While I think Arsenal did the right thing by signing Mikel Arteta from Everton back in 2011, I'm not sure it makes sense to keep him on for one more year. Although the Spaniard has put pen to paper on a new deal, to me, he is a long way past his best.
Judging by last season, age seems to have caught up with him and injuries seem to have have taken their toll on the talented midfielder. I'm not alone in thinking that Arteta struggles to keep up with the pace of the game nowadays.
Having said that, there is a case for stability. Bringing in a replacement for an influential player like Arteta is risky; new big names can upset the chemistry in the dressing room and consequently you are far better off making a few crucial signings than you are going for huge personnel changes. Once you lose the 'spirit' (which Wenger forever mentions) in the dressing room, it is incredibly difficult to get it back. Wholesale changes have the potential to disrupt a club to its very foundations, so it's wise to gently out the leaders one at a time rather getting rid of them 'Night of the Long Knives' style. With Podolski gone, perhaps no more big names will follow this year.
Then again, Arteta's human qualities may be worth keeping him around. After all, he can represent the views of the all-important Spanish-speaking contingent better than anyone else, I'd imagine. Maybe Hector Bellerin can be groomed to be his successor in a year's time, in that respect, as his English language skills seem ever better than Arteta's. However, Bellerin's tender age goes against him, so I'd imagine Arsenal's Spaniards would prefer to deal with 'Papa' Arteta.
The reason I'm scrabbling around trying to think of off-the-field reasons to give Arteta a new deal is he no longer offers enough on the field. Like Gilberto, no matter what Arsenal pundit Tom Watt thinks on the Brazilian, Arteta may end up staying for one year too long. When the legs start to go, it's time to offload, I'd argue.
However, perhaps there is hope that the Spaniard will be able to make up for what he now lacks physically, by stepping up his reading of the game. Personally, I think that will be nigh on impossible, as Arteta reads the game as well as anyone in the modern game, so how can he improve? How can he steal any more extra yards on opponents with his anticipation?
Aside from precision passing, what else does Arteta offer on the pitch? 'The aqueduct', I heard a Monty Python fan say. Well, I think we can safely say 'penalties', although Santi Cazorla takes a mean one too.
Perhaps what I've missed so far is Arteta's 'cool head', which makes him such an excellent captain. However, Per Mertesacker offers that too and will almost certainly (unless he gets sold or displaced by Gabriel) complete more minutes on the pitch next season than the Spaniard.
Therefore, the only sensible reason for keeping Arteta on is to make him part of the back room staff. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Arteta became a manager one day; the question is will it be at Arsenal?
Sent from my iPhone