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Vital Arsenal Player of the Season: 3rd Place

Vital Arsenal Player of the Season: 3rd Place

The votes have been cast and it would appear that you lovely people agreed with me entirely in your Player of the Season votes in terms of running order. Like Arsenal themselves, Mikel Arteta held off a late surge from Alex Song in 4th place, who snared 10% of your votes. The Spaniard signed from Everton on deadline day can justifiably feel the love with 11% of the overall vote for Player of the Season, putting him in 3rd place. Though not our record signing, Arteta is the most expensive player Arsenal have bought thus far. £10m transfer fee and a further £15m in wages over a 5 year deal for a man who will have little resale value at the end of his deal represents a big speculation. If this season is anything to go by; it`s an investment that will yield accumulation. Journalists that conducted a very basic lack of research alleged he took a pay cut to join Arsenal, which is untrue as Arsenal put an extra year on his deal compared to his Everton contract.

Arteta`s arrival was sealed in true Arsenal style, with seconds of the transfer deadline to spare. The press billed him as the replacement for Fabregas, but the truth was that that was never the intention. Slowly everyone began to realise that actually he was an upgrade on Denilson and more of a replacement for the crocked Wilshere. Ramsey was to head the midfield triangle, with Arteta`s unyielding ball retention and ceaseless concentration acting as the go between in midfield. Nobody in the Premier League passed more often and more accurately than Arteta. He became our pivot, the lubricant of our game. He liberated Ramsey (later Rosicky) and allowed Song to flower into a creative defensive midfielder, ably covering every time the Cameroonian whenever he ventured forward. In this respect, Arteta enabled Arsenal to prescribe to the manager`s vision of total football, where everybody is responsible for everything.

It took a lot of us a long while to get used to this more understated role. Arteta had been the creative fulcrum of an Everton side for six years and most had expected him to take that mantle again. Wenger once described a young, budding Denilson as a hybrid of Gilberto and Rosicky. He never quite managed to develop that way, but the description is more fitting for Arteta. His brand of unfussy play- receive the ball, move it on, be in a position to receive again if needed- became vital in the engine room. He at once liberated Ramsey and Song and he added an experience and maturity to a side that had, in recent years, looked talented yet self destructive. One can only salivate at the prospect of having signed him four years earlier. An alliance between him and Fabregas could have really been something special.

Joni Mitchell once sang, "So it always seems to go, that you don`t know what you`ve got till it`s gone." Whilst Gooners were on board with Mikel`s importance, the wider public didn`t seem to get it until the wee Pugsley Addams lookalike with the Ken Doll hairdo was injured in a cup tie with Leeds. He missed the next two games, away at Swansea and at home to Manchester United. We lost both. It`s now a well worn fact that the Gunners only won 1 of the 9 games for which Arteta was sidelined this season. It took them until the last attempt too! It`s not just Arteta`s ball retention that makes him so vital to the side, but his defensive nous. He knows when to plug in for wandering teammates (cough, Vermaelen, cough) and he presses the opposition.

One only has to look not just at the quantity but the manner of the goals we`ve conceded in his absence. Against Swansea, Norwich, West Brom and Wigan straight forward, uncontested balls from the middle of the pitch had put our back four under instant pressure. Two concurrent events at the season`s tail end neatly surmised his influence. One of his last contributions of the season was to smash a late, 25 yard winner past Joe Hart against Manchester City. But it wasn`t the strike, so much as how it came about. With 87 minutes gone, he was harrying Pizarro into surrendering possession, he pressed high up the pitch to win the ball back. Eight days later, he hobbled off in the home game v Wigan. In the period between him going off for treatment and being replaced, the Latics scored twice. The first saw the team mercilessly exposed on the counter attack without Arteta`s diligence. He missed the rest of the season as Arsenal became nervous and leaky. One can only speculate, but both his calmness and his defensive responsibility would surely have seen us over the line into 3rd place in a much more timely fashion.

