Arsenal face Manchester United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday.
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In the absence of Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta has performed exceptionally as the defensive shield in front of the Arsenal back four - indeed, against Liverpool he arguably had his finest game for the Club.
"Arteta had more touches than any player on the pitch (118), made more passes (105) and finished with the second-best pass success rate of any player involved (94.3 per cent)"
The Spaniard started his career as a 'pivote', helping to move the ball quickly from defence to midfield with the minimum of fuss. It is a role he has assumed once again since joining Arsenal, but against Liverpool and Dortmund he had to focus more on protecting the defence and harrying the opposition all over the pitch.
As our heatmap above shows (Fig 2), Arteta played a key role in Arsenal's pressing game against Brendan Rodgers' side and was busiest just over the halfway line, breaking down Liverpool counter-attacks at source. As our chalkboard (Fig 1) indicates, the 31-year-old made six tackles (green triangles) and won each one, two interceptions right in front of the back four and two important clearances inside the area (purple triangles).
Perhaps most impressively, he made 17 recoveries (yellow triangles) as he helped win the ball back for the Gunners. Not only that, he had more touches than any player on the pitch (118), made more passes (105) and finished with the second-best pass success rate of any player involved (94.3 per cent).
It was an immaculate performance that set the tone for his side's high-energy victory - Arsene Wenger will be hoping for more of the same at Old Trafford on Sunday.
KEY BATTLE - ROONEY v ARTETA
One of Arteta's main tasks on Sunday will be to nullify the threat posed by Wayne Rooney. The Manchester United forward has a formidable record against the Gunners, scoring 10 Premier League goals against them - more than any other side - and has seven goals in 14 matches this season.
With Rooney expected to line up behind Robin van Persie, Arteta will be tasked with denying him time and space in the dangerous area outside the Arsenal box. The Spaniard has won 58.2 per cent of his overall duels this term (compared to Rooney's 34 per cent) and has won far more in the air too (41.7 per cent to 16.7 per cent).
Arteta has also won 63 per cent of the 12 tackles he has made this season, but will certainly have to be on his guard with Rooney, who has created 16 chances for others and scores himself every 149 minutes. But the Spaniard has proved again and again that the bigger the task, the more he relishes it.
MANCHESTER UNITED v ARSENAL - MATCH FACTS
- Manchester United have only lost one of their last nine encounters with Arsenal in the Premier League (W6 D2 L 1)
- Arsenal have won at Old Trafford three times in the Premier League era and have won the title in two of those seasons (1997/98 and 2001/02)
- Robin van Persie has scored in the last four Premier League encounters between these two sides (two for each club)
- Arsenal are the only side to have scored in all 10 of their Premier League games this season
- Aaron Ramsey has scored six goals and provided three assists in his last seven Premier League appearances
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