More than just an inferior Fabregas? Mikel Arteta shoulders the creative burden for Arsenal to show there is life after Cesc

The midfielder shone on his debut at the Emirates following deadline day move and has given Gunners fans reason to believe they have an able replacement for their departed skipper
By Wayne Veysey at the Emirates Stadium

It took only a minute or two for the influence of Mikel Arteta to be felt on an Arsenal orchestra crying out for a new conductor.

The quick-footed and even quicker thinking Spaniard received the ball close to the halfway line, ran purposefully forward and slid the ball perfectly into the path of Aaron Ramsey, who was unable to show the same composure as his colleague and blasted wantonly over the crossbar.

Arteta delivered another defence-splitting pass moments later, to further appreciative applause. Ten minutes into his Arsenal bow and he already looked like he belonged in a red and white jersey.

First impressions count in dating, and they count in top-level sport too.

Few audiences outside of Catalonia have witnessed more nimble, technically adroit midfielders in recent years and the hard-to-please N5 crowd recognise a gifted player when they see one.


6.5 There was great anticipation from the home fans whenever Arsenal had a set-piece and the ball went near the giant German but his presence was more effective in defence, where he settled in quite comfortably, although he looked occasionally startled by the pace of the match.
8.0 Delivered two defence-splitting passes in the opening 10 minutes and created a number of chances for his new team-mates with his perceptive range of passing. Van Persie also showed deference by allowing him to take all the set pieces.
6.0 Replaced Arshavin for the final third of the match and made a reasonable impression on his debut with some nice touches on the left flank.
With his velvet touch, wide range of passing and appreciation of time and space, Arteta was an instantly comfortable fit in a midfield deprived in a month of Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby through injury, Alex Song and Gervinho through suspension and Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri through personal ambition.

Crucially, the Spaniard does not require the acclimatisation period that Arsene Wenger pointed out afterwards his fellow debutant starter Per Mertesacker will need. It will be the same for Andre Santos and Chu Young Park, who were both unused substitutes in Arsenal's second home League game of the season.

The fifth of Arsenal's end-of-August signings, Yossi Benayoun, took up what is a very familiar cameo substitute role, replacing Andrei Arshavin for the last 28 minutes.

While there was great excitement whenever an Arsenal set-piece sent the ball anywhere near the direction of the giant Mertesacker, it was the contribution of Arteta that will provide the greatest hope for Arsenal's quest for a top-four finish this season.

In the first half, the former Everton player was the instigator of most of his new team's most compelling moves. He was the link between the defence and attack and immediately struck up good partnerships with Aaron Ramsey, who was stationed around 15 yards ahead of him, and Andrei Arshavin.

Youngsters Emmanuel Frimpong and, when the Ghanaian tired, Francis Coquelin, provided the ball-winning attributes to complement Arteta's vision. Intriguingly, captain Robin van Persie showed deference to his new colleague and was happy for the Spaniard to take all of the team's set-pieces, including the direct free-kicks which have been so wasted by the Dutchman over the last few seasons.

Song will surely return to play alongside Arteta against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, and when Wilshere is fit again, the three midfielders and Ramsey will be fighting it out for three central places in Wenger's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

That is for the 'morrow. For now, Arsenal know they have an experienced, ready-made Premier League player who can be relied upon to reach a certain level of performance every time he plays. Fingers crossed, the nagging questions about his ability to play twice a week over the entirety of a season do not come to the fore.

Those of the glass half empty persuasion might view Arteta as an older, slower, less effective version of the recently departed and much missed Cesc Fabregas. But Cesc-lite is an unfair description of Arsenal's new Spaniard.

True, Arteta cannot force his way into the Spain squad, but if he was born in Sussex rather than San Sebastien, he would surely have racked up dozens of international caps by now.

The 29-year-old is more than just an inferior version of Fabregas. He is ready to shoulder Arsenal's creative burden and show there is life after Cesc.