Arteta also gives us a viable right footed option for setpieces. Strikes against Aston Villa and Manchester City showed us that he can hit a mean strike- which he showed plenty of times in Everton`s blue. But his setpiece delivery from corners is also unerring. No other right footed option matches his delivery for accuracy. You rarely see him over hit and it`s not often one of his corners doesn`t clear the front post- a bugbear of Wenger`s Arsenal in past years- or into the goalkeeper`s arms. It`s just a shame we don`t have the players to capitalise on it more often! Arteta attempted in excess of 2,200 passes this season, completing exactly 90% of them and created 63 goalscoring opportunities for teammates- though admittedly this culminated in just 2 assists. He has 7 goals from 27 shots in his 31 league appearances (information courtesy of fourfourtwo`s stat zone ). As the players completed their end of season lap of appreciation pleasantry, only two players had their names sung directly. Van Persie and then Arteta. His contribution has been slow in arriving, but generous in its outpouring from Arsenal fans. A fantastic effort from a player I`d have loved to have seen at Arsenal some years ago. Tomorrow, a write up on this season`s silver medal. LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday May 20 2012
Time: 4:37PM


He has been excellent in his first season with us. His goal against Citeh was splendid. Here's hoping his second season with us is better than his first.
Ned Stark
20/05/2012 18:09:00
Arteta has definitely been an unsung hero for me. His season in the middle of the park has hopefully reminded Wenger that we need someone of his quality and experience in that position every game. We cannot coast through games without a midfield anchorman and expect to win anything. I think Ferguson recognised this when he coaxed Scholes out of retirement. There is a balance problem in this team when he has been out and we need to have a strategy to cope with that next season, whether its about players coming back from injury or a new acquisition.
Wyn Mills
20/05/2012 19:15:00
Well, for once there are no competition or surprises are there? We all know how the list is going to look like :). The best of the 7 odd signings Wenger made.
20/05/2012 19:37:00
The quality that Arteta brought us, despite his impressive stats with the ball, is the ability to play when we don't have the ball. Those years at Everton when dominating possession wasn't always taken for granted schooled him in reading play, where to be, what positions to take up when the other side has the ball. It's a quality that's probably impossible to pick up in an Arsenal team simply because we don't often get to practice playing without the ball for long spells of the game. Consequently if we need that ability (and we clearly do) it probably can only be recruited externally in the form of experienced players like Arteta and Gilberto who have learned to play that way with teams who don't control possession as much as we do. Players at Arsenal maybe brought up with the theory but don't get to practice it as much in genuine game situations.
21/05/2012 00:09:00
Mikel is my personal no.1 actually. Sorry Robin.
21/05/2012 08:09:00
Good observation, Amos. I always recall how difficult an opponent Arteta was when he played against us, a determined fighter who combined tenacity without losing quality on the ball. Totally agree that we needed him a long time ago. Reminds me of Gilberto.
21/05/2012 08:32:00
Arteta was my choice for player of the season. What an absolute joy to watch this first class professional. The things he does allows other players to express themselves, and when we're without him it's obvious to see he was the glue that held us together this season. I can't wait to see how he and Jack play on the same field! I just hope he know how much he's appreciated by the fans, because he was labeled a poor man's Cesc when he first joined. However he's nothing like Cesc, and even though in the grand scheme of things Cesc is a better player, Arteta's qualities are more important to us than Fabregas' were imo.
21/05/2012 09:09:00
Tell you what... thank eff we signed him!! We would've only won one game all season if we didn't, this is a cast iron fact.
21/05/2012 10:13:00
He was my player of the season ahead of RVP. he would also win the "haircut of the year award" for having a head of hair like an action man toy, instead of Rooney's "barbie doll hair"....
Scotch Eggs Rule
21/05/2012 10:37:00
Chelsea want £1m for Yossi. Yossi wants a 2 year deal. Seems a no-brainer to me. Unless the club are thinking of bringing someone else in why wouldn't we stump up the cash?
Wyn Mills
21/05/2012 13:25:00
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