Some eyebrows were raised when Arsenal replaced Fabregas with fellow Spaniard Mikel Arteta on the last day of the summer transfer window. At 29 many felt that the move would have been more appropriate a few seasons ago, and this may well be true. Regardless, with the absence of Jack Wilshire Mikel Arteta has shown real quality this season and been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers. He has however rarely received the plaudits this season at least not anywhere near to the same level as Spurs’ midfielder Luka Modric who plays in a very similar style to Arteta.
It makes statistical sense to compare Arteta to one of the league’s leading players in his position, the aforementioned Luka Modric. The statistics make interesting reading when comparing the two midfielders. If we first compare systems we can see that Modric plays alongside the defensive minded Parker whose discipline allows Modric to break forward. In Arsenal’s case they usually opt for a 3 man midfield with Song, Arteta and Ramsay, in this system Song does not play with the same discipline as Parker and himself looks to get forward which somewhat restricts Arteta’s roaming and means he often dictates the play from slightly deeper positions than Modric.
Initially we can compare that Arteta has scored 1 more goal with 4, whereas Modric has 3, Modric has more assists however with 4 compared to Arteta’s seemingly disappointing one. Modric’s goal return here is a bit disappointing considering he has 2.5 shots per game to only 1.5 shots per game Arteta has, Arteta probably has less shots due to the aforementioned fact that he plays deep at times. . The reason for a lower number of assists for Arteta is that as stated much of his play comes from deeper positions so even when demonstrating his passing ability his passes are often sideways or out wide to wingers who then themselves go on to get assists.
Over the seasons its probably fair to say that Arteta is slightly more of a goal threat than Modric. Modric averages about 1 goal in 10 for Spurs, whereas Arteta has a slightly better average with about a 1 in 6 record during his time in England.
The passing stats are as follows: Arteta has a higher pass completion with 90.3% from an average of 78.9 passes per game, the most out of any Arsenal player by a considerable margin. Modric on the other hand has a lower pass completion rate with 88.5 from fewer passes, an average of 68.9 per game.
An interesting stat is that Modric has lower pass completion for long balls with an average completion of 83% compared to Arteta’s 89% completion. This arguably shows that Arteta boasts a wider range of passing than Modric. It is this range of passing that is so crucial for Arsenal as Arteta is often used to pick out Walcott or Gervinho on the wings, as well as through passes in behind defence’s.
Having noted that Modric arguably plays with slightly more attacking freedom than Arteta, Modric completes 2.5 key passes per game compared to Arteta’s 2.1. In this regard the defensive statistics slightly lean in favour of Arteta who completes 2.4 tackles per game, 1.9 interceptions and 0.6 clearances, whereas Modric completes 1.7 tackles per game, 2.2 interceptions per game and 0.4 clearances per game. The higher interceptions for Modric are perhaps explained by the use of a 4-4-2 by Spurs which means they’re more open down the middle even with Parker in behind which may mean teams play more through balls down Spurs’ middle meaning Modric is forced to intercept more than Arteta. The analysis of the statistics, whilst open to interpretation, demonstrate that Arteta should be considered to be in the same league as players like Modric.
A look at this chalkboard highlights his importance for Arsenal. The passing range for Arteta clearly ranges from short to more direct as well as this it is mainly based in the middle third of the field showing his emphasis on dictating the play from deep. In the same game Ramsay, who is more box-to-box recorded far fewer passes with 53. This highlights how we can go as far as to say that Arteta is emerging as the dominant play-maker in Arsenal’s system. His average of 79 passes per game is more than any other player in the league. We have seen how Arsenal now use a much more ‘wing-centric’ form of attack and Arteta is key to this often spreading passes to Walcott or Gervinho as the video below demonstrates clearly. Conversely, in the 19 games he has started Arsenal have picked up 68% of available points and in the five games he has missed they have only picked up 7% of available points.
This video demonstrates some of the points mentioned above such as the wide range of passing Arteta offers as well as his importance in the build up to goals such as for the RVP goal against Stoke at 1 minute 25 seconds:
Players who can dictate the game from deeper positions are incredibly important for their clubs. This is well known about Modric who as stated was linked with a big money move to Chelsea as well as often being lauded in the media and by fans. Arteta on the other hand often escapes attention, as he did at Everton, perhaps at Arsenal this is due to RVP stealing most of the plaudits. His range of passing and ability to score from range as he did earlier this season against Wigan mean he should be regarded as one of the best creative central midfielders in this league. It thus raises questions as to why no ‘top four’ sides attempted to sign him from Everton earlier.
One of the reasons for the central importance of Arteta is that having lost Nasri and Fabregas Arsenal are attacking less from out to in and more from in to out meaning that Arteta’s role is as mentioned to spread the play rather than drive down the middle himself, which is highlighted by the low number of ‘dribbles’ he attempts per game, only 0.6 per game.
What this will mean for Arsenal when Wilshire is back will be interesting as there will then be two ‘passers’ in the side. We could see Arteta continue to play slightly deeper with Song and Wilshire in front of him in an almost 4-2-1-3 formation. Regardless, Arteta’s good form shows he should be considered one of the signings of the season.
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