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Arteta Signs a New Deal, but was it Deserved?

It’s one of those Fridays you look forward to because tomorrow is Saturday and of course, the Premier League returns to our screens. Last weekend saw a host of lower division in the spotlight for their efforts against the big guns in the country but they’d get their chance to battle again in the 5th round of the FA Cup.

The January transfer window is coming to a close and many Arsenal fans can be satisfied with the club’s dealings in the period. Francis Coquelin’s return to the first team setup was timed to perfection and since then, he has gone a long way to staking a permanent claim for that jersey. Sometimes bad things happen to some people so that good things can happen to others. Like the classic case of Mikel Arteta.

Since his arrival in 2011, the lego-haired Spaniard has been an integral player to the club and following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen, he was appointed club-captain by Arsene Wenger. Funnily enough, even while the Verm was still with the club, Arteta probably wore the arm band more than him. The midfielder signed a four year deal with the club and he was going to be a free agent this summer if the club didn’t hand him a new contract. Speculation rose about the player’s future but he remained as calm as ever, doing his thing while waiting for things to unfold.

Arteta’s agent, Inaki Ibanez, has told that his client will still be at the Emirates Stadium next season.

“Mikel is no longer free next June, because he now has an extra year on his contract


Arteta is a player Wenger has trusts and he’s always on the first team sheet whenever he’s fit. But the issue is – Arteta is hardly fit nowadays. One minute you see him dictating tempo with his calm influence and spraying those accurate passes with consummate ease, next minute you see his number on the dashboard as he starts limping towards the touchline for another midfielder to take his place. The latest info in the Arteta fitness saga was that a ‘bony Tottenham spur’ was found in his ankle so he needed surgery to remove it which would sideline him to April at best.

His fitness issues are certainly not Diaby-esque but it’s really unfortunate to see that constant injuries continue to rob Arteta off his services to his club. Arsene Wenger stated that Daiby’s fitness would determine if he’d a new contract but with Arteta facing some fitness issues of his own and reaching his twilight years, was his contract extension deserved? I’d say yes! Arteta is Wenger’s general on the pitch and his influence can never be matched. Many players that joined the club have confessed to how he helped them settle in but his biggest show of influence in my opinion, was seeing him order Per Mertesacker to go back and defend when the German wanted to race forward to attack a set piece when the Gunners were leading 1-0.

I’m happy he’s gonna stay around for a little longer, even if I can’t say if he’d continue go get a consistent amount of game time with Coquelin’s emergence and the side talk of Morgan Schneiderlein coming in the sideline. However, you can’t trade experience for anything.

Just take a look at Tomas Rosicky.


Latest Injury Updates on Arteta and Debuchy

Moving to a new place can be very stressful but when your move to a new house affects some certain things it becomes a cause for concern. It’s quite unfortunate to see that my ISP isn’t working in my new place and plans are in place to get a new one.

In my absence, nothing much has been happening in the transfer market and when you think about the fact that over £800m was spent by English clubs last summer, it’s quite expected that the business in this Window will be minimal. Manchester City was having none of that as they bolstered their attacking options with the purchase of Ivorian powerhouse, Wilfried Bony for £28m. It also meant that the club had spent £294m on 12 strikers since the Arab folks came to town in 2008.

At Arsenal, talk of the signature of teenage sensation,  Kryztian Bielik is gathering momentum and he might go straight into the first team especially with the news that Arsenal skipper, Mikel Arteta, is set to face a lengthy spell on the sidelines following complications in his calf injury. In Arteta’s absence, Mathieu Flamini has done okay to hold the fort but Francis Coquelin has been a revelation since his recall from loan. With Arteta ‘s contract expiring this summer, it would be interesting to see how the club would handle his situation. Yes, he’s reaching his twilight years but he’s a player Wenger trusts and I really hope he stays for an extra season or two.

On Matt Debuchy, the fullback has gone through surgery to fix his dislocated shoulder / broken collar bone and will be out for three months. It’s really bad to see how those injury spirits that ravaged Sagna are taking their pound of flesh from Debuchy. Marko Arnautovic the Skillful Orc has gone on Facebook to give his apologies but Orcs will always be Orcs.

I’d keep you updated on their injury situation and other transfer chit chat in the coming days.


