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Written by hahostolze on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 08:43

Pep Guardiola is a national hero in Spain and Catalonia. His deep lying, subtly aware role in the midfield of both Barcelona and the Spanish national team made him the essence, the epitome, the definitive version of what the Spanish call pivote and the Italians call regista. The ball playing defensive midfielder who wins the game not my being an all action powerhouse, but by his awareness, his reading of the game, his distribution of the ball and his dedication to making the team click. Pep Guardiola was the man an entire generation of young Spaniards wanted to be. And now, finally, Arsenal have a player who can genuinely compare himself to the master.

When you look at Mikel Arteta’s recent repositioning, it can be said it was long overdue. In his younger years he always played as a pivote, both for Barcelona and Real Sociedad. Even when he joined Everton he was signed to replace Thomas Gravesen, who himself was an interesting combination of slick passing from deep and reckless tackling. The reason Mikel Arteta’s game gradually went forward when he played for Everton is in the same, unfortunate, category of why the English game still isn’t as good, in terms of the principles of the game, as in other countries. Arteta was good enough with the ball, creative enough and important as a playmaker, so he was moved further forward, and at times, onto the wing, where his excellent delivery was essential and his hard work indicative of what he would later do for Arsenal.

And how well he has done at Arsenal. Amy Lawrence described Arteta’s recent form as a ‘reinvented Arteta’, with ‘Makelele style defensive cover and aware of everything’ and that he was ‘incredibly impressive’. Mikel certainly didn’t start his Arsenal career as any of those things (well, the impressive part was always there) but gradually he has become this player. Last season he often played too far forward, and whilst Arteta is very good with the ball, an excellent passer and a great metronome, he isn’t the lock picker that Xavi or Fabregas are. With the emergence of one Santi Cazorla, and the great double role played by the box to box midfielders like Diaby, Ramsey and Coquelin, however, everything has fallen into place. Look at the Man City match. I don’t know if anyone else noticed but our midfield was fast and slick and played wonderful triangles. Those were almost always instigated, from a relatively deep position, by Arteta. The same Arteta who covers the continuous runs of the fullbacks. Most of his work isn’t flashy, isn’t too showy, but if you understand football (and I dunno if I do) you will realise just how important he is.

So what exactly is the pivote and who else can really be called a pivote? Well to me the master of the craft is someone like Guardiola, now retired of course, and in more recent times players like Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Andrea Pirlo, although the latter two have one or two interesting differences to the archetype. Michael Carrick might be called a pivote too, but is he good enough? That is the point of the word pivote. The pivote is, literally translated, the pivot. Maybe the most important player in the team, the player that makes the team tick. Not every team has their deep midfielder as the most important player. And not all deep players are pivotes. Schweinsteiger for Bayern, Lucas for Liverpool, they play at the base of the midfield but are slightly more box to box than a traditional pivote is. But to me, the title of pivote can only be given to the very best players. Many teams will have defensive midfielders who strength lays in awareness and positional play. Many teams have a player in defensive midfield who can distribute the ball well and some even have a midfielder who can keep play ticking. But at Arsenal right now, with Arteta, we have someone who does all of that, in one role, and does it very well. This facilitates our playing a 4-3-3, like Barcelona, with an extra midfielder to do both defensive and attacking roles (Diaby or Ramsey or, when fit, Wilshere) rather than using the famous double pivot of 4-2-3-1. Sure, when we defend it can turn into a 4-2-3-1, but mostly Arteta does that role on his own. And that is part of why this season we are more fluid going forward (and in midfield) than we have been in a while.

As I said earlier, Guardiola was a player that every Spanish boy aspired to be. And yet there are very few players in that famous Spanish team, the Spanish team that wins every single tournament, who can be called a real pivote. Xavi isn’t defensively capable enough and plays higher up. Iniesta started his career as deep as Guardiola, but his dribbling and finishing sees him play very high up now too. Ivan de la Pena was the next Guardiola in his youth but never quite reached the level. Xabi Alonso is a pivote but still is often shackled with another defence-minded player, and Sergio Busquets is a little more physical, and, controversially, to me, not as good on the ball, as a traditional pivote would be.

