The Spanish midfielder has been a frequent first-team figure since his move from Everton but is wary of being judged by the same standards as the former Gunners captainMikel Arteta has urged Arsenal fans not to compare him to former captain Cesc Fabregas, but insists that he can still make an important contribution to the club.
The midfielder arrived at the Emirates Stadium from Everton at the end of last summer’s transfer window, following the sales of Fabregas to Barcelona and Samir Nasri to Manchester City, and has made 34 appearances to date, scoring five goals.
“Cesc wasn’t the same player in his first season as in his last, so how can anyone expect me to be the Cesc Fabregas of last season in my first?” Arteta told The Evening Standard regarding comparisons with his fellow Spaniard.
“I knew because everybody was saying to me, ‘Mikel, you are going to go to Arsenal and it’s going to be really tough for you because you are going to be under so much pressure. Cesc is leaving, Nasri is leaving, the team are not doing well.’
“But I said, ‘I don’t care, I want to go to Arsenal. Arsenal are the club I have to play for.’
“I will show that I am no Fabregas, I am no Nasri, I am myself.
“I will try my best for the team. If people want to compare me then it is up to them but I know that if I do that, I am making a mistake on the first day. I didn’t want to waste any time.
“I have talked to Cesc a few times. I rang him when I was going to join because I wanted to know things.
“When you have been in football in different places, there are certain things inside the club you have to know before agreeing to move there. That’s what I asked him about and he was very helpful.”
Arteta was one of several late signings last summer and observed that it was always going to be a tough start to the season as a result.
“We bought players from all different countries — Spain, Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast and South Korea, so it was always going to be difficult to gel,” he reasoned.
“When you come straight in and the team are struggling to get results, it is even harder.
“But I knew that we had the talent and the desire because you could see the players were getting upset when we were losing. It was not like nobody cares and that’s always good.
“The experience of the Champions League, as a whole, was good for me to grow as a player.
“I hate what we did in Milan [losing 4-0 away]. It was one of the worst nights I have ever had in my football career but you learn from it and you hope it won’t happen again.”
Results have been looking up for the Gunners since their defeat in Italy, however, a fact that Arteta acknowledges.
“Three months ago, fourth was unbelievable for us but now third is realistic,” he enthused.
“Third is much better than fourth, but if we take our foot off the pedal that will go again quickly. Chelsea and Spurs are capable of both winning five games in a row and so we need to maintain our level and be consistent.
“We need to finish the league season really strongly.”
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