10 Things to Love About Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta marked his 100th Premier League appearance in the 3-0 win over Burnley and it was good seeing the captain lead the team out as he returned to full fitness following an injury that sidelined him for a couple of weeks. In the wake of this milestone, Gooner Daily has decided to celebrate it by reliving those Arteta moments that endeared him to the hearts of Arsenal fans worldwide.

Here’s my pick.

Joining Arsenal

Following the 8-2 mauling in the hands of Manchester United in 2011, Arsene Wenger switched to panic mode and went on to sign five players. Despite the fact that Arteta arrived in the club in a rather bizarre fashion, he was quick to thank the Everton fans for their support and he told the Press that he was looking forward to a new chapter in his football career:

“It is a big opportunity for me and my family and I think it is the right time for me to take it. It is a big challenge, a different challenge, fresh for me and I want to see myself on the biggest stage, the Champions League.’

“I am 29 years old so I haven’t got much time left to take a chance like this one.’

He hasn’t looked back ever since.

His Perfect Hair

One distinct feature about Mikel Arteta is the fact that his hair seems to always be in a “perfect” position all year long. The player even confirmed it in the #RainbowLaces advert that featured him and some other Arsenal stars.

He’s Multilingual

No wonder he’s usually the first person to meet when new players want to settle.

His Incredible Passing Statistics

In Arteta’s first season with the club, he notched up 29 Premier League appearances and he made a whooping 2,229 passes that was only bettered by Manchester City’s Yaya Toure (2,419 passes). That season, he had an overall pass completion percentage of 90.09%, making 60 key passes, scoring six goals and notching up two assists.

He has maintained his passing consistency with each passing season and he has picked up where he left off in this campaign.

Curbing his Attacking instincts for the Good of the Team

It was rather unfortunate seeing Alex Song depart to Barcelona but instead of signing a replacement for the Cameroonian, Arsene Wenger asked Arteta to change his role in the team to a more defensive position, which he did with minimal fuss. As simple as it may sound, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. He was Everton’s advanced playmaker in his six seasons with the club and in his first season at Arsenal, he was the box-to-box midfielder.

Yet, he decided to curb his attacking instincts for the good of the team. Selfless

The Way he Dictates the Tempo in Midfield

There are a few midfielders in the world that play the role Arteta does with such influence and panache. Juventus’ Andrea Pirlo and Bayern’s Xabi Alonso are central midfielders that have dropped deeper to influence games with their “quarterback” like style of play. This style of play involves them making themselves readily available for a pass then threading the ball forward.

This is the style of play that Arteta has adopted and he has become damn good at it. No one in the team retains possession like the Lego-haired Spaniard and his composure on the ball is exemplary.

The Cool, Calm and Collected Penalties

In his Arsenal career, Arteta has grown to become to No. 1 penalty taker in the team and he has a very good record from 12 yards. The only moment he buckled was when he missed an injury time penalty against Fulham (3-3 draw) but his composure in taking spot kicks was put to test when he played the dead ball twice in Arsenal’s FA Cup victory over his former team, Everton.

That Goal against Manchester City

Arsenal huffed and puffed on Manchester City’s defense but the door remained shut. An attack orchestrated by Tomas Rosicky saw Bacary Sagna drill his cross into the danger area. Theo Walcott hit it first time but his effort clipped the post. Vermaelen’s follow up was poor and a golden chance slipped past the Gunners yet again. Wenger sent Aaron Ramsey and the Ox into the fray but the match clincher arrived when Mikel Arteta epitomized Arsenal’s new pressing principles by closing down a player on the ball.

He fashioned a chance for himself and smashed in a delightful piledriver that beat Joe Hart on his near post.

The Leader of the Dressing Room

Thanks to Arseblog, I read an article where Arteta and Cazorla interviewed each other and some interesting stuff was unveiled. Arteta asked his chum how he was acclimatizing to his new life in England and Cazorla said a thing or two, but my pick of the bunch remained this statement from Cazorla,

 “Here at Arsenal you’re a real leader. When I arrived, I was a little surprised at the level of respect that you have in the dressing-room. But when I saw you with the group and on the pitch it’s obvious that almost all consider you the Captain. You are a leader. I’m no good at that, nobody would listen to me! But when you talk they listen.”

