By Imran Marashli
It was the lowest point of Arsène Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal. With Nasri and Fabregas gone, Arsenal collapsed to their worst defeat in over 100 years,in the infamous 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford. The Gunners appeared in disarray, provoking Wenger to raid the transfer market in a desperate bid to resurrect the faith of disillusioned fans and mute the circling vultures of critics.
On a hectic transfer deadline day, in came Park Chu-Young, André Santos and Per Mertesacker, with Yossi Benayoun recruited on loan. Yet there was still one more decisive deal to be thrashed out. On the cusp of the deadline,after all the speculation, it was confirmed that Arsenal had agreed a fee to bring Mikel Arteta to the Emirates Stadium.
The Spaniard had proved his Premier League credentials at Everton over the years, but at the age of 29, this was viewed as his last big move. It was suggested that he couldn’t withstand the pressure to fill the large boots vacated by Fabregas.
A panic buy from Wenger? Not in the slightest.
Arteta wasn’t immune from all of Arsenal’s early struggles, ending up on the losing side against a struggling Blackburn at Ewood Park. Arsenal’s new players attempted to gel as the games wore on. However, a morale-sapping derby defeat to rivals Tottenham, just before an international break, left Arsenal in lowly 15th, cast adrift from the top four.
Since then, Arsenal have been flying; although a huge amount of credit is owed to the prolific Robin Van Persie, it’s been due to Arteta that Arsenal have a new-found discipline and maturity, not only in midfield, but all over the pitch. He hasn’t been playing the attacking “Fabregas role”, instead, he’s been situated in a deeper position, to control the tempo and rhythm of Arsenal’s game.
Arteta doesn’t always go for the extravagant 40-yard “Hollywood” ball, but tends to keep things simple, accurate and crisp in his passing, orchestrating the midfield. He brings a calming influence to young sparks like Ramsey, taking the responsibility to hold the midfield together, while still chipping in with 3 goals and 2 assists, saying, “I’ve felt responsible for helping us[Arsenal] stay secure.”
He’s not the most thrilling midfielder who ghosts past players for fun, or plunders goals at will; he does what’s required to get the results, like Arsenal in their revival. Players have found their feet after the rocky start to the season, a superb example being Laurent Koscielny. Fewer goals are conceded, the team has unity and spirit in abundance. The 1-0 defeat toManchester City was a far cry from the collapse in August last time they were in Manchester, with Arteta at the heart of a battling, determined performance. The new Arsenal’s ascension up the table is thanks to this new mentality, winning at tough venues like Villa Park following a defeat at the Etihad signifies the change in their ways.
Arsenal have evolved for the better, with a helping hand from Mikel Arteta.