Age Has its Benefits

Arsenal for a time – were cursed.

It was common knowledge that for a period in their recent history – Arsenal were continually shorn of their Captains.

During the term more frequently described as ‘the drought’, Arsene Wenger would honour the teams star player with the accolade of skippering their comrades through choppy waters and potentially lifting any silverware that may have been won.

As soon as the armband was slipped onto their limb, then the rumours began. soon after, the sharks began to circle as the arm accessory seemed to act as a drop of blood in the water, sending the predators into a frenzy. This in turn saw Gooners dreading any transfer windows due to the constant nerve-shredding worry that their talisman would leave for pastures new or more often – a bigger bank balance.  

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Steadier waters have been sailed into in more recent times and the awarding of the Captains rank is now as it should be – a distinct privilege that the incumbent acknowledges with a humble grace.

So with the news that our current Skipper Mikel Arteta signing a one year extension to his tenure at Arsenal – you could be forgiven for thinking that this would be heralded by fans with trumpets, tickertape and maybe, just maybe, assorted confectionary.

It would seem though, that the general consensus throughout social media is one of dissatisfaction. There are the level-headed – who make up a good sized portion of the fanbase – that welcome the perfectly-coiffured Mikel staying another year.  Unfortunately, there is a growing number that take the news of Arteta staying for another season and twist it into something that loses its original meaning.

The torrents of cash that now run through the game show no signs of abating. With UEFA backing down to such a degree over FFP breaches in regards to Man City and PSG that their next Press Conference will involve Michel Platini unreservedly apologise and grant both teams £200 and a Get Out Of Jail Free Card, the teams which boast the deepest of oil barrels can unabashedly cavort around the window of transfers and pick the tastiest of treats with no fear of sanctions.

This in turn taints the opinions of some fans. With Arsenal announcing profits season after season – why can’t we muscle in on the top talents in the game and address a weakness that has the potential of derailing our season which promises so much? Did we not learn the lessons of the previous campaign in which from August to December, our lack of cover in the striking position with Giroud injured and our defence teetering on a decision to call upon Vic Akers as Mertesacker’s partner? If we can perceive a gaping hole in our squad, why won’t Wenger act and splash the cash which is so readily available to him?

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The capture of Petr Cech was astute and was two-fold in its genius. On the one hand, our goalkeeping position is now certain and tied down for at least the next four years as Cech has been head and shoulders above every keeper in the Premiership for a number of years. Two – we signed him from a clearly reluctant Jose Mourinho, who will probably be the biggest obstacle to Arsenal claiming a first title since 2004.

Wenger saw a weakness, with Szczesny able to learn from one of the best and Ospina providing able competition but not quite able to certify his top class credentials. So why is he insisting on entering another season with Arteta as Coquelin’s backup?

The days of the gesticulating Flamini providing able assistance has been and gone. He may be adequate for the odd cup game but facing off against the elite will leave his excellent pointing skills looking rather futile.

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Arteta has excelled in the deeper role in the past but Father Time has been rather unkind towards the lower limbs of our Spanish Capitan. Last season saw him miss nearly the entirety of the season but in the games he did participate in, he was unfortunate enough to coincide with the run of games which put paid to our title aspirations. A heap of blame was placed upon Arteta and Mertesacker as their obvious lack of mobility seemingly cost us. What was missed by most is that Arteta shares a skill with our giant German that renders his sedentary approach nigh on moot.

Arteta has the ability to position himself in the way of danger before the threat rears its ugly head. This leaves his poor legs able to recover as he normally doesn’t have to sprint thirty yards to catch up with the game. His positional sense – like Mertesacker – is his saving grace and the amount of times he is in the way to intercept is often overlooked.

Arteta also acts as the barometer of the side. He is the one who keeps the rhythmic action of the team flowing and the ball moving. His passing accuracy is unerringly exquisite and he acts out the orders of the Manager to great effect.

This is not a testimony to say that Arteta is good enough to be our central midfield dynamo and blockade. Anyone who says Mikel is able to play 30 – 40 games a season may not be sound of mind. He is more than able to fill in when necessary.

Even if he isn’t able to sustain adequate cover for Coquelin, his extended stay gives the younger players in our squad a man who commands respect and someone to aspire to. Of course, these scallywags will look to the likes of Ozil and Sanchez as players that are on another stratosphere, skill-wise, but Arteta seems to be the perfect middle man that Wenger requires and his obvious love for the club promotes harmony within the camp.

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He has so much to teach the kids at Colney and has the temperament and level head that is required so that these youngsters actually listen. There is no doubt that he would make an excellent Youth Coach when the day comes to retire his pot of ‘Sports Hold Gel’.

Age has restricted Arteta to the role of Part-Time Skipper, but it has also given him the experience to pass on to those that need it. He still has enough in  his repertoire to perform in the Premiership – but not consistently. Those that think he isn’t up to scratch may have a point – but for ten or so games in a 60 game season, he can fill that role.

We could go and splash £25million on William Carvalho, but he is not proven at the highest level. At least, not yet. He looked sumptuous in the U21 Championships recently, but that isn’t the required benchmark. Plus, who is to say the amount of time he would take to settle in would also see our title hopes diminish?

Arteta can hit the ground running. He knows better than most the rigours of the top flight. Coquelin is first choice and we are all happy to acknowledge it, but Arteta can be his backup.

Also, who better to teach potential Coq-Blockers Hayden and Bielik? If our injuries mount up again akin to last season – who better to shadow the sometimes reckless Ramsey and Wilshere?

Arteta’s mind is as level as his hairline. Our bench is a better place for his presence. The armband is in safe hands.

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