Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday March 21 2012
Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta can probably expect a good reception when he returns to Goodison Park tonight- his first sojourn to his old hunting ground since moving from Everton to Arsenal on August deadline day. The Spanish midfielder joined the Toffeemen- initially on loan- in January 2005, before signing a permanent deal that summer, having helped Everton to 4th place.
Arteta, a Barcelona trainee, spent six and a half years at Goodison, winning the supporters Player of the Season award three times. But with the Merseyside club in financial dire straits and with 29 year old Arteta having only a year remaining on his contract last summer, it made sense for all parties for him to be sold to Arsenal. At 29, Arteta wanted a shot at the Champions League having given Everton good service and the club did well to extract £10m for a 29 year old in the last year of his deal.
Certainly Everton Assistant Manager Steve Round expects the Goodison faithful to give him a good reception; "He was a big favourite here and I think the Everton fans are very knowledgeable and respectful towards the senior players who have played for the club. I think they'll give him a good reception.
'He was a tremendous player for us. His attitude when he played for Everton was never in question, his ability was second to none and I think the Everton fans respect that.
'We do welcome him back and obviously we'll be fighting hard to make sure he doesn't have an influence on the game.'
In a sense, Arteta is Arsene Wenger`s most expensive ever signing. A £10m fee and a £15m contract for a player who turns 30 on Monday, with little resale value represents a £25m outlay. Whilst an established Premier League performer, he would hardly have got the cash tills ringing in terms of merchandise. Arteta has had to show his value on the pitch. I think I`ve written here many times that he`s demonstrating that value this season. As well as having the qualities and experience we were looking for, he is playing like a player who genuinely knows that Arsenal is his first and probably last shot at the big time, rather than spending half a season fannying around wondering which club might be willing to stick some more zeros in his pay cheque. My only regret with regards Arteta is that we didn`t sign him two years earlier.
Arsene Wenger has talked up his contribution ahead of tonight`s fixture at Goodison. "He always gives you a certain level of quality," the Frenchman told Arsenal.com. "He is always 100 per cent focused and committed and that is what you want from a real professional. He brings the best out of other players.
"I believe he is a winner and a fighter as well. I think he possesses both aspects of the game of a real midfielder - that means he can defend and he can attack. That is what we looked for."
Arteta himself said: 'I really can't wait to go there, and I hope I'll get a good reception because I gave Everton everything I had in my time there and I love the club.'
He added: 'Everyone there was great to me and, even though I left, hopefully people understood.
'There's no reason for any of us to be unhappy with each other.'
'Visiting Everton will be really special for me,' he told the official website,
'It's going to be weird to sit in the other changing room, warming up in the opposite half of the pitch and having the crowd against us.
'I just want to enjoy it.'
Let`s hope he gets the reception he deserves from the usually generous Everton fans and, more importantly, let`s hope he has an influential part to play in an Arsenal win. As ever, match report will appear here tomorrow, probably in the evening. LD.
Date:Wednesday March 21 2012
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