Why Arsenal's Mikel Arteta Is the Best Holding Midfielder in the World Right Now

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterOctober 19, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29:  Mikel Arteta of Arsenal and Fernando Torres of Chelsea compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on September 29, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Arsenal's Mikel Arteta is the best holding midfielder in the world right now. Gunners fans probably aren't shocked to hear this claim—they know exactly how well he's been playing—but fans of other clubs may not be aware of how efficiently Arsene Wenger is using the Spaniard right now.

The former Everton playmaker has dropped back into the new-age holding role seamlessly and may well be the most important cog in Arsenal's midfield.

In consideration for this article I took into account Milan Badelj, Ignacio Camacho, Blaise Matuidi and Roman Neustadter, but Arteta trumps them all.

A new position

This is the first season Arteta has been used exclusively as a holding player. Why? Because until now, the holding play had to be in the mould of a Claude Makelele—a destroyer or disruptor if you will.

Players such as Yann M'Vila, Sergio Busquets, Bastian Schweinsteiger and and Xabi Alonso have revolutionised the deeper midfield role in recent seasons, making it more about playmaking then tackling.

As we know, Arteta is mercurial passer and thus slots into this role very easily indeed. That being said, this player cannot simply neglect defensive duties.

Surprisingly, the diminutive Arteta is quite the pest when it comes to disrupting opposition attacks.

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Statistical breakdown

*League only Tackles Interceptions Pass completion (%)
Mikel Arteta 4.6 2.4 93.8
John Obi Mikel 2.3 1.7 90.5
Michael Carrick 1.4 1.4 88.8
Mohamed Diame 3.6 1.1 84.1
Cheick Tiote 2.5 1.3 82.4

In the English Premier League this season, Arteta has averaged 4.6 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per game. To put this into perspective, that's a better total than players in his mould (Mikel and Carrick) and designated destroyers (Tiote and Diame.)

With regard to pass completion, only Rio Ferdinand has a better percentage (94.3), and Arteta leads all midfielders in this category, surpassing the likes of Joe Allen, Leon Britton and Paul Scholes.

The reason he's so good that he's no Hollywood player. His job is to sit, provide an outlet, lay on an easy pass and win the ball back when out of possession.

He has the highest average passes per game in the EPL so far with 94, which shows just how simple it is for him to control the flow of a game.


Even though Arteta isn't big, burly or imposing, his influence on a game cannot be underestimated. Santi Cazorla will continue to grab the plaudits, but it's his compatriot who keeps the Gunners' midfield ticking over.

Sharing a midfield with the likes of Abou Diaby has been a great help for Arteta, but it's impossible to say that he's shirked his defensive duties or that he's not had a telling impact.

Arsenal have had the highest possession per game (59 percent) and have also put in the most tackles per game (24.4). This is largely thanks to Arteta, who is the world's best and most in-form holding midfielder in football right now.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored?


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