It’s a surprise these days if any decision Arsenal related doesn’t result in a fair share of debate on social media. One such decision doing the rounds is the contract extension of Mikel Arteta. The Club Captain recently signed a one year contract extension and that hasn’t gone down well with some of the supporters especially the social media savvy.
Cast your mind back to some four years ago, August 2011. Arsenal both as a team and as a club were in shambles. We were just murdered at Old Trafford and in a panic driven response to the catastrophe, we signed a raft of players. Some were underwhelming to put it mildly while two were solid if unspectacular signings, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker. Mertesacker had a tough début season but he eventually won the hearts of many Gooners with his performances on the pitch and his quite likeable activities off of it. Arteta has been the symbol of consistency ever since he’s arrived. He’s always a 7.5/10 player and except for last season he had been pretty good on the injury front as well. However the Captain’s popularity has plummeted recently.
Let’s remember that at Everton Arteta played as a No.10 and only at Arsenal he was converted to a deep lying midfielder. That itself deserves a certain amount of respect in my opinion. In an age where player power is greater than ever; to come to a new club that was frankly in a mess and getting acclimatised to an unfamiliar position deserves a lot of credit. In his debut season, he played alongside Song as a double pivot and the following season he became indispensable to the team. His metronomic passing, tactical intelligence and his leadership qualities proved invaluable. It was in his second season for me that he stood out.
After Van Persie left for Manchester United, Arsenal as a team were completely bereft of confidence, they lacked direction and leadership. Mikel along with the BFG emerged as the leaders. The Spaniard was the technical leader as Arsene Wenger put it. In the latter half of that season it was the Arteta and Ramsey pivot that helped us claw back the lead that Spurs built and eventually finish fourth. Had we not qualified for the Champions League that year I am not sure we would have bought Ozil or Sanchez, heck, I doubt whether Arsene would have stayed.
There’s no doubt that he can’t play three matches a week nor is he going to be the main man he once was, but to bin him once and for all would be foolish. Thankfully Wenger is not a fool. Too often we have lamented in the past about how we have no experience in our squad. It’s players like Arteta whose know how and experience becomes so vital in the midst of a title run-in.
In the not so distant past we had quite a number of players who didn’t repay the loyalty the club showed in them by moving for pastures new. They were rightfully castigated for acting without a slight tinge of respect or loyalty to the club. But is it not hypocritical on our part to castigate the club and the manager for rewarding a player for his service when the club needed him the most? Arteta was the Captain when others jumped ship and he has extended his contract because the club believed he can offer more both on and off the pitch as well. (Walcott revealed Arteta presented a video to the players before the Cup final as a motivation for the players). He didn’t have to do that especially as a certain substitute.
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The Club has acted with class and respect by rewarding a person who deserves it. As fans of Arsenal we too need to follow the same because the man is worth it. He may not be the archetypal Captain like Tony Adams or a gladiator like a Patrick Vieira but he is what you call a silent guardian, a watchful protector and he was there when we needed him. Gracias Mikel