And then we get to the reason this article has been given the name it has. You see at Arsenal we have played all kinds of midfielders. Patrick Vieira was a box to box leviathan with the ability to pass the ball very well, but never was the metronome who made things tick. In fact, maybe Manu Petit was more that type, as was Edu, whose contribution was very often underrated, as a good pivote always is. Later we had Gilberto Silva, who had the ability to shadow players and did the silent, invisible cleaning up, like a pivote, but Silva’s passing ability wasn’t good enough to play that role, necessitating a ball player next to him. That ball player was Cesc Fabregas, a player who wanted the number 4, who always said how Guardiola was his hero and how he wished to emulate him, not just in career terms, but as a player. That same Cesc who ended up drifting further and further forward, no longer pulling the strings but instead applying the finish, giving the assist. That is not part of the role. When he started it seemed like maybe he could be that player, but his defensive reading of the game was never quite good enough, nor was his willingness to just sit back a bit. It is a shame that he never managed to be that player but now, at Arsenal, we have two Spaniards, neither of whom has that identity crisis. One is the pivote in the truest sense of the word. The other the playmaker, as good as any in world football.

Florentino Perez never offered Claude Makelele a big Galactico salary at Real Madrid because ‘defensive players aren’t important’. That man has a hilariously short memory, because how long before that decision had Guardiola been the captain and most important player at their big rivals Barca? I doubt he ever wanted for anything when he asked for it. At Arsenal we have Mikel Arteta, who to me is the standout performer of the season so far, and indeed for large parts of last season. Everton’s fancy dan with the fantastic hairstyle and the drop dead gorgeous wife has become our invisible metronome, the player who intercepts, passes, track and covers. All the while dripping with class and style. Florentino Perez may not have appreciated back then the need and necessity of a defensive midfielder but most in football do now. Mikel Arteta wanted to prove he could play at the very highest level and he has succeeded. He even took a pay cut to do so. I think it’s time the club repaid the favour and gave him a little payrise. After all, his position in the club, as our very own Guardiola: leader, pivote, standard-bearer and metronome, is one we can’t afford to lose. As recent signings go, serendipitous or not, Arteta is amongst the very best. And whilst some claim he came to replace Fabregas, to me he does more than that. He doesn’t just replace Fabregas (in fact, he doesn’t at all…), but replaces what Fabregas could, maybe should, have become. He is our pivote. And we are lucky to have him.

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Comments (42)

  • Farouk 111
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    Very good article, and good observation indeed, keep it coming,
  • joel
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    It is still too early to make that judgement. but so far, so good. I wish your words are proved true at the end of the season.

    Chaoooo!!!!!!!!!!
  • dukeofarsenal Malaysia  - How true.
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    Clap!Calp!Clap! How true. Best article and articulately written with details to put doubters at bay. Keep up with this and I'm sure the fans appreaciate a good reading once in a blue moon. GoGunner4Eva
  • neil
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    some excellent points. never thought of the pivote in such a way :roll:


    mytwitter: @the91stneil
  • JJeJnrArsenal-uganda  - fun
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    Nice probe and analysis! wish for more! this real silent description of arsenal rejuvenation.....all can at least see!
  • hahostolze  - RE Joel
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    Very true, but I am giving an analysis, rather than a prediction. Who knows where we end up...
  • Bergkamp10  - Nice
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    Good read and one point you haven't made is the fact we have got rid of Song for £16m (great slot) and he has come in & done a much a better job as he doesn't drift forward leave gaps & his passing isn't sloppy like Song....who was more interested in making the Holywood through ball for Vanpursestrings!!!
  • Kiyungi Twalib  - Nice Article
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    Am happy to read that, it was very nice article.
  • arsene knows
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    Persuasive and articulate, impressively argued.

    I agree on the main thrust about Arteta as the pivot and how it gives Wenger a lot more choices this season in regards to how he chooses to play, the formation he selects and the players which line up. Arsenal's midfield is probably the strongest in the Premier League and they have much coveted squad depth. How much value Wilshere brings to the team is a tantalising prospect for us all to look forward to.

