As we face another World Cup qualifying break, you’ll see top players represent their nation in far out lands while the rest of us impatiently bide our time until league play resumes. What’s Mikel Arteta doing? Oh nothing, just applying more hair gel followed by resting, sandwich making and tea time. Why? Well, like that guy outside with the classic Karl Kani newspaper jeans set, he can’t get in the international player’s club.
Ask a row of gooners about Mikel Arteta and you’ll hear rave reviews. Extend your query to football fans at large and those knowledgeable enough will tell you he’s quality and one of the EPL’s best players. Yet, for all the acclaim he receives, one honor has eluded the John Stamos look-alike: a men’s national team cap.
See, Mikel’s from Spain and, as if you didn’t know already, this generation of Spaniards is insane. Their midfield is especially crowded with the likes of Arsenal players past and present in Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla fighting tooth and nail for starts. However he’s been a consistent presence in Arsenal’s midfield with highly accurate passing and regular clean up duty for the back four. Additionally, for as much as people gave that dutch guy credit for their third place finish, Arteta’s impact in his first Arsenal season can’t be question. Let’s not forget how the team hobbled to the finish line right after Arteta’s ankle injury ended his season.
Then we get into his actual qualifications. Arteta’s latest role sees him as a holding midfielder reinforcing the back four while, often times, serving as the ignition to the Gunners’ attack. Spain already has their deep lying midfield tandem in Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso so…yeah, Mikel loses that contest any way you look at it. then you have Javi Martinez who can play as a DM and full back: the latter of which is out of Mikel’s skill set.
What’s worse is Mikel is 30, and even though he’s playing the best football of his career, his time for a call up is wearing thin. He’s only a few months younger than Xavi and, while the squad has a number of players approaching/over 30, none are late bloomers like Arteta. MIkel’s definitely cognizant of his reality and desperately wants in on his home country’s dominate run. He even weighed the possibility to play for England but FIFA deemed him inelligible due to experience as a Spain youth international. Therefore, it’s La Roja or bust.
Sympathizing with millionaire athletes’ woes has never been my strong suit. Yet and still Mikel’s situation does make you take a step back. We don’t choose our times to break out in flourish. If we did then everyone would realize their potential when it’s most convenient. Arteta’s case is another wrought with bad timing and overshadowing due to factors beyond his control. At this point, his best bet is to keep plugging away and stay healthy. Then he has to hope del Bosque has the San Sebastian native on his radar should one of his compatriots unfortunately fall to injury. Until then, he’ll be on the outside looking in unless the aforementioned chain of events fall in his favor.