Morgan Schneiderlin’s name was being mentioned before the season even came to a close. The French midfielder has long been linked with a move away from St. Mary’s with the Emirates or Old Trafford seen as the most likely destination. The sticking point on that deal is a price tag of £25m which Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem willing to pay, especially for a player with no experience in the Champions League.
However, looking the at the players age (26 in November), the importance of the holding midfielder in the modern game (Matic, Busquets, Vidal, Carrick) and the need to bolster the spine of the squad, should Wenger put his money where his mouth is and follow up on the Petr Cech singing and take a step closer to having a team capable of fighting on all fronts next season?
The importance of Schneiderlin to Southampton last season is clear to see. Let’s look at some of the stats: 58% of games won when he played, only 33% won when he didn’t. 29% of games lost when he did play, 58% when he didn’t.
The signing of Cech is seen by many as a huge coup for Arsenal, however it was their adjustments in the middle of the park which made the difference in their season.
Arsenal started the season playing predominantly one holding midfielder in a deep lying position, that midfielder was Arteta. After his injury and with Francis Coquelin returning from Charlton (where he was on loan), Arsenal switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Coquelin did the “dirty” work and Santi Cazorla was dropped deeper to control the game as a deep lying play-marker, a role to which Jack Wilshere can also play very well and has been doing so for England of late.
With the success Arsenal had in the second half of the season, surely Wenger will look at implementing these same tactics next season, and Morgan Schneiderlin would be the ideal candidate to fit that role.
He could be supported by the very talented Coquelin to give energy and a combative streak in the midfield when the big boys come calling. While also allowing flexibility in their approach as Cazola or Wilshere could be used in front of the two or alongside one of them depending on circumstance and opposition.
Arsenal’s recent history is littered with strong midfield partnerships - Vieira and Petit in ’98, Vieira and Gilberto Silva when they became invincible.
Interestingly, Schneiderlin was unavailable for both games against Arsenal last season, and although Wenger will have seen plenty of the player, perhaps not seeing him up close and personal counts against the Frenchman when it comes to the move?
The player did, however, put in a starring role in Southampton’s 1-0 victory at Old Trafford last season, where his calmness in position, accurate distribution and power around the middle of the park would have certainly caught of the eye of Louis van Gaal.
Matic was integral to Chelsea's title success, but will Wenger risk £25 million in order to ensure that the title comes back to north London, and make sure Van Gaal doesn’t get there first?