Arteta has responded to that by saying that he tries his best to be a good example to others and his exploits on and off the pitch has proved that. In regard to his exploits off the pitch, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you that Arteta played a key role in settling Santi Cazorla in Arsenal.

Being Arsenal’s Captain

When Thomas Vermaelen left the club for the bench of Barcelona, Wenger was faced with a decision to make in passing the captain’s armband to a new player and I wasn’t surprised when he selected Mikel Arteta, his trusted lieutenant. It didn’t even take Arteta long to lift a trophy as captain with the club.

Feel free to share other things you love about the Spaniard with your comments.


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Luiz Gustavo: A Statistical Review of Arsenal’s Latest Transfer Target

One of Bayern’s unsung hero last season

Jupp Heynckes will be forever remembered in football history as he joined the elite class of football managers that achieved the unprecedented treble last season. In recent times, managers like Pep Guardiola (2009), Jose Mourinho (2010) and Andre Villas-Boas (2011) earned their places in football folklore after they achieved the treble with Barcelona, Inter Milan and FC Porto respectively.

Heynckes’ class of ’13 had a perfect blend of German efficiency, European flair and some South American magic that made his team every manager’s wet dream. Last season’s Bayern Munich squad will always fondly remembered for the goalkeeping heroics of Manuel Neuer, the sheer defensive consistent performances of Dante and Philip Lahm, the balanced midfield outings of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, the flamboyant wing play of the Rob-bery combo and the amazing goal haul of Mario Mandzukic.

These players took Europe by storm by ending Borussia Dortmund’s dominance in the Bundesliga in grand style and their major highlight was the triumphant Champions League run that saw them conquer Valencia, BATE Borisov and LOSC Lille Metropole in the Group Stages before easing past Arsenal, Juventus, Barcelona and Dortmund in the knockout stages.

While Heynckes could easily count on Schweinsteiger and Martinez to play in the fulcrum of the midfield, there were times when the manager summoned the services of Luiz Gustavo, the Brazilian powerhouse with style of play that reminds me of ex-Gunner, Gilberto SIlva. In simpler terms, Luiz Gustavo was the type of player that does his “dirty work” in a very clean way and his tenacious style of play in Bayern’s midfield caught the eye last season.

The Brazilian was signed from Hoffenhiem in the winter transfer window of 2011 and he featured regularly in his first full season for the Bavarian outfit in the 2011/12 campaign (46 apps) but the big-money acquisition of Javi Martinez from Athletic Bilbao ensured that his game time diminished, as Schweinsteiger was a vital cog in the midfield engine.

Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe shares an insight on how their double pivot works.

Bayern Munich’s successful double pivot reduced Luiz Gustavo’s playing time

Despite not being a regular in Heynckes’ first-team sheet, Luiz Gustavo’s versatility made him a valuable asset for Bayern Munich last season, as he also provided cover as a center back and a left back when the need arose. After a successful 2012/13 campaign with Bayern Munich, Luiz Gustavo was called up by Felipao in this summer’s FIFA Confederations Cup and he was an integral part of the Samba Boys squad that won the tournament in grand style following some inspired performances from Julio Cesar, Neymar and Fred.

With some assistance from stats kings like Who Scored and Squakwa, the table below shows the key performance metrics for Luiz Gustavo in the Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and 2013 Confederations Cup.



Champions League

Confed. Cup

Appearances (Subs)

16 (6)

3 (7)

5 (0)

Goals Scored








Overall shots (Shots per Game)

13 (0.6)

9 (0.9)

2 (0.4)

Bookings (Yellow / Red)

6 / 0

2 / 0

2 / 0

Total Tackles (Tackles per Game)

54 (2.5)

15 (1.5)

10 (2)

Total Interceptions (Interceptions per Game)

33 (1.5)

13 (1.3)

15 (3)

Total Fouls Committed (Fouls per Game)

37 (1.7)

10 (1)

14 (2.8)

Aerial Duels (Attempted/Won)

36 / 16

12 / 6

6 / 5

Total Passes (Accurate Passes)

940 (874)

205 (183)

233 (214)

Pass Completion %




Total Long Balls (Accurate)

97 (82)

26 (25)

22 (20)

Total Through Balls (Accurate)

3 (2)

3 (2)



For a player that wasn’t a key part of Bayern Munich’s squad last season, Luiz Gustavo’s stats are jaw dropping to say the least. In the 2012/13 Bundesliga campaign, he amassed just 26 appearances but he managed to rake up an impressive pass completion percentage of 93 percent. He also notched up a decent amount of tackles and interceptions in each game he played and as expected from a tenacious holding midfielder like him, he had his fair share of fouls committed and bookings.

