This may annoy fellow supporters, but I would really, really like to see Mikel Arteta get a call-up to the Spanish national team.
I understand all the reasons why – in theory – we should NOT want that to happen.
He is one of our few automatic starters and a mainstay of this year’s exciting, new-look Arsenal, so the last thing we want is him going off on international duty and getting kicked up in the air by Olaf Ankelschnapper in a meaningless friendly.
Then there’s the fact that when the rest of the squad goes off to play for their national sides, he gets a nice long break (which is important when we want him, ideally, to start every important game). While others are having to mingle with pond life like Ashley Cole and Sergio Biscuits, our Mikel can wander round London Colney like a king, attaching jokey notes to other players’ lockers and maybe even finding time to take grapes and flowers to Abou Diaby in the sick bay.
But I have been so impressed with Arteta’s professionalism, intelligence and application since he signed for us that I just feel he deserves national recognition as a reward for what he has brought to the game.
In a sport awash with overpaid, greedy scumbags he stands out as one of the good guys. He is still held in high esteem by his erstwhile fans at Everton and he took a pay cut to join Arsenal. Contrast that with players who almost crash their cars when offered “only” £55,000 a week, or racially abuse their colleagues or spend more time on the front pages of the tabloids than on the back.
Mikel may have impeccably groomed eyebrows and Action Man’s hair, but he is a reminder that there are still players in the game with moral standing.
As Arsene Wenger has pointed out, if Mikel had been born in a different era – or in this era but in a different country – he would probably have close to 100 caps by now.
Certainly England would have loved a player with his class and technique over the last decade.
Spain is currently fortunate to have a group of some of the best midfielders ever to step onto a football pitch. Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Busquets and Silva are all literally world class.
Then there are the midfield geniuses of Arsenal Past and Arsenal Present: Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla.
What a collection of talent! And most of them not even tall enough to be allowed on the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers.
However, even with this legion of impossibly gifted Spanish midfielders, surely there must be scope for Mikel to gain a cap or two.
Now that he has cemented the deep-lying “pivot” role for himself at Arsenal, you would think he could do a similar job at national level if, for example, his good friend Xabi Alonso was unavailable.
With his passing accuracy, his composure and his eye for a great ball he would slot seamlessly into the Spanish national side. Indeed, among Europe’s top leagues he is second only to Xavi in his pass completion rate so far this season (Xavi is on 96.3%, Arteta on 93.8%).
Would there be any knock-on benefit to Arsenal if Mikel finally got the call-up? I doubt it. He is such a good professional that he gives his all for us anyway and getting an extra boost of pride from being capped is unlikely to change things.
At 30 a call-up might seem unlikely, but I would not rule it out. If Arsenal have a very good season and compete well in the Premier League and the Champions League, more attention will fall on our Spanish metronome and it would not be completely surprising to see him drafted into the national squad.
Putting my Arsenal-skewed self interest aside I sincerely hope that it happens because he deserves it as a player and as a man. Yes, there would be a risk he would come back to us injured or tired – but we have that risk with the vast majority of our players anyway. And it would be a crying shame for such a fine player to end his days uncapped.
Do you agree?
And can you think of previous Arsenal greats who never got capped by their country (Geordie Armstrong springs to mind, and I’m pretty sure that Nigel Winterburn only got a single England cap).