If chatter over the weekend is to be believed, then this season may be Mikel Arteta’s last in an Arsenal shirt.
Despite talk earlier this season about a new deal for the Spaniard, it seems that deal has not materialised.
It is now expected that Arteta, the first Arsenal captain to lift a trophy since Patrick Vieira in 2005, will be the latest in a long line of club captains to depart N5 after a brief spell with the armband.
If Arteta does indeed leave this season, you would be wise to get your money on a summer 2016 departure for Per Metesacker…
I was going to continue this by saying that opinion is split, here at Cannon Towers, over whether letting Mikel go is the right thing to do.
But it isn’t.
One the one hand, you have his utter tranquility on the football pitch, the metronomic passing and the fact that he seems to be a very popular and respected figure in the dressing room. Not forgetting, of course, his “perfecto” hair.
And it seems that this is enough for most of my colleagues. I can understand that point of view, I myself think Arteta has been a wonderful player for the Arsenal, particularly as he arrived here and helped to steady the ship in the immediate aftermath of both Cesc’s Fabregas departure for Barcelona and the Old Trafford mauling.
Both events seemed to say so much about Arsenal’s standing in the Premier League.
You also have to give him credit because he came here and adapted to a new role on the football pitch, at the base of our midfield. Not quite the living embodiment of Arsene Wenger’s maxim that “good players can play anywhere“, but close and doing it week in, week out for most of his first three years here.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call Mikel Arteta one of my favourite players to have represented our football club, but I think he seems to be one of the players who really gets what it means to be an Arsenal player. He has been as classy off the pitch as on it and I think we can feel justifiably proud to call him one of our own.
Yes, there is a but coming, a really big, Sol Campbell type butt.
I think it’s time to say goodbye to him.
Really, I do (yeah, I know, I’m advocating letting another midfielder go).
For one thing, there is a string of injuries which began last season and have continued into this.
Is Arteta just unlucky or, as he approaches his 33rd birthday, is his body just struggling to cope with the demands of the Premier League?
Then there was the sight of Arteta- for some reason, whenever I think of him now, I think of this- struggling to cover the wide areas of the Stamford Bridge pitch as both full backs pushed on time after time last season.
In doing so, they left both Arteta, and the defence he was supposed to be protecting, exposed. Arteta clearly couldn’t cope with this on a physical level, but he is also the captain of the team; the leader of the gang.
Why didn’t he ask one of those full backs to tuck in a bit? Where, in short, was his leadership, his sense of game management that day?
Recently, I argued that Francis Coquelin should absolutely be given a new Arsenal contract and that there was room for Coquelin, Arteta and a new signing– someone like Scheiderlin, for example.
In this example, Schneiderlin and Coquelin could then be used together, or rotated as necessary and Arteta would provide further back up to the pair, maybe coming off the bench as one of the 70 minute subs clubs use to try and close a game out.
My thinking has moved on bit since then.
The way I see it now is that of course there is room for Arteta to provide this option but I’m not sure that I want someone at the club who can only do 20 minutes here, half an hour there.
I mean, I don’t really see the point of it when we could go out and sign a couple of real class acts to fit in alongside Coquelin. After all, this is Arsenal, there will be injuries, there would be game time for everyone.
The idea of having a player who is only good for a few minutes here and there seems to be counter productive if we want to build a squad capable of competing for league titles.
Let’s be honest, Arteta’s legs are demonstrably not capable of standing up to rigours of the Premier League any more and even if they were, should we not be aiming a little higher? After all, it’s difficult to imagine Arteta having a role in the squads of Chelsea, Manchester City or even Liverpool.
Predictably, perhaps, there is a caveat to all of this.
Arsenal, it seems have had real trouble in identifying, and procuring, a genuinely world class defensive midfielder for years now. To the point that whilst I can believe, just about, that one signing to excite us all may be made in this area. A second seems largely fanciful, particularly as Arsene Wenger has already stated that he sees Calum Chambers future in the holding role (I’m not so sure myself, but who am I to quibble?).
Perhaps, common sense will hold that we hang onto the captain for one more season and he can provides us with a little more quality, and experience, than we would have if we only signed one player in this position.
Or if we (heaven forbid) signed nobody at all.
We’d all rather have Arteta as a third choice than Flamini, right?