With a frame of 6′ 2″, Luiz Gustavo was also involved in some aerial battles in the middle of the park and he had close to a 50 percent success rate in the Bundesliga and Champions League but in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, Luiz Gustavo basically won every header he attempted which showed how he used his height to great effect for his nation.

With Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez clearly above the Brazilian in the pecking order, his cause wasn’t helped when Pep Guardiola successfully acquired the services of Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, a player he managed in his Barcelona B days.

Unlike Heynckes that successfully utilized the 4-2-3-1 tactical setup with Schweinsteiger and Martinez in the double pivot, Guardiola is adopting his traditional 4-3-3 formation that worked wonders for him in his Barcelona trophy hauling days. Martinez will assume the deep-lying playmaker role that was successfully manned by Sergi Busquets, Schweinsteiger / Thiago would assume the Xavi Hernandez role while the mercurial Mario Gotze, on his return from injury, would be at the tip of the midfield triumvirate (Andres Iniesta’s role).

This clearly indicates that Luiz Gustavo would be surplus to requirements and reported that German outfit, VFL Wolfsburg, are in talks to sign him from Bavaria. According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal is about to table a £14m bid for the Brazilian man-machine, after Arsene Wenger admitted that his squad is thin-bare and he wanted new reinforcements.

Unlike in Bayern Munich where Luiz Gustavo’s chances of featuring now hangs on a thin thread, it would be a different case at Arsenal but in all honesty, I don’t expect Luiz Gustavo to walk into the Arsenal first-team setup. If he arrives at the Emirates, he would be that strong enforcer in midfield the fans have been craving for since Alex Song, but Arsenal has two players that have blossomed in the holding midfield roles.

Arsenal’s fulcrum in the tail end of last season

Following the departure of Song to Barcelona, Mikel Arteta assumed the role of Arsenal’s holding midfielder, curbing his attacking instincts to take one for the team and Arsenal fans can attest that he was a revelation last season. After playing as a jack-of-all-trades yet being of none, Arsene Wenger finally gave Aaron Ramsey a chance to strut his stuff in central midfield and his energy and work rate aided his team’s surge to a fourth place finish in the last campaign.

I’m going to juxtapose between Luiz Gustavo’s key performance metrics and  Arsenal’s personnel in the successful double midfield pivot of last season, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta. I’ll also cull some stats from Who Scored for both players.

According to Who Scored, listed below are Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta’s stats in the Premier League last season.


Mikel Arteta

Aaron Ramsey

Appearances (Subs)

34 (0)

21 (15)

Goals Scored






Overall shots (Shots per Game)

19 (0.6)

46 (1.3)

Bookings (Yellow / Red)

6 / 0

5 / 0

Total Tackles (Tackles per Game)

108 (3.2)

71 (2)

Total Interceptions (Interceptions per Game)

97 (2.7)

44 (1.2)

Total Fouls Committed (Fouls per Game)

74 (2.2)

48 (1.3)

Aerial Duels (Attempted/Won)

67 / 35

37 / 14

Total Passes (Accurate Passes)

2750 (2517)

1934 (1705)

Pass Completion %



Total Long Balls (Accurate)

205 (179)

139 (103)

Total Through Balls (Accurate)

15 (6)

21 (11)

Unlike Luiz Gustavo that plays like a traditional water carrier in holding midfield, Arteta and Ramsey are very comfortable with the ball on their feet and it’s also worth noting that Arteta total passes (2,750) were almost three times Luiz Gustavo’s (940) despite playing in the same role with the Brazilian.

In Gustavo’s defense, Arteta played more games than the Brazilian with age slowly creeping in on the Lego-haired Spaniard, Gustavo can come into the club and he would definitely be touted as Arteta’s long-term successor. At the age of 26, Luiz Gustavo’s best years are well ahead of him unlike Arteta that probably has two or so years left in him before he decides to end his playing days in his native Spain or maybe the MLS to earn some big bucks.

