Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun, eh?
This particular phrase has definitely struck a chord with me this morning, as I find myself back on the Metropolitan line train and slowly ambling myself towards my grey prison in central London for my first day back to work after a break in the sun.
I won’t bore you with those details too much, but suffice to say that the more enjoyable your holiday, the more difficult the first day back is it seems.
That’s not the same as Tricky Micky Arteta though, who was talking to the official site about how great it is to be back in the team after injury. Imagine loving your job that much? Mind you, if it’s ‘being a footballer’ then he’s thoroughly entitled to, so for that we can be happy. Happy because we’ve got enough injury problems to worry about, let alone suffering any more ‘little setbacks’, and Arteta will provide plenty of experience and cover in a position in which we’re already looking light in terms of boots on the ground.
Time flies for him too. I can’t believe he’s been at the club four years already. My how it’s changed. He joined a creaking giant, licking its wounds after an 8-2 loss that no Premier League team should ever suffer, let alone one with lofty ambitions than getting to 40 points each season and ‘see where we are’. He joined us with Big Per and Andre Santos and whilst the latter notched up a few too many driving penalty points and inches on his waistline, both Spaniard and German have gone on to become captain and vice captain respectively.
I have to say I don’t buy this ‘his legs have gone’ rubbish. It tends to come a little bit too soon after a poor performance unfortunately; rarely based on a series of games and having spent swathes of last season on the treatment table, I don’t believe anybod has truly had enough games to watch to see the clear decline of Arteta.
Yes, he’s not as much of a ball winner as Coquelin and yes, he is going to be beaten for pace at 33, but does that render him completely redundant as a deeper lying midfielder? Not for me, especially at home and especially when we come up against teams that sit deeper, because the need for a last-gasp tackle becomes few and far between at times.
What Arteta brings to the team is a cool and mature head. If he’s playing in central midfield he’ll spend a lot of the game as one of the initial build up players when we are on the front foot. How many times have we seen him drop deep to collect a ball from the ‘keeper or one of our centre halves, who have moved wide to collect the ball, then looked for a short option to distribute to? Coquelin does that, of course he does, but Arteta has spent years crafting the ability to find space and release the ball under pressure to start the next attack.
There’s a reason Arsène loves him and it’s not because he’s got perfect hair and never seems to have been in trouble off the field. It’s because he is a man whose ball retention is good and as a manager that favours a possession-based game, that’s exactly what Arsène wants in his team.
Is Arteta a long-term solution? Of course not. But is he finished in terms of his ability to be successful at Arsenal? Equally no, in my opinion. As with all players – Nacho Monreal being a perfect case in point – the only way we’ll get to see the better of Arteta is by giving him a run of games. But with ale Coq now established as first choice, how is that going to happen?
The answer is ‘I don’t think it can’. But that doesn’t mean the Spaniard has to be discarded. Just that we fans need to accept that as a squad player, he’s always going to find it a little harder to get back up to the speed of the game, that’s just the way it goes unfortunately.
The good news is that I think he’s in a position in which it doesn’t have to be ‘a young mans game’. He’s not the last line of defence, he doesn’t have to rely on pacey runs in behind an opposition back four, so he can come in and – to coin a phrase – ‘do a job’ for a short period of time or a game or two. But if Coquelin does fall victim to injury, don’t panic, because I still think Arteta would get better with an extended run in the team.
He just needs to avoid injury all season.
Catch y’all tomorrow with some thoughts on the injury up date that Le Boss will no doubt give to the official site later on today.