Today we start the countdown to the unveiling of the Arsenal.com Player of the Season - as voted by the fans.
In fourth place is Mikel Arteta. The Spanish midfielder has been a model of consistency this term and received five per cent of the votes in our poll.
Arsenal.com reporter Rob Kelly gives his verdict on the 31-year-old.
It is a measure of the man that Mikel Arteta’s chief consideration in taking over his new role at the base of Arsenal’s midfield was how it could impact on his team-mates. Forget that he had to curb his more attacking instincts, ignore the fact he had to rediscover the intricacies of the ‘pivote’ position - for the unselfish Spaniard the team always comes first.
"Not only did he captain the side 15 times this season, but he is also the first-choice penalty taker and often takes free kicks and corners. He is not a man to shirk his duties and he is certainly not the type to fold under pressure"
“I was the man to play in a different role, I had to adapt and I did the best that I could,” Arteta told Arsenal Player. “I have sacrificed myself a lot for the team, worked as hard as I could and tried to help my team-mates.
“In my mind, I think ‘How can I make the players around me better? How can I make them feel more comfortable?’ I am talking about Santi, Aaron, Jack, Tomas Rosicky - players like that. That was the hardest part probably, but I knew I could succeed in doing it. I watched a lot of players in my position and I am happy with the way I have done it.”
Arteta has every reason to feel satisfied with his season. Not only did he finish with a respectable six goals and four assists, but he made the second-highest number of passes in the Premier League (2,750) and finished with an incredible pass success rate of 92 per cent. And with five games still left of the season, he broke the top-flight record for the number of completed passes in a season.
But Arteta’s stats will be explored in greater depth elsewhere. As a man, he is someone who seems to relish responsibility. Not only did he captain the side 15 times this season - during which Arsenal remained unbeaten - but he is also the first-choice penalty taker and often takes free kicks and corners. He is not a man to shirk his duties and he is certainly not the type to fold under pressure.
Take the situation he found himself in around Christmas. Having missed a last-gasp penalty in the 3-3 draw against Fulham at Emirates Stadium, the thought of giving up his duties did not even cross his mind. But the ultimate test would be the next time Arsenal were awarded a penalty. Would he have the bottle for it? Of course he would, scoring twice from the spot against West Bromwich Albion and then succeeding again against Wigan.
"He is a leader of men, an unselfish provider happy to sacrifice himself for the good of the team, a brave and fearless competitor"
“It takes character [to score three penalties in a row],” Arsene Wenger said. “I am glad he shows that. You heard so many comments when he missed that one against Fulham - ‘why does he take the penalties?’ - but he has everyone on board now. That is the only way you can do it: show everyone that you have the character and the quality.”
Arteta does have character - by the bucketload. He is a leader of men, an unselfish provider happy to sacrifice himself for the good of the team, a brave and fearless competitor.
And after another superb campaign, supporters everywhere can just be grateful that he is one of ours.
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