Arsenal FC Opinion: Will Mikel Arteta Lose His Starting Place for the Gunners?

Vijay MuraliAnalyst ISeptember 19, 2013

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Leighton Baines of Everton is challenged by Aaron Ramsey (L) and Mikel Arteta of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and  Arsenal at Goodison Park on November 28, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Gunners’ manager Arsene Wenger officially unveiled Arsenal’s marquee signing of the summer, Mesut Ozil, whose arrival has got Arsenal fans drooling at the prospect of exciting, glorious football. With many talented midfielders like Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and the brilliant Santi Cazorla in the current side, the addition of Ozil will further boost the creativity of the Gunners, and the likes of Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud are expected to benefit greatly.

Under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have been committed to playing free-flowing, attacking football, and though they were conservative in their play towards the end of the last season, the Gunners will hope to return to their flowing best this season.

Since the loss of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the same summer, Arsenal’s attacking play has suffered to a certain extent. In the 2011-12 season, they finished in third place largely due to the brilliance of Robin van Persie, and also due to Tottenham collapsing spectacularly. In the 2012-13 season, despite starting the season brightly, they struggled with their creative play and had to revert to a far more conservative style of play in order to get good results towards the end of the season.

With the Gunners not losing a single key player in the summer, it can be easily observed that the understanding between the players has certainly improved and they are playing much more incisive, creative football.

Wenger is a manager who prefers his team to play attacking football, and the addition of Mesut Ozil will certainly help in that regard. The former Werder Bremen midfielder was arguably the most creative player at Real Madrid for the last three seasons and contributed plenty of assists to the club.

Midfield Competition

With the arrival of Mesut Ozil, it creates immense competition for places in midfield for the Gunners, who generally employ a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ozil is at his best when playing in the No. 10 role and will likely play behind the main striker, Olivier Giroud. Santi Cazorla, who can also play in the central midfield role, is very likely to start on the left flank and will be provided the freedom to come inside and combine with the likes of Ozil and Ramsey.

With the experienced Mathieu Flamini also signed by Arsenal, it does seem like Arsenal have got good depth in central midfield, especially with the return to fitness of Jack Wilshere, who had a full preseason.

Though the new signings Ozil and Flamini will provide great competition in central midfield, one player who is most likely not to lose his place is the Gunners’ vice-captain Mikel Arteta, who is currently sidelined due to injury.

In the Spaniard’s absence, Aaron Ramsey has filled the void and has done exceptionally well so far this season. Wenger does see Ramsey in a deeper midfield role in the future, and his combination with Jack Wilshere has been encouraging. However, Arteta brings to the Gunners a lot of stability, and his tactical awareness is undoubtedly extremely useful for Arsenal.

Why Arteta Is Better Than Aaron Ramsey in the Defensive Midfield Role

Ramsey is a very intelligent player who understands his limitations and tries to maximize his strengths, but as of now, he still lacks the defensive awareness and leadership of Arteta. This is the main reason why Arteta is still the most important player for the Gunners, who have had a tendency to concede soft goals in the past campaigns.

However, that was not the case in the last 10 games of the previous season as the combination of Arteta and Ramsey as the double-pivot along with solid defending from the Arsenal back four ensured they were able to win without looking too convincing in attack. In the double-pivot, Arteta was the more defensive player compared to Ramsey, and he was greatly helped by the Welshman’s awareness as well as his immense work rate.

Though Ramsey is more dynamic and can help Arsenal break quickly on the counter, Arteta’s positioning is excellent and is very helpful in preventing opposition counter-attacks. Also, he is a player who is able to control the tempo of the game, and when Arsenal is in the lead, he is a player who is good at slowing down the play and taking out the sting from the game.

Although he does not seem to be a physical player, he is a very combative midfielder and the sort of player who refuses to be bullied by more physical opponents. This is also the case with Ramsey, which is why the duo will suit one another when they play against teams that are more physical.

In the games played so far this season, Ramsey has impressed in the more defensive role in central midfield and has performed admirably despite having three different partners in five games this season.

