Another transfer window creaked shut, and what most sports journos were falling over themselves to hype was the apparent controversy of the last-minute transfer requests of Mikel Arteta and Raul Mereiles. These two transactions apparently justified the paradoxical suggestion by many sports writers that Deadline Day was both “disappointing” and yet “exciting”. Now that the hype is (hopefully) dissipating, and we can focus on groundless speculation of the future, Thierry Ennui would like to consider the mechanics of the Arteta transfer.
In particular, the three most interesting factors are that:
- The initial £10 million offer was rejected, but the second was accepted after David Moyes learned Arteta wanted the move.
- Arteta takes a £20,000 per week wage cut to £55k, having been Everton’s most expensive player at £75k.
- Everton accepted the bid despite clearly having no time whatsoever to secure a replacement.
Now, in the first instance, it has become clear that Moyes did not want to keep an unsettled player at the club, even though the player’s decision was a sudden one. Harry Redknapp had a similar situation with playmaker Luka Modric, but Tottenham’s decision was to bench the player briefly and allow the window to play itself out, regardless of what the player wanted. The difference? Modric is key to Spurs’ ambitions, while Arteta is (or was) simply a significant player in a squad team. At 29, Arteta has arguably played his finest football, in an Everton shirt at least, and in allowing Arteta to leave Moyes both makes some money for his squad and maintains his club philosophy. As displayed before, Moyes has never stood in the way of a player who wants to move on – Rooney, Lescott, Pienaar – and although he was happy to hold on to Arteta when there was no unrest, allowing him to leave generates £10 million and strikes the most significant wage cost off the bill.
Arteta’s willingness to take a wage cut, and his justifying statements, surely suggests that he himself was aware that there was a staleness about his Everton performances of late: “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. I think I have done my best for Everton” (emphasis added).
Arguably, his best for Everton came some five seasons ago. Nagging fitness issues would hamper his performance the following season, then a serious knee ligament injury ended his 2008-09 campaign and delayed his contribution in 2009-10 significantly. His return last season saw him feature frequently but unusually quietly.
Everton, meanwhile, have simply gotten on with playing. Players such as Jack Rodwell, Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman have impressed in the absence of Arteta, and therein lies the beauty of Moyes’ squad. For all that there is a possible lack of world-class talent, he has a squad that is blessed with depth of Premiership quality in all but the front-line. For the last two seasons, they have periodically been lacking an Arteta, a Pienaar, a Tim Cahill or a recognised striker; yet still delivered results to a competent enough degree that they post finishes in the upper half of the league, despite injury crises. This, I believe, is why Arteta was allowed to leave at the last hour. In Rodwell, Cahill, Coleman, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Marouane Fellaini, the criminally under-rated Leon Osman, and the emerging talent of Ross Barkley, Moyes has faith in a squad that will continue to deliver results without Arteta’s creativity. That’s before the deadline day arrivals. Royston Drenthe is convinced his style suits the EPL, and gut feeling says will build a good partnership down the left with Baines. A lot for Everton hinges on the unknown quantity of Denis Straqualursi, who looks like a bustling striker who can head a ball well, but is untested at Premiership level.
This move may perhaps represent the closest to a win-win-win that I have seen in recent months: Everton get their hands on some cash and deploy some hungrier talent, Arteta gets a shot at rejuvenating his slightly-stalled career, and Arsenal get a player who will produce some of the flair that their recently-departed ex-captain posessed. Like Fabregas, Arteta is a boyhood fan of Pep Guardiola, a set-piece taker, and a playmaker. Arteta even brings some vitally-needed experience and knowledge of defensive roles to the midfield. The only problem I can envision has been mentioned in a wry Tweet that “Arteta as Fabregas replacement is basically like-for-like: both will spend 3months/year on the treatment table”. Fabregas’ fitness suffered from his essential role in Wenger-ball, and I am unsure that Arteta is up to the rigours of a full season. That, and Arsenal still need a quality defensive midfielder. This signing may just do enough to keep Arsenal’s status as a top-six club, but I’m not convinced.
Feel free to disagree below, I’ll justify my beliefs in another article…