    I disagree on your final point because we don't know what Fabregas could have become with Arsenal but by the end of his time at the club Cesc was playing much higher up and was providing many assists. Like you say about Xavi and Iniesta playing higher up than Guardiola did and therefore unable to replicate Guardiola's game. This is one reason Cesc is now unable to get into the Barcelona team. If Cesc was the pivot for Barcelona he would be starting.

    Off topic but I would love to see Walcott through the middle, to many people it seems his natural position. He has pace, he is a gifted finisher. And for those that get upset over Walcott's poor crossing this wouldn't be an issue as he would be playing in the middle and not on the wings. Perhaps we'll see him get more of a chance especially when Gervinho goes to the Africa Cup of Nations.
  • Enyi  - Mr
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    Great and insightful article, I totally agree with the writer.
  • Marc
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    Haha funny :0 , Busquets is as good at the ball as they come. Certainly better on the ball than Arteta. I can guarantee you that.
  • ruelando  - arteta
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    From what i have seen if arsenal gets to the top of the table i see him getting called up for spain and this would allow him to achieve is dream in playing for his homeland. This position is not so deep as you would think in spain, Busquets and Alonso or the only two that i see in is way (Xavi and iniesta ) play a little more advance
  • martin wengrow
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    This is an excellent perceptive post which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks
  • Peter
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    Arteta really deserves a pay rise maybe even more than what he earned before.....great article indeed,Arteta really does hold our team together
  • Anonymous
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    Thinking about your article I agree.but I think we have a pivote in defence pers.pers.and arteta link so well,every thing starts with them.....
  • IndoArsenal
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    Really, can't wait to see Arteta, Wilshere, Cazora at our midfield, Pod, Ox and Rambo at our front....
  • paspartu
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    i dont disagree with the point of the article but pep guardiola as a player was nothing too serious when you consider pivots like mattheus .....if youre looking for real pivots from back then look no further than a certain paulo souza..he was the ONE. another exceptional pivot was demetrio albertini and the severely underrated dino baggio of lazio. ,,,i even consider steven gerrard as a better pivot than pep.....and the daddy of todays pivots is pirlo...who is a playmaker playing deep as well as defensive midfielder /organiser pitch maestro legend in their game with chelsea pirlo played further back than vidal who is the dm.......cesc had he stayed maybe he could reach pirlo levels....maybe we see soemthing close to pirlo when wilshere matures .... hopefully...cesc is miles better than pep ever was in every aspect ... arteta is very, very good in his role so far and credit to him for he keeps it simple whereas if diabby is asked to play that role he will go for the fancy and it will cost. wilshere to learn from arteta and watch prilo on video all day all night...
  • naked goon
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    thanks for this article, and for giving Edu a mention, he was a really great player who seemed to hardly ever play.
  • Nigeria  - Excellent
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    We there will be no injury
  • tambuwal
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    Nice analysis I love it
  • pushah
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    Great read and great analysis of the different defensive midfield roles. Whoever says guardiola was not that good has to be kidding, the guy was a true pivot in every sense of the word. But I think Arteta started playing that role in the second half of the season after song proved he could not curb his toward forays. Remember when he was injured in the last games and we were being counter attacked bluff right and center ? That's when people started paying attention to his real role and importance to the team. Jack as far as I remember seeing him from his youth has both 1.Xavi's ball playing ability and also 2. iniesta's slick sort of slow motion(elusive) dribble and killer passes and 3. He can tackle and tracks back and harries whenever he loses the ball.His finishing will.get better(just like early years cesc could not Score much). Although many or even the gaffer think of him as a pirlo/guardiola/petit kind of player I honestly, clearly think he can play all the three roles we'll depending on whatever the team needs at the exact moment. If he keeps his head down and focuses on all his strengths I think he will be the most complete midfielder in football !!! Please somebody quote me on this one day one time !!!
    Am on twitter @Johnpushah. I follow back all gooners(sorry for being off topic there)
  • pushah
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    Great read and great analysis of the different defensive midfield roles. Whoever says guardiola was not that good has to be kidding, the guy was a true pivot in every sense of the word. But I think Arteta started playing that role in the second half of the season after song proved he could not curb his toward forays. Remember when he was injured in the last games and we were being counter attacked bluff right and center ? That's when people started paying attention to his real role and importance to the team. Jack as far as I remember seeing him from his youth has both 1.Xavi's ball playing ability and also 2. iniesta's slick sort of slow motion(elusive) dribble and killer passes and 3. He can tackle and tracks back and harries whenever he loses the ball.His finishing will.get better(just like early years cesc could not Score much). Although many or even the gaffer think of him as a pirlo/guardiola/petit kind of player I honestly, clearly think he can play all the three roles we'll depending on whatever the team needs at the exact moment. If he keeps his head down and focuses on all his strengths I think he will be the most complete midfielder in football !!! Please somebody quote me on this one day one time !!!
    |Am on twitter @theborngunner. I follow back all gooners(sorry for being off topic there)|
  • peekaboo
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    I agree with the article apart from the point about Busquets, He's as good on the ball as Guardiola himself.
  • Anonymous  - Aussie gunner
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    Great article, very true facts.
    It's a crying shame we didn't have Arteta when he was younger.
  • East Stand Alex
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    Excellent article. Totally agree with it.

