Gifolution: The Aging of Mikel Arteta
Arsenal fans have been asking me for this Gifolution for almost a month now, and I never quite had time to get around to it. What you see below are the last five seasons of Mikel Arteta's career.
Let me be clear about something - I think Arteta has been a tremendous midfielder in the Premier League. His first two seasons at Arsenal are wildly underrated, and he was by far their most important player outside of Robin van Persie in 2011-12. (The radar shows him in Everton colors for that year because that's where he started the season, but it was almost all at Arsenal.)
One of the things that came up when I did the piece about Khedira not really being a defensive midfielder, was that people doubted Arteta was before he moved to Arsenal either. His output in 09-10 puts that to rest, as he's clearly a game controlling midfielder in that season.
However, if you look as the Gif progresses, you also see his role and performances changing. In 11-12, he was an all-around midfielder for Arsenal, heavily involved at both ends of the pitch. While doing that, he had massive output in key passes as well as strong defensive numbers. Then in 12-13 he stepped back to almost exclusively a holding role (all his production on the radar shifts left), but again performed well, pegging both Int and Tack numbers to the boundary when adjusted for possession.
Last year you see another change though. Tackles are up a touch, but Interceptions dropped by more than 1 per 90 and he gets dribbled past quite a bit more, which likely means someone attacking Mertesacker or Koscielny directly. To me, this indicates he's losing his legs a bit. At age 32-33, it's just harder to play the game with the same level of pace as you did when you were younger, and there are multiple stats that would indicate that Arteta may be starting to suffer in that area.
I've loved watching Arteta at both Arsenal and Everton. However, it's possible his playing time needs to be managed a bit more this season than it has been. He can still be a valuable contributor, but probably not with the same frequency he has been in years past.