Even if everybody is firmly focused on Luis Suarez and his transfer shenanigans, Arsenal’s pursuit of Luiz Gustavo is a stroke of genius by Arsene Wenger.


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Rating Arsenal’s Midfielders in the 2012/13 Season

The Matadors of Arsenal’s midfield

In the yesteryear, Arsene Wenger lined up a formidable 4-4-2 formation that had the right balance in defense, midfield and attack.

Using the Invincibles of the 2003/04 season as a classic example, the defense had rock-solid personnel that instilled fear in opposition forwards, the midfield had a mix of doggedness, aggression, panache, flair and creativity and the attackers smashed in goals with ruthless and clinical efficiency.

As the years went by, Wenger changed his approach, fixing his focus on his team’s technical side, which involved passing the ball around intricately before unlocking defenses with that killer through ball for a teammate. With this approach, the manager sacrificed a striker to accommodate an extra midfielder, thus the 4-2-3-1 formation came into fruition.

Wenger used this formation to bring out the best in his prized asset, Cesc Fabregas, and his 19 goals as well as numerous assists in the 2009/10 season epitomized the fact that Arsenal had resolved its football around its Spanish creative hub in midfield. After his flirtations with Barcelona, El Capitan departed North London but the formation remained intact.

Soldiers come and go but the barracks still remain intact, I presume.

Deploying Aaron Ramsey as the creative outlet in the 2011/12 season with Mikel Arteta and Alex Song providing the fulcrum was regarded as a failed experiment as the Welshman became a lightning rod for vitriol from the Arsenal faithful. Tomas Rosicky’s renaissance was a bright spark in a relatively dark campaign and a third place finish was meant to pave the way for good things to come.

This season, the Gunners acquired the services of Santi Cazorla and to everyone’s surprise, Arsenal made their second major sale, when Alex Song joined Barcelona, rather their bench, for £15 million. Song’s shock departure caused a stir but with Arsenal not bringing in any replacements, Arteta took one for the team, curbing his attacking instincts to become the team’s primary holding midfielder.

As the season progressed, Cazorla became the team’s creative lynchpin while Abou Diaby and Arteta provided the pivot supporting defence and attack. Diaby had his trademark injury layoffs but players like Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin put in decent shifts while Jack Wilshere made his comeback from a lengthy injury.

This is the third installment of a four-post series focused on Arsenal’s performances in the 2012/13 season. I’ve already published my ratings on the performances of the goalkeepers  and defenders but today’s post is focused on Arsenal’s fulcrum in the middle of the park.

Feel free to share your comments.

Abou Diaby – 15 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

Abou Diaby’s career went downhill after that horrific tackle in 2006 when Arsenal visited the Stadium of Light. After seeing different specialists all over the globe, Diaby finally managed to get some preseason games under his belt  and it was widely believed that he was going to realize his potential with a consistent run out this season.

He began the campaign in the curtain raiser against Sunderland (home) and his physicality was highly welcome when the Gunners visited that Rugby playing lot. After his Man of the Match performance against Liverpool (away), everyone ran out of superlatives for the midfielder and comparisons between him and Patrick Vieira came in faster than Usain Bolt’s 100m Olympic World Record.

He was largely disappointing in Arsenal’s away draw against Manchester City (away) but when we thought that Diaby was going to get an extended run of games, he suffered an injury and was sidelined for a considerable chunk of the season. The lanky Frenchman finally made his return in the home fixture against Manchester City and his rustiness was glaring as he struggled in the game. His poor form continued in the Chelsea loss (away) and he was dropped from therein.

His hot and cold season continued when he followed up an outstanding performance against Stoke (home) with a rather disappointing outing in the nervy win over Sunderland. (away). His season came to an abrupt end when the club announced that he had ruptured his cruciate ligament on his knee and he’s to be out for nine months.

As they say, a picture speaks more than a thousand words

What’s the point of having a Lionel Messi in your team if he cannot play. In my honest opinion, I feel very sorry for Diaby but its high time the club cuts its losses with the Frenchman, as he cannot be banked upon to stay fit when his services are needed.

Rating – 4/10

Francis Coquelin – 22 Apps, No Goal, One Assist

After his stellar performances as a utility player last season, many had hoped that this would be the year of the Coq and with Song out of the equation, everything seemed to be in place for the young Frenchman to finally make his breakthrough. The midfielder featured sparingly in the Premier League but got run-outs in the domestic Cup competitions as well as some game time in the Champions League.

