Is Arteta Arsenal's most important recent signing?

By Avenell Dave

It says a lot about Arsene Wenger that despite the tremendous upheaval of the past nine months, Arsenal now mook more like a team than they have in years.

Yes, we might be striker light but it says a lot about the squad that even without arguably our best midfielder in Jack Wilshere and three full backs, we're still on a fine unbeaten run.

Much has been made in the past of Project Youth and who can blame Wenger for focusing on young players capable of becoming world beaters?

He did it with Cesc Fabregas and created one of the great swindles of all time by persuading the world to believe that Samir Nasri was in the same class.

But even looking back at Wenger's first Arsenal team, which included the youthful exuberance of Nicolas Anelka and Patrick Vieira, it had the wisdom and experience of an established back four.

Sometimes you need that experience.

Watching Arsenal's demolition of Wigan on Saturday underlined to me once again why experienced players have been so important to Arsenal's resurgence.

Per Mertesacker has received a lot of criticism for his occasional mistakes and lack of speed, but actually, he has been a rock for most of his time on the field.

Perhaps his somewhat ungainly demeanour has blinkered the media into thinking that without the elegance of some of his peers, he is lacking in defensive acumen.

But while Mertesacker has been impressive, for me, Mikel Arteta has become fundamental to the team.

Aaron Ramsey's role is to role forward and play the killer balls that Cesc used to do, adding that scooped chip to the attacking repertoire.

Alex Song hustles and harries and switches from box to box, earning the occasional card but having the strength to hold off opponents when the going gets tough.

But try watching Arteta on Saturday against Everton and you'll see what he brings to the team.

Of course he's no Cesc, but then he neither claimed to be nor was bought as a like-for-like replacement. His role is to sit and cover in much the same way as Gilberto did when Arsenal's last trophies were won.

He scored a brave and somewhat fortuitous goal against Wigan on Saturday and while their midfield and attack are among the weakest we will see all season, he showed time and again how important he is.

When attacks break up or a simple ball is needed, Arteta is there. When we need some ball retention and creativity with a ball over the top, there he is again.

They used to call Gilberto the invisible wall and Arteta fulfils a similar role for us now.

Everton fans have said that they shed no tears over his departure in August. His best days were behind him and he was injury prone.

We haven't seen any of that thankfully and the Spaniard - terribly unfortunate to be born during an era of so many superb Spanish midfielders - can rest this week for the trip to Greece.

We're still a way off an established top four team again this season, but we've had a blip and maintaining this form can only bode well for the future.