It’s funny how players come in and out of favour among the faithful.
Long-time observers of all things Arsenal have said the fans always need to have someone to vent their frustration on.
Right now it seems that that someone is Mikel Arteta.
Our plastic-haired Spaniard has been written off more times recently than the Greek national debt.
He’s past it. He’s too slow. He’s not big enough to play defensive midfield. He slows down our game. He’s too conservative in his passing choices. He strangles kittens. You name it, Arteta is guilty of it.
Such short memories some people have.
Last season he was a close call for Player of the Season and was a vital component of the hard-to-beat outfit we became in the latter stages of the campaign.
This season too he has always been there to perform the duties expected of him by the manager and his team mates.
Yes, he has had some less effective games but he has also had plenty of excellent performances, controlling the transitions from defence into attack; snuffing out opposition attacks and more.
Perhaps it’s because supporters know he is not naturally a DM that – when the team generally is underperforming – some are so quick to get on his back.
If even the player himself says he doesn’t enjoy the role then surely he must be a fish out of water, a square peg in a round hole?
Well, maybe, but only up to a point. How many people reading this reckon they are good at their job? Quite a few I imagine. And how many of those would rather be doing something more exciting/well-paid/exotic for a living? All of them probably.
The point being, just because you would rather do something else does not mean you can’t be good at what you are currently doing.
In my life the Arteta-bashing is very close to home. My eldest son really has it in for him at the moment. Every time poor old Mikel does something wrong my grown-up lad is on him like a ton of bricks. Yet whenever he does something good it seems to go completely unnoticed. It’s like my son has a form of Mikel Myopia that only lets him see the bad stuff and never the good.
I’ve taken to vociferously praising the Spaniard’s positive contributions just to make the point, but my son pretends not to hear (so we have established that he’s deaf and blind… and as a 21-year-old it comes with the territory that he’s also dumb. Proper chip off the old block).
Clearly Mikel Arteta is not a Patrick Vieira – but then who is, apart from the sainted Paddy himself?
But the role Arsene asks him to play means that most of his important work is of the unspectacular kind: the dirty work – and often painful too (as his tooth-jarring exploits against Hull demonstrated).
He is not a big man so I am often surprised how effective he is at winning tackles and headers. If you look through his stats you’ll find he always wins the majority of his contested moments in games.
And when he has the ball he knows how to use it, unlike some of the more muscular defensive midfielders plying their trade in the Premier League.
We will need his experience, skill and composure if we are to end the season in the top four and with a trophy under our belt – so let’s all get behind him.