When I read about the newest Mikel Arteta’s injury set-back I felt a sour taste in my mouth. Arsene Wenger has already confirmed the Spaniard will be out for three months which translated in Wenger’s time might mean…until the end of his Arsenal career.
The Spanish midfielder has been with us since August 2011. Our wounds from two consecutive defeats against the rivals were still fresh – our decimated squad lost to Liverpool at home and Manchester United away respectively conceding ten goals in the process. Our midfield was torn apart – Cesc Fabregas had already signed for Barcelona, Samir Nasri played against Liverpool but left to Manchester City, Alex Song was suspended for stomping the hideous Joey Barton and Jack Wilshere’s ankle forced him to sit out the whole season. In what looked like a panic shopping spree, Arsene Wenger signed Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos, Chu-Young Park and Mikel Arteta while Yossi Benayoun joined on a loan from Chelsea. Two out of the four purchased players have earned a promotion to the level of club captain and a vice-captain while the other two represent arguably the worst signings Wenger has ever made.
Whilst Mertesacker’s adjustment took some time, the intelligent Spaniard with perfect hair managed to make an instant impact. He scored seven goals, allowed Alex Song to play more freely in attack and was an indispensable member of the squad that won third place. Our record with Arteta in the team was W20D3L6. In the nine matches Arteta didn’t play our record was W1D4L4. The most memorable Arteta moment was the long-range effort that secured us a late victory over Manchester City at the Emirates.
After Alex Song had signed for Barcelona, Arteta has been given even more defensive duties. It didn’t work exactly how we had hoped – the Spaniard doesn’t offer enough physical presence and his lack of pace makes him vulnerable – so Arsene Wenger had to switch to a double-pivot concept in which Arteta has played next to one of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere or Mathieu Flamini.
The departure of Robin van Persie had seen Thomas Vermaelen take the armband and Arteta had become his deputy. However, Arteta became captain even before Vermaelen signed for Barcelona – since Wenger’s decision to drop the Belgian in order to play Mertesacker and Koscielny in central defence in March 2013.
Now, it seems that Arteta might pass the armband to his deputy Per Mertesacker on a permanent basis as injuries continue to attack Arsenal players. Arteta’s contract expires in June 2015 and even with some reports saying that he will be offered a new contract, it’s possible that the Spaniard has already played his last game for Arsenal. Some replacements have been already connected with us for a while – Morgan Schneiderlin ticks a lot of boxes as he is 1) French 2) defensive midfielder 3) who can pass and 4) break the opponents’ attacks while Ilkay Gündogan was heavily praised by Arsene Wenger during the Champions’ League Final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München in 2013.
It’s true that he doesn’t have muscles like Paddy Vieira or Gilberto Silva but he is a very intelligent player. His ability to read the game and calmness he adds to our team are second to none in our current squad. People tend to remember his poor performance at Anfield when we were heavily beaten in February but forget to mention his MOTM-performance at the Emirates earlier that season when he dominated the Liverpool midfielders. The fact he took a pay-cut to join Arsenal (apparently 10,000 pounds per week) should have been more respected by fans nowadays. And, it was during his shift that “our fearful trip was done and the prize we had sought was won” – our trophy-drought had ended in May 2014 and Arteta’s well-taken penalties against Everton and Wigan respectively played an important part in our success. We have had a lot of captains since Patrick Vieira’s departure including the best Arsenal player ever in Thierry Henry but none of them – Thierry Henry, Gilberto Silva, William Gallas,Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, even Thomas Vermaelen who lifted the trophy in May as the official club captain- had managed to lead the team to a trophy on the pitch as our captain.
But Mikel Arteta has done it. Twice. So, if our journey with you is really over – thank you, Captain Calm.