Yesterday witnessed the dramatic exit of a cult figure at Goodison who has been a key cog in our development as a club over the past 7 years. This article will take a look at his career at the Blues and investigate what the fallout will be – will he be missed? – will it affect how we setup in terms of style and strategy this season? Read on…..
There is no doubting how pivotal Arteta has been to the Blues cause since arriving from Sociedad – we have averaged 61 points per season with him in the team and 51 points without him – notably down to his creativity – since 2005 he has on average created 2.7 chances per game ranking him 5th in the top flight in terms of creation. The stats below show this:
Arteta with and without (above table produced Jan 2011)
Arteta’s passing is consistently quality and rarely dips below 80% completion– he has the ability to dictate games and the combined loss of him and Pienaar will hit us in terms of ability to retain possession. Set plays and crosses aside, MA is our most creative player possessing great vision and technique – a skill set which (with the potential exception of Barkley) doesn’t reside elsewhere in the squad despite the ability Osman possesses.
Arteta 3 Year Stats (produced Jan 2011)
Our playing style became more direct from January onwards last season, coinciding with Pienaar’s departure; however this was met with an upturn in results and goals per game, improving from 1.05 to 1.66 per game . With both gone and no like-for-like players coming in, our game will change to a more direct, pressing game I fancy, using the pace and youth of the likes of Coleman, Rodwell, Fellaini & Drenthe.
Arteta’s importance to the club has been reduced in last 3 seasons since his cruciate injury, leading him to only be available for half the games in this period. Pre-injury the team was built around him but since Baines has become the pivotal player in terms of strategy and creative spark; in the last 2 seasons Baines has mustered 20 assists with Arteta just 6 – way short of his vintage of 13 assists back in 2006/7.
Last season MA struggled playing further back as more of a deep lying playmaker where he often had to sit and cover the left for the Baines/Pienaar forward axis. Indeed, last season we won just 31% of the games Arteta played in, compared to 44% of the games he didn’t figure in. I’m not saying we are a better team with Arteta not in it – quite the opposite – but clearly we can pick up points with him absent as we have had to do with great regularity in the last 3 seasons with his injuries.
Whilst he improved later on in the campaign (notably Newcastle away) on the flanks and was still one of the first names on the team sheet, he simply wasn’t the force he once was. Moyes at times seemed unsure on where to deploy him for the best, playing him on the left, right, anchor and in a no.10 role.
Mikel Arteta has been one of the best players I have seen play at Goodson. He has great passing technique, delivery, vision and composure. In his earlier years he also possessed a tidy turn of pace and the ability to beat players on the flanks.
My view is that unlike with the Rooney transfer, we have got great value from Arteta and we certainly witnessed his best playing days. My sadness at his exit is more about sentimentality of what has gone before than what could happen in the future.
The timing of the transfer has left us no time to buy a replacement and short term we will have to re-adjust tactically. However, as mentioned above, MA is no longer the man the team is built around and, close to his 30’s, £10m represents decent value. I’m sure he will give Arsenal good service and fit in with their style of play.
Thanks for the memories Mikel!