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Mikel Arteta Returning to Full Fitness

15/16: Under-21s v Blackburn - Mikel Arteta

Arteta must have felt like a grandpa playing with those kids

There’s a lot to love about Mikel Arteta – the fact that he left Everton, a club he had served for six years, to leave for North London on transfer deadline day in 2011, the fact that he curbed his attacking instincts following the sale of Alex Song to become Arsenal’s holding midfielder, his amazing hair that ALWAYS remains in place even if puts it in every place known to man, his nice accent that sounds like some bullfighter from San Sebastian in Spain, him accepting his place behind Francis Coquelin in the team and the fact that he’s the No. 1 citizen at the club.

Arteta is the embodiment of every Arsenal at the moment and under his leadership, the Gunners have lifted two Community Shields and two FA Cups. At 33, the Spaniard is reaching his twilight years and he has been an inspiring presence off the pitch, rather than on it.

His last appearance for the Gunners, which also was his 144th, didn’t pan out too well on a cold November night as he suffered the ignominy of scoring an own goal in Arsenal’s defeat to West Brom at the Hawthorns. In that same game, Arteta suffered a recurrence of a calf injury that had sidelined him for a considerable chunk of the 2014/15 season.

After spending close to two months out recuperating from his injury, Arteta featured for Steve Gatting’s Under-21 side in their win against Blackburn Under-21s. Arteta played alongside some rather familiar young faces as the Gunners team featured the likes of Alex Iwobi, Dan Crowley, Kyzrtian Bielik, Chris Willock and the guy we expect great things from, Jeff Reine-Adelaide. The Gunners captain played for 45 minutes before he was replaced by Ismael Bennacer.

A full breakdown of the match report can be found here.

Having Arteta available for selection is welcome news, because the Gunners are desperately short of numbers in the middle of the park. Arsene Wenger’s side has been without long-term absentees Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky for a while now, and they were joined in the treatment table by Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla. Mathieu Flamini is another central midfielder that has had his fitness problems recently and while we await the imminent arrival of Mohamed Elneny from FC Basel, having Arteta fit again is good news.

The Sunderland game might be too soon for him but I expect him to get some minutes under his belt when the Gunners visit Anfield.


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Arteta’s New Contract + Flamini Out = New Defensive Midfielder?

Elder statesmen

With his breathtaking performances last season, Francis Coquelin showed the fans what they’ve missed for a long while and the general consensus is that the club should invest in another holding midfielder with names like Arturo Vidal, Morgan Schneiderlin and William Carvalho mentioned. Dave Seager of One Nil Down Two One Up published an insightful article on the defensive midfielder conundrum. Trust me it’s worth a read.

What do we know about this puzzling defensive midfield issue? The Mirror reported that club captain, Mikel Arteta, has finally put pen to paper on a contract extension and agreeing verbally a couple of months ago. It’s been also reported that Arteta, 33, had some lucrative offers from Spain but he chose to remain with the Gunners. Injuries robbed Arteta last season and it ultimately cost him his place in the side because I don’t see him usurping Le Coq in that holding midfield role.

However, Arteta’s extension was probably an indication that Wenger was satisfied with his options in that playing position and hopes of signing a new holding midfielder would have been slim to none but with the latest news from EuroSport France reporting that Ligue 1 outfit, SC Bastia, is interested in acquiring the services of Mathieu Flamini, there could be some hope in getting a new DM after all.

SC Bastia finished in a modest 12th position in the French Ligue 1 last season. They were shocked by lower division side, Quevily, in the Round of 32 of the Coupe de France. However, they enjoyed a fairytale run in the Coupe de la Ligue where they went all the way to the final of the competition, beating sides like Auxerre, Caen, Rennes and Monaco, only to be thrashed resoundingly by PSG.

There might be a potential constraint with SC Bastia getting Flamini. The French club would want Arsenal to release the midfielder with one year left on his deal (same challenge Sao Paulo faced with Denilson Neves before Arsenal released him) and they would also need Flamini to take a significant wage cut because his salary at Arsenal is currently higher than any of the players on the club’s payroll, which also includes ex-Gunner, Sebastien Squillaci.

Shortly after the Squid’s contract expired in 2013, he joined SC Bastia on a free contract and he has established himself as a first team regular for the club, making 63 appearances in the last two seasons and even scoring four goals. This is a player that has been on the books of clubs like Monaco, Lyon, Sevilla and Arsenal, so it’s glaring that he just wanted to continue playing competitive football, instead of looking for the greens like Sagna of his peers.

If Flamini accepts for his contract to be terminated by Arsenal, as well as taking a wage cut to join SC Bastia, the Gunners would need to fill that slot with another player because Arteta cannot be relied upon to stay if should anything happen to Coquelin. Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey have tried to play that role but we all know that they are better suited to the box-to-box role than playing as the anchor man.

