With such a template for their side based on a heavily armed midfield packed with technical talent, Arsenal – who are top of the table – need a specific type of player and balance for the middle of their side.
This makes the farce that their transfer window debacle became all the more ridiculous, with the signing of Kim Kallstrom who won’t be fit again until Arsenal’s midfield will be close to full strength anyway. These consecutive mistakes and bizarre judgement on Kallstrom make the Gunners midfield seem considerably short going into their torturous run of fixtures through February and March.
Now with Mathieu Flamini suspended and injuries to Jack Wilshere and the resurrected Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta (who registered over 140 ball touches against Crystal Palace) is the key man in their midfield with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain even being employed in a theoretical deeper role.
Arteta is encouraged to sit deep but, all too often, doesn’t impact a game and it is here where Arsenal still seem to lack a quality powerful sitting midfield player. It is the area that Patrick Vieira left and never has been replaced.
With Wenger being pragmatic to the point of cautious in the transfer window, it has left them short in the vital position to maintain their high ball retention levels. Now Wilshere may be closer to a return but they miss Alex Song’s strength and passing from deep.
Fortunately, the attacking players in front of their deeper midfield players in their 4-2-3-1 have so far compensated for the weakened deeper lying players. With so many crying out for a striker to arrive at the Emirates, the shortness of power and control against physical sides in midfield is arguably just as big an issue.
This is just as much because of the way they play. In the current system it is all about players running beyond and the striker and leaving the No.9 with his back to goal and bringing other players in. The key is controlling possession from a quality midfield, but this area must be addressed or there could be long-term damage.
Disappointingly, Arsenal’s midfield (more than anything else) seems likely to cost them their real chance of a title this season and refusal to gamble in the window will be detrimental. Possible suggestions? Well, Arsenal need to commit money to be ready to challenge at a European highest level, they have been fortunate that no Premier League side holds a title-winning quality squad right now.
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