Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Silent. Calm. Poised. Arsenal's engine - Mikel Arteta

Arsenal has taken to not just winning, but doing so from spectacular situations. In the last four premier league games, Arsenal have come back from losing positions to win the game. I'm told that is a record, and I'll believe that. Against Sunderland, Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle, Arsenal have conceded first and then gone on to win the game. And these teams are not pushovers, three of them are challenging for fourth spot and Sunderland were reborn from ashes after Martin O'Neill took charge. Amazing performances. Amazing results. If there was anything in this world that could stop Wenger's 'mental strength' speeches, well, this is it. These performances show enough mental strength.
On monday night again, we fell behind to a well taken goal by Ben Arfa and responded immediately by Van Persie scoring. Theo Walcott has really stepped up and is delivering world class performances, and he did so on monday as well. Arsenal dominated the game, and looked stronger everywhere and finally were rewarded in the 94th minute when Vermaelen charged in and put the ball in the net. Kudos to him for running 80 yards for the goal, he really is a winner, the kind of player who will score the winning goal in a cup final. 
In this game, Newcastle rarely looked threatening. Arsenal seemed to hold on to possession very easily and run the game at a good pace for the entire 90 minutes. This is what brings me to Mikel Arteta. Arteta comes from a country with midfielders like Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, so maybe he does not get due credit for how good he actually is. On monday night, what he does so well was on display clearly. Arteta sat right in front of Vermaelen and Koscielny, took the ball from them and distributed it all over the field. He had the most passes in the game and had 20 more than the second highest number of passes. Arteta rarely looks for that killer final through ball that splits defenses, he calmly switches wings, he brings players into the game who weren't being utilized in that move. Arteta runs the game for Arsenal.
Arsenal have the highest average possession this season at 58.5%, most credit goes to Arteta for this. When the defenders win the ball, all they have to do is give the ball to Arteta, who then picks out the right pass to the right player, he frees the defenders from the burden of picking the right pass. Should any player lose the ball then, our center backs are prepared and in position to meet the oppositions attack. Arteta's clever distribution has helped Arsenal keep possession and hence concede fewer goals. His clever distribution keeps the opponents chasing the ball, it doesn't let them settle into positions and make it difficult for Arsenal to find the gaps in defenses. His quick distribution ensures that players like Rosicky and Song pick out the gaps. Gaps that Arteta creates by keeping the ball moving. And this helps the attack. In Arteta, Arsenal have their very own midfield magician. Most cameras are never aimed at Arteta, he's never the most exciting player from the neutral point of view. He's silent, calm and his passing technique is second to none. He sits behind the scenes and directs Arsenal's every move. At the beginning of every attack stands Arteta. The world seems to think he's Cesc's replacement, he's not. He plays another role, a role as important. A role the press will never concentrate on. Arteta might not be as good as Xavi, but he's not too far behind either. Let's give him due credit. He has an amazing impact on the game, and I don't think he'll be the one on the bench when Jack is back. The Newcastle game was a testament to how good Arteta is.
 Apart from that, I loved the fiery Van Persie we saw on the pitch. It's something we often saw in Viera and this passion is something you want to see from your captain. I've gone on and on about this teams team spirit, and Vermaelen shielding Van Persie in the tunnel was just that. You don't mess with out captain. Wasn't that what Jack tweeted? It's great to see how much respect Van Persie has earned from the squad. 
Lastly, I think I should stop saying 'Keep the faith', because clearly everyone does now. Have a happy week gooners. Everyone reading this while at work, don't worry, next midweek will be here soon, and we'll watch Arsenal again. Cheer up. Till then, stay happy, keep others happy.

'I can pass it there'

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