Pitchside Europe

Who makes way for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal?


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When it comes to Arsenal's lack of silverware in recent years, the media are quick to highlight the lack of experienced leaders within central midfield.

Indeed, throughout Arsenal's 1997-98 Premier League winning season, Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira's leadership played a crucial part in clinching the Gunners' first league title since 1991 – and Arsene Wenger's first on English soil.

It is, then, encouraging news that Mikel Arteta returned to training last Friday following a thigh injury which has seen him miss all of Arsenal's opening fixtures before he playing in the League Cup on Wednesday night.

Wenger was quick to highlight Arteta's importance, saying “he is very influential and he's a leader - one of the leaders of the team and he's a technical leader as well."

The Frenchman also went on to add: “I believe Arteta will get back into the team and they will all get their share of games. You calculate in a squad the maximum the players can play is 70 per cent of the games, so that is a lot of room for the other players as well."

Mikel Arteta has a vast amount of experience in England having spent the last eight years in the Premier League, initially under David Moyes's management at Everton following his 2005 transfer from Real Sociedad. The Spaniard's transfer to Arsenal took place in August 2011 – a switch that has since seen him become their vice-captain. Make no mistake about it, Arteta is an experienced leader with plenty of technical qualities, and a crucial component in Arsenal's midfield if last season's statistics are anything to go by.

The former Spain Under-21 international achieved the second highest Squawka Performance Score (2,170) in the Premier League last season, behind teammate Santi Cazorla (2,719).

Mikel Arteta also contributed to his team's cause with six goals (he was fifth highest goalscorer at the club last season) and 75 tackles (178 total duels) – significantly more than any other Arsenal player (see above). Furthermore, Arteta had the greatest number of completed passes (2,429) in the league last season.

Wenger's preferred formation is the 4-2-3-1 (although it can often resemble a 4-3-3 due to the more defensive minded midfielder) meaning that there are currently two central midfield positions up for grabs, with Santi Cazorla or Mesut Ozil almost certain to take their place behind Olivier Giroud. With Aaron Ramsey playing superbly at home and throughout Europe, and Jack Wilshere seemingly everyone's favourite young English talent, who will Arteta replace, if any?

The question may be moot at present - as Wilshere is playing in an advanced position with Santi Cazorla missing and Mathieu Flamini could drop out of the deep midfield - but eventually Wenger is going to have to choose between the two, it seems.

And given that Ramsey's impressive performances make him almost irreplaceable at present, could Wilshere's automatic starting position be under threat?

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Ramsey is currently Arsenal's best player with a Performance Score of 244, five Squawka Best Awards, three league goals, 89% pass accuracy and an average of four defensive actions per game; a midfielder who's currently blossoming under Wenger's nurturing guidance.

By contrast, the Welshman's midfield partner Wilshere has achieved a mediocre Performance Score of 85, although it should also be pointed out that the 20-year-old has created a greater number of chances for his team-mates.

Whichever team Wenger decides to unleash upon the opposition in the forthcoming weeks, Arsenal supporters should feel far more optimistic this season. Their vice-captain is back, they sit atop of the Premier League with 12 points, and a recent Champions League away trip to Marseille resulted in a 2-1 victory.

Arteta's return demonstrates the solid depth the Gunners have in the middle of midfield, and it also suggests that Arsenal have variation, which will be in vital Europe and in the Premier League.

From Squawka.com - team and player football stats

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