10 v 2010/11 West Ham Away Games – More passes with Arteta and more long balls without him



Arteta Importance to Everton.

As discussed in this article Arteta provides a good barometer of how Everton play with his appearance directly affecting the level of possession Everton accrue in games. A look at the table below shows how vital he is to the Blue cause. Notice the direct correlation between the games Arteta appears and the outcomes of games season by season. The clearest representation of this is the Blues win percentage is 44% with him in the side and just 37% with him not in the side. There has been disillusionment this campaign from the Blues faithful on Arteta’s output and this blog has reported on how often a lot of his passes this campaign have lacked penetration. Indeed, in the games Arteta has missed this campaign the Blues have more than held their own. This needs to be balanced by the fact that opponents will always look to press him more in possession than for example his central midfield partner whether that be Heitinga or Fellaini.

Everton with & without Arteta: Vital Statistics


Arteta: The future

This season has been a disappointing one thus far for Everton’s number ten. The 3year table at the start of this article illustrates this point perfectly in that his tackle completion, chances created per 90 minutes and shots on target ratio’s are all down on previous season figures although his passing accuracy continues to be steady on 83%. With a new contract signed it will be interesting to see where David Moyes sees Arteta fitting in for the following years. With Jack Rodwell knocking on the door for a regular spot in central midfield and Steven Pienaar’s much expected departure it would leave Everton with an unbalanced midfield top heavy in central midfield but weak on the flanks. With no money in the Goodison coffers it could be that Arteta is switched out to the flanks where of course he enjoyed his most productive campaign output wise in the 2006/7 campaign. Whatever the future holds, the diminutive Spaniard has been a tremendous servant to the club and it is a pleasure to watch him on his game.

Thanks for reading!

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4 thoughts on “Mikel Arteta: Statistical Analysis

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