That Arteta Fella Has A Lot Of Balls

Mikel Arteta has balls.

That Arteta Fella Has A Lot Of Balls


A Review of Arteta’s Match-Winning Penalty against Everton

How are you under pressure? What’s the most performance pressure you’ve ever been under? Yeah, me neither.

So, that Arteta fella then…he must have a lot of balls. A LOT of balls. And on Saturday, he got to dust them off. Twice. And push them into the middle of the table. He was, as they say in poker, all in.

That Oxlade-Chamberlain fella did what he does. And now Arteta gets to do what he does. Twice. This was the critical moment in the most critical match of the season for all 3 competitions. Whither goes this FA Cup quarterfinal, tither goes the FA Cup, and most probably the league and the next Bayern CL tie. They were all psychically rolled into one giant, steam-rolling, all- encompassing, avalanching snowball – gathering everything in its path.

So, Mikel, no pressure, mate. But we really, really need you to score this one. But, you know, stay calm and all. Though…not too calm.

And so with a tight, tight match, a match vital to both clubs’ seasons, well and truly on the line, Arteta stepped up to take the penalty, the decider. With the words “Nine years without a trophy” ringing in his ears; with every Arsenal supporter at the stadium and around the planet holding their breath; with every Everton supporter on the planet holding their breath and hexing him to miss; with every pundit in the world sharpening their “same old Arsenal” witty jibes, Mikel Arteta placed the ball on the spot and retreated to wait for what felt like nine years for the referee to blow the whistle.

But hang on there. I think we skipped a bit. Before this match even began, Arteta will have been preparing himself for this penalty, against this keeper, Robles, and visualizing exactly this situation. He will have visualized this moment: the keeper; the crowd; the pressure; the game on the line. And his palms will have been sweating, and his heart will have begun to race.

But it’s got to be hard to fully prepare for ths EXACT situation with your heart bursting out of your chest as you tell yourself to stay calm. There is only so much you can visualize and practice. It’s hard to fake terror.

I wonder what the time lag is between Mikel jumping for joy that Chambo won us a penalty, and the sudden blood-freezing realization that he’s the one who is going to have to take it: 0.5 of a sec? 0.1 of a sec? 0.05 of a sec?

Somewhere along the line he will have decided that if he does take a penalty against Robles, he will hit it to his own left. Or right. Or down the middle. Then he will have visualized that over and over.

Unfortunately, right now as he steps up to hit the ball, it doesn’t feel like how he visualized it, to the point where he says to himself, “Fuck it, this doesn’t feel right. I’m going the other side.”

Intellectually speaking, Arteta knows he should go to his left, his natural side, 60% of the time when compared to his right. But he also knows that the keeper knows this. But he also knows that the keeper knows that he knows that the keeper knows this. But he also knows …

That’s classic “Game Theory.”

Yes, he could go to his left but the most immortal words in the history of conflict are echoing in his head: “But that’s what he’s expecting.” That phrase uttered by Generals before all  the great battles throughout time: By Alexander The Great; Hannibal; Scipio Africanus; Napoleon; Wellington; Rommel; Montgomery.”

So, all Arteta needs to decide is…is today the day to hit it to the 60% side, or the 40% side? Or should he hit it down the middle again and pray that this young, eager-to-make-the-save-of-his-young-lifetime keeper is going to leap magnificently to one of the sides.

“Fuck it. I’m going to my left.”

The whistle blows. Time stands still. Arteta’s blood runs cold. He takes one breath, and after a momentary pause…he starts his run up. He spanks it into the corner to his left. The keeper goes the other way. Goal!!! Easy!

“Thank fuck that’s over and done with,” he says to himself.