Is Arteta the greatest ever panic buy?


In order to succeed in football, you will always need some degree of luck. When August 31st 2011 arrived, Arsène Wenger was running low on it. He had been given the news that Jack Wilshere would be out for Arsenal until at least the start of 2012 and Abou Diaby out indefinitely; in searching for a replacement, he had offers for Yann M’Vila and Lucho Gonzalez rejected. In panic, he called Everton, enquiring about Marouane Fellaini. Bill Kenwright quoted £30 million, claiming that he would “be lynched” if he sold the Belgian. So Arsenal followed up by asking about Mikel Arteta and eventually, a £10 million deal was finalised.

Those who had watched Arteta knew that he would not take the place of the departed Cesc Fàbregas, but play deeper, with a more defensive mindset. And alongside Alex Song, defending would very much be the primary element of his game, but his partnership with Song was an oddly imbalanced pivot, with Song’s indiscipline meaning that Arteta often remained deep to cover for him. After the Cameroonian’s sale, Arteta was entrusted by the manager to play as Arsenal’s primary holding midfielder.

This was seen by many as a risk. Arteta stands at 5’9″ and is not exactly a great physical presence; nor is he a Javier Mascherano-esque tenacious chaser. His holding qualities lie in his intelligence and his discipline. He is rarely, if ever, caught out of position. You will not see him throwing himself into tackles, charging around the field like Napoleon into Russia, purely because he has no need to. As Xabi Alonso once said on the English concept of tackling (specifically slide tackling) as a quality: “Tackling is not really a quality, it’s more something you are forced to resort to when you don’t have the ball. I can’t get it into my head that footballing development would educate tackling as a quality.”

Michael Keshani at The Sabotage Times raises the interesting question, whether or not Arteta is the greatest ever panic buy? The title of the article may lead one into thinking that it offers a comparison of various “panic buys”, however instead it analyzes Arteta’s significance to the London side since his arrival last year. In order to fully comprehend the Spaniard’s contribution this season, one should look no further than James Amey’s statistical review of the top 5 midfield passers so far this season, which also includes the likes of Yaya Toure, Santi Cazorla, Michael Carrick, and Joe Allen.

Many people generalise a player’s passing stats and say how good a player is just on the number of passes he has made and how many passes he has completed, but there are many other factors that people do not tend to take into consideration.

With that in mind this comparison not only looks at the general passing statistics but also compares where on the pitch the top 5 passers make their passes (own half of the pitch, attacking half of the pitch and the final third of the pitch), what type of passes the midfielders are making (long balls, through balls, short passes) and how often they make these passes this season.

Continue reading the piece at EPL Index here.

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