Remember 31 August 2011: five transfers in one day

by Miles Rackham

Deadline day 2011. Arsenal fans eyes still wet from the departure of our beloved captain Fabregas, while being furious about the controversial departure of Nasri, whom was dubbed ‘$amir N€$ri’ (rightly as well).

Then a moment of madness, well a day of madness, from Mr Wenger, 5 signings. Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Park on permanent deals, while Benayoun’s transfer was a season long loan.

At sometime around 3 o’clock on deadline day, news hit that Arsenal were interested in Everton playmaker and fans’ favourite Mikel Arteta, in which he was automatically compared to Fabregas, and was said to be replacing him, even though they are two different players completely.

An hour or so later, news hit Arsenal were unwilling to pay what Everton wanted, so dropped interest in acquiring his services. An hour or so later, news hit again that Arsenal had approached Everton again about signing Arteta. Pictures of Arteta arriving at Everton, going to speak to presumingly to the manager and other various senior board members were shown on every sports new channel. Just after eleven o’clock, Arsenal announced the arrival of Arteta.

Immediately after the transfer was completed, different opinions began to arise of just how good Arteta was. One opinion was that the acquisition of Arteta, alongside the other four signings, was a sign that Arsenal FC were changing slowly into a team that had players just below the bar of ‘world class’ like Fabregas, Nasri, and could not obtain players like Hazard.

Another one was that he was a poor mans Fabregas, mainly due to them both being Spanish, and Everton playing him in a similar role to Fabregas, and he was Wenger’s panic buy, as he has wasted weeks in replacing Fabregas since his departure. One more, was that he is not good enough for Arsenal, and is a short term replacement for Nasri just until Wenger has time to replace him and Fabregas properly in the January February transfer window.

But now think back to 31st July 2011. Arsenal are hosting the yearly Emirates Cup tournament. Day two, Arsenal vs New York Red Bulls. All of the light is obviously on Henry’s return to Arsenal, and possibly his last (Who could have guessed he would have return on a loan deal). A more experienced team were played, which included Wilshere. Wilshere is taken off with an ankle injury, but nobody expected it to be anything worse than a month, he was promised to return to start the season. The light is again put on Henry, who had been denied the chance to play for the Arsenal team for the last ten minutes. Wilshere’s return date kept getting delayed by Arsenal, and soon it became apparent the midfield three would have too be Arteta, Song an Rosicky, a player whom had fallen out with the Arsenal fans. Arteta was deployed into a centre defensive midfield role, next to Song in the formation 4-2-1-3. This was a surprise to Arsenal fans, as he was expected to sit behind the attackers like he had at Everton.

We had a terrible start to the season. But finally, after seven or eight games, the bond between Song and Arteta became clear. They would both control the games tempo, and when Vermaelen, an extremely talented attacking Centre Back, would charge upfield, therefore leaving a large gap in defence, Song would slot in to that position. Arteta would then become the sole Centre Defensive Midfielder. If Koscielny would then also attack, or Song wasn’t where he should be, then Arteta would become the temporary Centre Back.

Arteta also, would then get Song to move into the centre of the pitch, and would then attack, sitting behind the attackers, for example against Blackburn, West Brom, and most notably Man City.

The partnership between Arteta and Song, would become a valuable asset to Arsenal, helping us to overtake the spuds after months of ‘Mind the Gap’. As Vermaelen and Koscielny began to play regularly together, their partnership began to appear. Van Persie already had chemistry and Walcott, and developed a strong partnership with the Ox, not so much with Gervinho though. When all of these partnerships came together, it was clear that this Arsenal team had improved, the turning point being the game against the spuds. We have started the game like we had started the season. Not midfield or defensive communication, and a dive put us two nil down. But Song and Arteta began to grab the game by the throat. Song brought the ball forward and it fell to Arteta to assist Sagna. Song put the ball in the Van Persie got and scored from. Arteta tackled the spuds useless left back and it fell to Song to thread Walcott through.

Arteta did this all the way up the Wigan game, where he has sidelined due to an injured ankle. 6th March 2012. Arsenal vs AC Milan, Arsenal four nil down on aggregate. Arteta is absent due to being knocked unconscious against Liverpool a few days later. The Ox, a winger, plays in Arteta’s role. We win three nil after dominating the game.  We lacked Arteta’s creativity and dominance on the ball, I believe if he has played, we would have won the game by four or five, but either way gone through against Milan.

Another attribute Arteta possesses is that he has an incredible ability to see when the games tempo is not helping his team, and he gets himself fouled. This is a great attribute for Arsenal to have, as the way Wenger has set his squad up, is that they control the games speed, have the ball for long periods in the game, and if that isn’t working, then we concede almost half the time. Arteta sees this happening to his teammates, and when he has the chance, he will win the ball back and then wait until a player attempts to tackle him, and he flicks the ball forward and gets fouled, giving the team the ball back, control of the game, and also a rest if they have been under it for a period of time.

This is proved by him being the most fouled player in the Premier League in 2005/2006, as he played every single game Everton played in. He missed a few games in the following season, including last season, meaning he missed out on a few fouls.

Another attribute Arteta holds is that he is a pure footballer. He was reported to be on £75000 a week at Everton, their highest paid player in history. When he signed for Arsenal, it was said that he was being paid around £10k less, so he was virtually paying ten thousand pounds a week for Champions League football. This is one of the reasons that I was happy he had joined Arsenal. I had always admired his skill for Everton, and everyone could see he was clearly their best player from the minute he arrived, but the fact that he went from being on a pedestal at Everton, to being just another player at Arsenal, and possibly in the shadow of other players, Van Persie and Vermaelen, with a pay cut.

Arteta also scored one goal that stood out from the rest, his free kick against Aston Villa. I believe that showed his quality for set pieces, we don’t need Van Persie for everything!


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