During his time on Merseyside with Everton Mikel Arteta became one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League. His form helped Everton to unprecedented Premier League hopes under David Moyes and one of the main facets of his game was his versatility.
Like all Everton players he was asked to adopt a number of positions to cover a thin squad which he did with aplomb; spending extended periods out on the wing and as an attacking midfield player.
Now this season at Arsenal has seen the Spaniard ‘re-invented’ as a defensive midfielder with great success. Against Liverpool particulary he looked dangerous with his cool style of play in compromise to his well-executed and strong standing tackling ability.
But this is just a return to what he knows best. When at Barcelona’s youth system it was the position he played extensively, and again during a lengthy loan spell at Paris Saint-Germain.
In Scotland he was also effective going forward, owing mainly to the poor standard of much of the SPL he shone, as you would expect him to becoming a fan favourite at Ibrox.
When he moved to Real Sociedad he was being lined up to play in the deeper role and allow his boyhood friend Xabi Alonso to play further forward but alas, Alonso was sold to Liverpool and the pressure placed on Arteta was too much and he failed to fulfil his potential at the club he supported as a boy.
When he left however he found himself at Everton, specifically as a replacement for Thomas Gravesen, the uncompromising midfield player who had made a shock move to Real Madrid. So despite his advanced position at Everton he was signed as defensive minded midfielder. His talent however extends beyond this and going forward comes just as naturally to him.
What Arsenal therefore have is a naturally gifted holding midfield player who now has many years of both defensive and offensive minded midfield play in the Premier League.
Acting as the canvas for much of the work being done by Abou Diaby, Santi Cazorla and the full-backs either side of him he is fast becoming the jewel in Arsenal’s crown this season. The sort of experience and solidity they haven’t possessed since Gilberto Silva reigned supreme in the heart of the Gunners midfield.
The type of player that can help you win silverware no doubt.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald