The Importance of Mikel Arteta to Arsenal

The Spanish national team is blessed with a plethora of world-class midfield players, meaning that 30-year-old Mikel Arteta is still awaiting his first cap for the senior international side.

Although the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso have ensured that Spain have managed rather well without him, this blog looks at just how important he has been for Arsenal since arriving at the club in August 2011.

All data below relates to the 2011-12 Premier League season:

General

STARTS: 29

SUB APPEARANCES: 0

GOALS: 6

ASSISTS: 3

YELLOW CARDS: 4

RED CARDS: 0

Zero appearances from the bench shows Mikel Arteta’s undoubted value to the team, whilst six goals from his position as one of two deep-lying midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation is not a bad return. One negative would be the lack of direct assists, though I’m sure this figure would rise dramatically if we looked at his participation in moves resulting in an Arsenal goal.

Points

In the following month-by-month chart, the columns show the following data:

RED: The percentage of total possible time that Mikel Arteta spent on the pitch

BLUE: The percentage of total possible points gained by Arsenal

What jumps out here is just how much Arsenal struggled prior to the arrival of Mikel Arteta in August and again when he missed a considerable amount of playing time in January. The third least productive month for the Gunners in terms of points gathering came in April, when, once again, Arteta spent a limited amount of time on the pitch.

Scored

In the following month-by-month chart, the columns show the following data:

RED: The percentage of total possible time that Mikel Arteta spent on the pitch

BLUE: The number of goals scored by Arsenal

Although Mikel Arteta is not directly involved in a great deal of Arsenal goals, his presence on the pitch is clearly important when it comes to the Gunners finding the net. The Spaniard was ever-present in the two months in which his team hit double-figures (October & February), whilst goals were at a premium when his playing time was either non-existent or severely reduced in August and January respectively. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for this, but I would suspect that his positional discipline and range of incisive passes creates space for others to go forward and cause damage.

Conceded

In the following month-by-month chart, the columns show the following data:

RED: The percentage of total possible time that Mikel Arteta spent on the pitch

BLUE: The number of goals conceded by Arsenal

It would appear that the presence of Mikel Arteta on the pitch is no less important when it comes to keeping the ball out of the Arsenal net. Arsene Wenger’s men conceded a total of 15 goals in the five matches that he was absent from in August and May, whilst another seven were shipped when he spent just a third of the available time on the pitch in January. The Spaniard is not renowned for his fearsome tackling or for putting his body on the line, so restricting the space available to opponents in dangerous areas and an ability to organise those around him could be potential reasons for his value to the team defensively.

Summary

Despite boasting considerable technical ability, a player such as Mikel Arteta can often go unnoticed to those that don’t watch a particular team regularly. Goals, assists and clean sheets tend to garner the lion’s share of media attention, so it is nice to highlight how the mere presence of a particular individual on the pitch can have such a positive effect on the fortunes of his team.

I will sign off with a couple more statistics that might be of interest:

Mikel Arteta was on the pitch for 80% of the goals scored by Arsenal in the Premier League last season
Mikel Arteta was on the pitch for just 57% of the goals conceded by Arsenal in the Premier League last season