As for his performances, the midfielder didn’t light up any fireworks and his sporadic amount of games didn’t help his cause either. Coquelin managed to play 90 minutes in only five games this season with his remaining appearances being bit-part roles as the season progressed.

Till this day, I’m still struggling to understand his introduction for Olivier Giroud when Arsenal needed a goal against Aston Villa (away).

With Schalke reportedly linked with the midfielder, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t jump ship this season.

Rating – 4/10

Aaron Ramsey – 47 Apps, Two Goals, Five Assists

If words could kill, Aaron Ramsey would have been in the other realm.

He battling hard to come back to playing football after he was Shawcrossed but replacing the departed Cesc Fabregas in the attacking midfield role was a big burden for his shoulders as he struggled with form and fitness. With Santi Cazorla given the mantle of creativity, Ramsey had to make do with a place on the dugout as he appeared as a substitute in his first five games this season.

Like last season, there were games when Wenger tried to make Ramsey a jack-of-all-trades but he still a master of none. However, he put up a very decent shift when he was deployed as a right winger in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City (away). Abou Diaby’s unfortunate and untimely injury in the game against Chelsea (home) afforded Ramsey a chance to get more games under his belt.

He marked his return with a delicious chip against Olympiakos but thankfully, no famous figurehead gave up the ghost.

Jack Wilshere’s long-awaited return to the team saw Ramsey spend some time on the bench but the lad always put up good shifts when he was summoned. He supplied an inch-perfect assist to Theo Walcott in the 1-1 draw against Everton (away) and a neat assist to Gervinho in the win over Swansea (away).

Unlike last season where Ramsey tried to over-complicate things by being too stylish on the ball, he kept things simple this season and this improved his game. According to WhoScored, Ramsey had a pass completion percentage of 88.3 percent in the Premier League and he also created 44 chances for his teammates. His carefully-weighted pass against Everton (home) certainly caught the eye but Olivier Giroud’s wayward finish couldn’t match the excellent buildup.

Since his return to the squad in the holding midfield position, Ramsey became a refined player and worked in tandem with Arteta, balancing defense and attack. His performances were so good to the extent that he was voted as Arsenal’s Player of the Month for the month of April, which is a welcome return from the same fans that rained curses on him in the past.

Ramsey ended the season in full bloom, I certainly hope he builds on this.

Rating – 7/10

Tomas Rosicky – 16 Apps, Three Goals, Two Assists

Tomas Rosicky was one of the best things that happened to Arsenal in the tail end of last season.

After suffering a niggling injury that halted his progress for his nation in Euro 2012, the Czech midfielder went under the knife and didn’t make any appearance for the Gunners till the winter, and to be honest, he wasn’t missed. The fans had been wowed by the excellent Santi Cazorla, and with his age becoming a factor, a few felt it was high time for Little Mozart to call it quits.

In Rosicky’s first full game this season, he put up a Man of the Match performance in that dead-rubber game against Olympiakos (away) that ended in defeat. He featured sparsely after that game but he came to life in spring when the Gunners visited Munich to rock the football world with that spirited victory over Bayern.

With Jack Wilshere out injured and Santi Cazorla drifted to the left, Rosicky had more games under his belt and was instrumental in Arsenal’s win over West Brom as he scored a well-taken brace. He also supplied an assist to Theo Walcott in the league match against Manchester United.

With Wilshere failing to regain his form after his return from injury, Rosicky continued his extended run of games till the end of the season. At the age of 32, Rosicky is living on borrowed time but Arsenal fans can be thankful for Little Mozart as he delivered when he was summoned in the business end of the season.

Rating – 7/10

Jack Wilshere – 33 Apps, Two Goals, Six Assists

14 months out of the beautiful game.

For a player like Jack Wilshere that’s known for his passion and zeal for the game, it must have felt like an eternity. With Robin van Persie leaving for Manchester United, the No. 10 shirt was vacated and it seemed as if Lukas Podolski was odds to take the jersey but it was specially reserved for Wilshere and he expressed his delight in being bestowed with the honor.