However, it is clear that the Welshman does enjoy going forward and linking up with the attacking play, which leaves them open on the counter and places more responsibility on his partner (Wilshere or Rosicky) when he moves forward.

Though Wilshere and Rosicky are excellent midfielders, they are not at their best defensively and they are positionally not the best.

Also, Ramsey has the knack of timing his runs so that he is at the end of goalscoring opportunities. He has improved his finishing and has scored six goals already this season. If he is used at the base of the midfield, then he will not have the freedom to make these runs on a frequent basis, which is a loss to both himself as well as the team.

Why Mikel Arteta Will Be Preferred to Mathieu Flamini

In Arteta’s absence, Arsenal lack leadership in central midfield, and though Ramsey is good at orchestrating the midfield, at present, he does lack the leadership skills that Arteta brings to the team.

In that respect, the addition of Mathieu Flamini is certainly a big help to the side. The French midfielder is vocal on the pitch and is very experienced, having played a number of big games in his career. Flamini is a player who will give his all on the pitch and will certainly help the Gunners add bite in midfield, which they have lacked to a certain extent since his departure in 2008.

Flamini is a player who understands his role in the team and will certainly help provide solidity to the Gunners’ midfield. He is a player who can play in the role that Arteta played last season and will certainly be an option that will be considered by Arsene Wenger.

However, despite his experience and leadership skills, Arteta has the edge over the Frenchman because of the Spaniard’s composure on the ball and control of the game. 

Arteta is excellent in possession and good at exchanging intricate passes with Ramsey, Wilshere and Cazorla, and he also dictates the tempo of the play.

The Frenchman on the other hand is not as good on the ball and is a player who will tackle hard and provide more bite in midfield. He is not as good as Arteta on the ball and does not dictate the game’s pace, which is the reason why Arteta is sorely missed when he is not present in the team.

Who Is Arteta’s Best Partner in Midfield?

This is the most interesting question that needs to be answered by Arsene Wenger, and as of now, it looks like it is a straight fight between Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey for the slot alongside Mikel Arteta, when the latter is fit.

Flamini is an option when Arteta is injured, but when Arteta is fit, it will be Wilshere or Ramsey who are likely to feature ahead of Flamini. 

With the signing of Mesut Ozil, Wilshere is most likely to operate from a deeper role in the future, and the combination play between Wilshere and Ozil will be one to look forward to. The Englishman is excellent on the ball and has the habit of collecting the ball from deep before marauding forward to initiate attacks.

However, he is not the best defensively and this is where Ramsey has the edge over Wilshere.

The Welshman is defensively aware and his positioning is better than Wilshere. His dribbling has considerably improved and is now starting to influence games decisively. He has shown the ability to dominate the midfield and control games, and he certainly looks the part in a deeper role in midfield.

The Spaniard has the experience and know-how to guide his younger partners through tough times and will be a calming influence for the Gunners.

Wilshere can and will learn as he plays more matches, and it is good for him to be kept out of the pressure for some time. Just like how Ramsey took time to recover his best form, Wilshere cannot be at his best having just returned to full fitness. He will need the confidence and the fitness to perform at his best, and playing alongside the experienced Arteta will certainly help him in this regard.

The England international, who is very talented, will have a tough fight on his hands with regard to establishing himself as a part of the starting eleven when Arteta returns to full fitness.

However, the good news for Arsene Wenger is that he does have many options in central midfield, and each player will be aware of the other options available to the manager. Hence, they will be pushed to perform to the best of their abilities, which will only benefit to the Gunners. He will also be able to rotate his midfielders, which is necessary over the course of a long and hard season.

On current form, Ramsey has the edge over Wilshere in that central midfield berth alongside Arteta, but with a player of Wilshere's quality ready to replace him, he will have to be at his best to keep his place when everyone is fit.

Wenger will provide game time to Wilshere to improve his fitness, and once he regains that fitness and his confidence, it will be an exciting battle between two of Britain's best young midfielders.


Also, for more articles from me on the Gunners, you can also visit my blog The Invincible Gunners


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