Is Mikel Arteta Arsenal’s Most Important Player?

Very recently, I took part in a discussion with a number of Football fans, many of which were staunch supporters of Arsenal. I discussed the idea of Mikel Arteta being the most important ingredient in Arsenal’s starting line up, yet to my surprise, I was met with complete and utter disagreement.

“Arteta excels in his midfield play, his defensive play and in his ability to provide stability to the team.”

Their main issue with my argument, was that better players existed within the team. For example, they argued that Santi Cazorla was far more influential offensively, and was clearly more technically gifted on the ball.

Although they were perfectly correct in saying that, they had clearly forgotten – or had merely overlooked – the significance of what Mikel Arteta brings to the team. Not only is he able offensively and technically, but he also excels in his midfield play, his defensive play and in his ability to provide stability to the team as a whole.

Through my participation in online discussions, communities and social media, I know that the fellow Arsenal fans I had this discussion with, are not alone in their mindset. They, along with many others, have enjoyed the silky smooth Football of our out-and-out attackers, yet have failed to appreciate the sheer importance of solid, well-balanced midfield play.

The Quality of Arteta

In my 2012/13 Season Review, I placed Mikel Arteta in second place behind Theo Walcott for my player of the season. I think we can all agree that the Englishman’s goal and assist stats were simply too good to ignore.

Here’s the table of my top 5 players of the 2012/13 campaign:

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I chose to make Walcott player of the season because of his high return of goals and assists from a wide role. However, I was, and still am, quite careful not to conflate our best attacker with our most important all-round player. To be the most important player in a team, the player in question needs to be holistically impressive.

Due to his current role, it’s difficult to ascertain the effectiveness of Arteta by examining his goals and assists alone. It’s no secret that the Spaniard does the bulk of his job in and around the centre circle. To grasp the effectiveness of Arteta, more relevant facts and figures need to be taken into account.

Recently, 7amkickoff wrote an interesting article on Mikel Arteta, which included statistics that offer much more scope:

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Additionally, Arsenal Vision published a similar piece, focusing in on Arteta’s figures in comparison to Michael Carrick. Their statistics were also extremely interesting:

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From the facts and figures shown above, It’s pretty evident that we are dealing with a player who brings some seriously important credentials to the table. Mikel Arteta doesn’t just compete with the biggest midfielders in Europe, he actually out-performs them in quite a few areas.

Some of you may still be shrugging your shoulders. We all know about Mikel Arteta’s passing accuracy, it’s because all he does is pass the ball backwards, right?

Wrong.

During the 2012/13 season, just 33.1% of Mikel Arteta’s passes went backwards.

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In contrast, Santi Cazorla passed the ball backwards 35% of the time, whilst Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott passed backwards 37.2% and 48% of the time respectively.

So, not only does Arteta have the best passing accuracy in the team, as well as the second best in Europe, he also surpasses other Arsenal midfield regulars when it comes to forward passes.

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Arsenal’s Most Important Player?

Despite the rather convincing statistics shown above, many fans will still be scratching their heads. How can Mikel Arteta be more important than Santi Cazorla or Theo Walcott?

The fact of the matter is, both Cazorla and Walcott are hugely important to the Arsenal set up. To deny that would be ridiculous. However, to claim that Mikel Arteta plays a lesser role than those two players, is equally as ridiculous.

“Arteta had the second best passing accuracy in Europe, made more successful long balls than Toure, and even made more tackles than Xavi & Schweinsteiger combined.”

No amount of glamorous long shots and displays of trickery on display from other players cannot diminish the awesomeness of Arteta’s efficiency and consistency in keeping Arsenal flowing.

In the 2012/13 campaign, Mikel Arteta had the second best passing accuracy in Europe, made more successful long balls than Yaya Toure, more interceptions than Carrick, and even made more tackles than Xavi and Schweinsteiger combined.

After examining the statistics, arguing that Mikel Arteta is not Arsenal’s most important player is almost absurd. Perhaps, one can argue that Theo Walcott deserves the accolade for his impressively high return on goals and assists, but apart from that, there’s not really much room for debate.

Do you think Mikel Arteta is Arsenal’s most important player? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Statistics: ESPN | Squawka | 7amkickoff | Arsenal Vision

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