By Joe Brewin
Arsène Wenger is in no two minds about the importance of Mikel Arteta to the Arsenal team.
The Spanish midfielder was on target in the 3-0 win over West Brom on Saturday, firing home the team’s final goal to cap a fine display at Emirates Stadium.
Arteta has featured in every available Premier League fixture since his move from Everton in the summer and manager Wenger believes he is a crucial cog in the Gunners machine.
“He is an important player for our team,” he said. “He is really a player between Song and Ramsey or Rosicky and that gives us continuity.
“When we need to keep the ball he can achieve that - Jack [Wilshere] can do that as well. But with Jack missing he is a player who can keep the ball when it is needed.
“He is adapting to our game. If you look at the stats in the Premier League, Arsenal are the team who play the least balls backwards.
“That means when you have the ball it is not only a question of decision-making, it's a question of opportunity. It's about how many players you have in front of you - if you have players behind you have to play it backwards.”
Although a regular in the Premier League for the last six years, the 29-year-old is yet to receive international recognition in a Spain shirt. Wenger thinks Arteta has been somewhat unfortunate on that front.
“In a different way he is like [Ryan] Giggs,” he said. “He had the bad luck to play for Wales who never went to a big tournament. Arteta was born in Spain where they have plenty of midfielders who are absolutely outstanding.
“What maybe didn't help him is that he was very young and he did not move to clubs who were maybe as glamorous as they should have been.
“At the time he went very young to PSG when they were not going very well. After he moved to Rangers to try and convince Spanish managers he deserved a place in the team and then to Everton.
“It shows what I always say - 90 per cent of a player's career is the club. It's the club who makes the career of the players. If he was English he would have an international career here.”Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source