If most of Arsène Wenger's flurry of signings at the transfer deadline were regarded by pundits and supporters as panic buys in the wake of the 8-2 defeat away to Manchester United, the exception was the arrival from Everton of Mikel Arteta.
Such was the Basque's hunger to play in the Champions League that he took a pay cut to facilitate the transfer, and although he started slowly at the Emirates Stadium, two months on he has removed any doubts about the wisdom of paying £10m for a 29-year-old, settling into an effective midfield trio alongside Alex Song and either Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky.
Saturday's performance was his best so far in an Arsenal shirt as Wenger's men won their fourth successive league game. "He's an important player in our team," Wenger said. "He is the player between Song and Ramsey or Rosicky that gives us continuity. With Jack [Wilshere] missing he is really a player who allows you to keep the ball when it is needed."
Alone of Wenger's summer signings, Arteta lacks international experience, but for understandable reasons. "He was born in Spain where you have plenty of midfielders who are absolutely outstanding," Wenger said. "What didn't help him maybe was that he was very young when he moved to clubs who were not as ambitious as they should have been. He moved to Rangers where it is difficult to convince managers in Spain that you deserve a chance in the Spanish national team. Then he moved to Everton, and now it shows what I always say – it's the club which makes 90 per cent of the career."
Arteta's move to Arsenal may have come too late for his international chances, but it has allowed his game and his fitness to develop in a more attacking team. Against West Bromwich Albion he was still going strong deep into the second half when a pass by Robin van Persie allowed him to shoot home from 17 yards.
"We've been working on being a bit more solid but I want to participate more on the attacking side so I'm pleased," Arteta said. "There's a lot of things to learn and I've not had a lot of time to settle. We've been under a lot of pressure to win games, we've needed results. We're playing catch-up on the other teams, we can't keep losing points and it's not easy. But we know we're a good team, we've got talent and we can still improve and make our situation better."
Arsenal remain only three points behind fourth place but Wenger maintains his perspective. "One month ago the questions we had to answer were: 'Do you face a relegation battle or not?' We are not there yet but it is much more positive. Before the win at Chelsea last week, there was still some scepticism. Suddenly Chelsea highlighted a bit that 'Oh, they are still not too bad'."
Scorers: Arsenal Van Persie 22, Vermaelen 39, Arteta 74. Substitutes: Arsenal Rosicky 6 (Ramsey, 71), Benayoun 6 (Gervinho, 72), Arshavin (Walcott, 78). West Bromwich Albion Tchoyi 5 (Gera, 63), Mulumbu 5 (Cox, 71), Thorne (Dorrans, 81). Booked None.
Man of the match Van Persie. Match rating 7/10. Possession Arsenal 59% West Bromwich 41%.
Attempts on target Arsenal 7 West Bromwich 4.
Referee M Oliver (Northumberland).
Attendance 60,091.Reuse content