The ball will be on Flamini’s court and he’s have to decide whether he wants to remain at the fringes of the club for an additional year before leaving on a free transfer, or walking away from his contract and signing for a club that isn’t doing too badly in his native France. He started his career in Marseille some 12 years ago and it would be nice if he decides to make that move you know.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.


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Rating Arsenal’s Midfielders’ Performances in the 2014/15 Season

Today, Gooner Daily discusses about the performances of the players that make up Arsenal’s engine room.

Mikel Arteta (11 appearances, one goal, two yellow cards)

With Thomas Vermaelen departing to FC Barcelona, Arsene Wenger continued the succession by giving the captain’s arm band to Mikel Arteta. The new skipper featured in the FA Community Shield and lifted his first trophy. However, Arteta’s campaign was plagued by many injuries and with the emergence of Francis Coquelin, he wasn’t even eased into action when he regained full fitness. The fans would be hoping that he would contribute to the team’s cause next season.

Rating: 4/10

Jack Wishere (22 appearances, two goals, six yellow cards)

For the first time in ages, Wilshere enjoyed a good pre-season campaign and he featured regularly in Arsenal’s 4-1-4-1 tactical setup. His performance against Manchester City was up there with the very best but his season suffered an abrupt dent when he was on the end of a poorly-timed tackle from Manchester United’s Paddy McNair which ruled him out for a considerable chunk of the season.

Arsene Wenger did the right thing to re-introduce him slowly to the thick of things, and Wilshere crowned that with another ‘goal of the season’ when the Gunners played West Brom in the Premier League curtain closer.

Rating: 7/10

Mesut Ozil (23 appearances, five goals, two yellow cards)

Ozil was heavily involved in Germany’s World Cup triumph and was sent back to the rigors of the Premier League as the season progress. He struggled initially with adjusting to playing on the left wing and he put up some concerning performances but he opened his goalscoring account in the game against Aston Villa when he returned to his favored No. 10 role. In October, he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for three months.

He returned a stronger player and added goals to his game with strikes against Brighton and Aston Villa. He opened the scoring in the North London derby and swung in a superb free kick in the thrashing of Liverpool. Ozil has become very integral to the team and he has made his influence known. We can only hope he continues with time.

Rating: 8/10

Aaron Ramsey (40 appearances, 10 goals, seven yellows, one red card)

Following his breakthrough performance last season that saw Ramsey scored 16 goals including the famous winner at Wembley, a lot was expected of the Welsh Jesus this season. He handled that responsibility well by scoring the match winner in the first game of the season but he struggled for fitness and form this season.

After going on a goal drought for three months, Ramsey scored a sumptuous volley in the 3-2 defeat against Stoke and followed it up with an unbelievable left-footed piledriver in the dead-rubber fixture against Galatasaray. Due to the fact that Ramsey is one hell of a complete player, Wenger deployed him on the right flank in a tactical switch that saw some players moved around but as the weeks went by, Ramdey’s influence dwindled on the right. When he returned to the middle, he was back to his best and the fans are hoping that he stays in the middle at Wembley.

Rating: 8/10

Santi Cazorla (52 appearances, eight goals, five yellow cards)

Cazorla was an ever-present player for Arsenal this season and his versatility ensured that he was used by the gaffer in several playing position on the pitch. He also developed a penchant for executing set piece with such ridiculous ease that it was a no brainer on who to select anytime the Gunners had a penalty. Cazorla also raked up his assists count this season, and he put up a lot of stand-out performances in the course of the season.

There has been a lot of speculation regarding a move away from the club but the midfielder is focused on excelling with the club. Good to see him put on the band in a couple of occasions as well.

Rating: 8/10

Mathieu Flamini (32 appearances, one goal, six yellow cards)

Flamini featured as a back up to Arteta and got a run-out when the captain was out injured. However, his performances this season have been fairly inconsistent, and the fans won’t be quick to forget how he lost the ball in the buildup to Tottenham’s goal. Whether it’s been a case of his aging legs or the player not just being good enough, Flamini hasn’t reached the heights he set in the yesterday tear with Arsenal.

It’s very certain that the club would not renew his deal when it expires next summer.

Rating: 3/10

Tomas Rosicky (23 appearances, three goals, two yellow cards)

It’s quite bizarre to know that Rosicky’s first Premier League game came as late as December in the win over QPR, and as you’d expect from the ageless Czech, he scored the match winner. While the games were kinda hard to come by in the league, Rosicky featured in the cup fixtures as he captained the side and got a goal in the 3-2 win over Brighton. His last goal of the campaign arrived in the narrow win over Everton and as expected, he has made a couple of substitute appearances and it’s good to know that he has chose to extend his contract with the squad.

Rating: 7/10

Francis Coquelin (29 appearances, no goal, seven yellow cards)

They say the best things in life are free.

Maybe they were talking about Coquelin. The French man has been the best thing that happened to Arsenal in the second half of the season. Enough said.

Rating: 10/10


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