    Would debate the Busquets observation though...
  • benson  - good stuff
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    This is one of the best article I have ever read, and I concur with artetas pivote role. We saw flashes of this in last seasons game against city away, we lost the game but arteta was mercurial
  • akum
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    arteta a perfect gunner
  • dadagbon.  - Arteta! The field marshall.
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    I have never read an article as great as this one. Bring us all to one man - Arsene Wenger! The prof, the man. Final point, to compare our Jack Wilshere to Pirlo in my opinion is an insult. When that boy is done, Pirlo would be considered lightweight.

    Once more fantastic analysis, keep the flame burning.
  • Bright  - good
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    claps claps claps claps ...
    Good but arsenal needs a trophy to show for it....
  • Anonymous
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    hw can cesc better than gusrdiola
  • Chris  - Arsenal
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    THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR ARSENAL
  • MeanLean
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    Top work sir, lovely read. I love what Mikel Arteta is giving us right now and the Guardiola comparison is spot on. While I loved what Song gave us, he often slowed us down. He would frustrate me when receiving the ball deep, he would attempt to shield the ball and turn before playing the pass. With Arteta he simplifies the game, doesn't dwell in possession and always shows for his players.

    It would have been nice if he was a few years younger. Would have loved to see him in our shirt for many years. Well I am certainly going to enjoy him while he is here.
  • FOYS
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    Arteta was playing this role last season. Where I sit, a lot of people were moaning about him not getting further up field.....that was left to Song and now that he's gone Diaby is playing that role.

    Btw, yes Arteta did take a pay cut to join us, but it was on the understanding that if we qualified for the CL then his wage would go up to what he earned @ the Blue Mickeys which the club has done.
  • rizal
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    all of this pivot, pivot and Guardiola Guardiola have you ever heard of attacking midfield right behind striker and zidane.
    There is nothing a shame of Cesc not become the pivot, because what Cesc had become and had contribute to the team is more than that, with 40+ goal and assist per season, plus he is as the usual Arsenal player is always underrated - Barce had a very strong cronyism just like Terry and the gang in Chealse and England. Cesc never had a fair chance yet.
  • loosechains
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    I think Arteta's wage has been reviewed.
    For me, he's the most irreplaceable player in our squad as of now. Its important he's fit for the whole season. He's a leader and very top class.
  • wakou paul  - nice article
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    I luv this article u re a gd and i thk that makes the two of us sir
  • tau
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    :D great piece
  • pod  - cesc
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    cesc was the best player at arsenal for 5 years, was an absolutey prodigious talent, and has far more ability than arteta.

    Arteta is a great player and we need him but don't be quite so quick to forget Fabregas' impact on games.
  • Vruga  - Article
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    One of the best articles i have read of late about particular players that are under-rated. Edu has always been under-rated period. Its interesting what Arteta brings to the team. Definitely a player that makes the team click. Hope we win something with him in this team. Pirlo should be given a mention for he has been doing the same in Italy though their league is not that popular as the EPL in some regions or continents.
  • bomelau@rocketmail.com  - The most complete midfilder in EPL
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    arteta is irreplaceable at the moment bcause whn hez is around we dominate midfield against any team(even whn wilshere was given a red card against MAN U)
  • googly
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    search engine
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    help me
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