Thanks to @XavierGooner14, we have an excellent break-down of Mikel Arteta’s performance against Reading, punctuated by his spot-kick that nailed the coffin shut once and for all. The goal will garner most of the headlines, but in a quintessentially Arteta-ian (Arteta-esque?) game, he controlled the midfield, orchestrated attack after attack, and disrupted what few counters Reading could muster. Were it not for a hard but uncalled foul on Stuart Taylor, we might have seen Arteta notch an assist to Giroud—if not setting up for a “real” penalty kick because, let’s face it, Taylor’s foul should have been called for a spot-kick while the foul on Oxlade-Chamberlain happened outside the box. Maybe it was a make-up for the missed call on Taylor. At any rate, we’re really here to sit back and enjoy Arteta’s excellence.
While Cazorla shined and Gervinho stole the show and rightly earned most of the headlines, it was Arteta’s calm control in the midfield that made the more exciting stuff possible in the first place. A quick look at the numbers:
- Passing Accuracy: 93%
- Touches: 117
- Key Passes: 1
- Tackles: 2
- Successful Dribbles: 0
As it is, we’ll have to settle for the subtler pleasures that Arteta delivers: pass after pass after pass. Some have called him metronomic, but this feels a little too rigid, as if he settles into a regular, perhaps static, rhythm that feels automatic. I’ll resist the “Spanish Dancer” possibilities, leaving me with jazz musician. He reads the game well, seems to know its rhythm, and identifies who should have the ball next. I can almost picture him with an upright bass, setting a rhythm and nodding to each player for his next solo riff. To extend the metaphor, it’s the trumpet and sax who grab all of the attention, but without the foundation that the bassist provides, their improvisations are little more than slop. Thankfully, with Arteta backing, the likes of Cazorla, Podolski, Gervinho, and Giroud can freelance within the framework that Arteta provides them. Others may be hailed as impact-signings, but it would hard to find someone whose signing has had a broader and deeper impact than Arteta’s.
Others have made their impact with more dramatic flair, but Arteta, quietly and confidently, leaves his signature on just every game he appears in.