When he made his long-awaited return against Queens Park Rangers (home), every touch was appreciated by the Emirates crowd as they saw their No. 10 strut his stuff for the first time. Things turned sour for the Englishman when he received his marching orders against Manchester United (away) but he learned from those events and scored a goal against Montpellier after some good work from Olivier Giroud.

He continued to put up stellar performances and the assists were flowing in as well, with some defense-splitting passes against Newcastle (home), West Ham (home) and Liverpool (home). The English Press sang his songs in the wake of a high-profile friendly against Brazil in Wembley, and he didn’t disappoint with another magnificent outing for the Three Lions.

Amid all the justified hype around the midfield maestro, things turned very sour when he suffered a thigh strain against Sunderland. Arsenal had harbored hopes of the midfielder playing the home clash against Bayern, so the club doctors had to work their magic on Wilshere.

Wilshere was on the end of some rash challenges against Sunderland

Wilshere played the game against Bayern and even supplied an assist on the night but he and his teammates were powerless as teh Bavarians outclassed Arsenal at the Emirates. Wilshere missed the second leg through an injury and he never rediscovered his form afterwards, with uncharacteristically appalling outings against Norwich and Everton.

He was replaced by Rosicky and made a couple of substitute appearances towards the end of the season. It’s believed that he requires a surgery this summer to fix up an injury but it’s good to know that Wilshere’s performances weren’t unnoticed as he was nominated for the 2013 Young Player of the Year award alongside Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Danny Welbeck, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale.

Rating – 7/10

Mikel Arteta – 43 Apps, Six Goals, Six Assists

With a pass completion percentage of 91.5 percent, Mikel Arteta ranks among the best passers in European football. With Thomas Vermaelen promoted to the rank of captain, Arteta assumed the mantle of the Verm’s second in command and he led the troops whenever the Verm wasn’t available.

With Alex Song leaving for the sunshine of Barcelona, Arsene Wenger tasked Arteta with an unfamiliar holding midfield role, and he excelled admirably in the role this season. In 34 Premier League games, Arteta made 108 tackles, 97 interceptions and 2,750 passes with 2,517 passes reaching its intended target.

Arteta also had the coolest of heads from the penalty spot, converting spot kicks against West Brom (home), Wigan (away), Norwich (home) and Reading (home). He will forever rue his late penalty miss against Fulham (home) that was the difference between three points and one.

His influence on the pitch was unrivaled and I must confess that my heart skipped a beat when he was forced out of action with an injury in Arsenal’s game of the season against Newcastle.

Rating – 9/10

Santi Cazorla – 49 Apps, 12 Goals, 16 Assists

Arsene Wenger was puzzled to know that Santi Cazorla didn’t make the PFA Team of the Season and he’s not alone on that argument. Arsenal fans have been blessed with the sheer brilliance of Santi Cazorla in his debut campaign with the club, and he’ll probably be a good pick for the signing of the 2012/13 season.

The Spanish magician has been a model for consistency this season and he’s the only player in the team that has managed to play every Premier League game thus far this season. The manager also spoke about how Cazorla has surprised him this season with his consistency and amazing fitness levels in a physically demanding league like the Barclay’s Premier League.

In my honest opinion, he has been a joy to watch and in as much as many Gooners have endeared Tomas Rosicky to their hearts, he has spent a considerable chunk of the campaign on the bench due to Cazorla’s imperious form. Cazorla’s versatility has also seen him displace Podolski with Jack Wilshere moved further up the pitch to hone his attacking prowess, which is still a work in progress.

His ambidexterity is a stuff of legends. Like the great Pavel Nedved in the yesteryear, Santi Cazorla can release a surface to goal missile from both feet with consummate ease.

12 goals and 12 assists in his debut Premier League campaign is no mean feat and it’s fair to say that Cazorla has exceeded every expectations. According to WhoScored, Cazorla fired 115 shots, created 96 chances, attempted 86 dribbles, was fouled 50 times, made 184 crosses, passed the ball 2,471 times with a pass completion percentage of 86.8 percent.

Even if he failed to be recognized by the FA for his amazing exploits this season, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you who Arsenal’s best player is this season.

Rating – 10/10 #Shikenah

So there you have it, the penultimate posts focused on different playing positions in the team. The final post on the attack comes up next.

The voting sequence for the 2012/13 End of Season awards is still ongoing, so feel free to make your votes count in the polls.


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