Jenny Leigh argues why...
The Spaniard is 31 years old (four years older than Vermaelen) and has been playing the Premier League for nearly 9 years (more than any other arsenal player, including Tomas Rosicky). He’s made 242 appearances in the English top tier since arriving at Everton in 2004/05.
He is committed to excellence week in week out. Last season he was the most successful passer in the league with a completion rate of 92% accuracy over all in the Premier League, a clear four per cent better than the next best passer Michael Carrick with 88% per cent completion, despite Arteta making 2517 passes to Carrick’s 2443.
He was better than Yaya Toure, better than Steven Gerrard and better than Santi Cazorla at keeping possession. That’s not just talent, that is commitment to excellence. That is not making mistakes, concentrating and keeping calm at all times as well as technical supremacy.
The 2-0 win this weekend against Liverpool is a great example of his consistency – he operated a 94.3% pass completion rate on Saturday against the Reds,
Arteta isn’t shy of a tackle either. Despite his comfort zone generally being a midfield playmaker for the majority of his career, he is an excellent defender. His defensive focus to keep Arsenal protected at the back on Saturday translated into a 78% tackle success rate, and a 100% clearance success rate. He made two key interceptions in his own half to break up the visitors’ play.
You can see the assurance and calm he brings to the team both as a leader in terms of his communication but also in terms of leading by example. He’s the Gunners’ dedicated penalty taker, he’s stepped up to the spot under pressure countless times in the last three seasons as well as some good free kicks too.
Arsenal have been criticized in recent seasons for their lack of organization, their lack of composure and communication as well as their defensive focus but none of those criticisms can honestly be leveled at Mikel Arteta who, on the pitch is the real Arsenal captain. Unfortunately, Thomas Vermaelen is really the captain of the bench and has been for the best part of this year.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald