The free transfer of Mathieu Flamini left everyone wondering about Arsene Wenger's judgement, but the experienced Frenchman has stunned the Premier League in protecting an in-form Arsenal back-four so far in the past season and in the Emirates Cup.
For years Arsenal have had a gap in that role ever since the departure of powerhouse Patrick Vieira and Mathieu Flamini's return has pleased the Arsenal fans. However Flamini is a veteran and the Frenchman physically cannot play every game due to his age.
Possible replacements will need to be identified quickly and with just under a month remaining, Wenger has a job on his hands. These games without a defensive midfielder will prove vital to Arsenal's campaign as they attempt to push for the title, after ending an eight year trophy drought with the FA Cup win.
With this blow to the defensive cover, Arsenal are left with Mikel Arteta to try and see out the job. Arteta is not an outright defensive-minded player and enjoys a little run forward. This could be costly for Arsenal if they are to see out results against the big teams they face.
Aaron Ramsey played well as the pure defensive shield in his early years but it wasn’t the natural position as we’ve seen his terrific attacking form last season carried onto pre season.
This is where another French face comes into play. Blaise Matuidi can make Arsenal's squad even stronger this year if he doesn’t get snapped up by other clubs before this summer. The 27-year-old French international midfielder is being tracked by Chelsea and Manchester United.
Matuidi signed a contract last season however he would favour a move to the Premier League if he was going to go anywhere as he has previously stated. The move would see him leave PSG who will be looking to progress in this year’s UEFA Champions League. The Paris club hope the defensive midfielder will reject other clubs but will look for a £20-£30 million deal if he doesn’t.
Matuidi has played 102 games in his seasons in Paris. You can have all the attackers you like but unless you have someone with the discipline and sense of responsibility to work for the team and position themselves effectively then the team won't stand a chance of challenging.
If you don’t know much about Matuidi, just know this. PSG bought him to replace Claude Makelele. It sums his game up and shows what he would offer Arsenal.
What is required for the much-needed defensive midfielder role is superb positioning and sensing of danger, tackling skill, intercepting ability and the awareness to select the correct distribution option.
Matuidi already has it all. He’s also a huge presence on the field with his leadership and reliability. Arsenal could do with a few more players that can be relied on to perform at the same level every week. Tactically it would also allow Wenger to continue to use Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey further forwards where he seems to see his future.
Premier League move
If PSG had to let the Frenchman go, Arsenal might hold an advantage over United; the main factor being them being able to offer Champions League football. United on the other hand finished 7th last season, so Matuidi may rule out a move to Manchester completely. Chelsea have just spent a substantial amount on Cesc Fabregas and with Ramires, Mikel and Matic being the defensive cover, Jose Mourinho will not want to rotate his squad every game so Matuidi looks as though he would move to north London if he was going to leave PSG.
At Arsenal the midfield looks tough to compete against but he is defensive and fills a role that the likes of Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil could not in protecting the back four. His only competition would be an injury-prone Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta; this shows how squad depth is important as Arsenal won’t have anyone to fill that role if injuries or suspensions were distributed.
Arsenal have also been linked to another French international in Paul Pogba but he comes with a hefty price tag. Matuidi may produce the same qualities as Pogba, only a cheaper option. His experience may also help Wenger’s decision to bring him in.