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Do we need a defensive midfielder?

As we all know Mr Wenger did not buy in the transfer window (to the great dismay and frustration of most bloggers and commentators it would seem) because he felt that he had the squad he needed.

My guess (and of course it is never more than that) is that the plan was to play Diaby next to Fabregas, and allow Cesc to move forward looking to score.   But the early injury to Diaby and the unavailability of Bischoff meant that the system that had worked so well between Flamini and Fabregas had to be changed.

Enter Denilson, and we return to a modified version of the Gilberto approach – the invisible wall mark II.

Which raises these questions:

a) When Rosicky finally returns to fitness does he return to the wing where Nasri has been playing?

b) If Rosicky, Nasri, Diaby, Denilson, and Bischoff were all fit, who would play next to Cesc?

c) Is Ramsey ready for more of a place in the team yet, or is he just going to get emergency back-up and short fill-in jobs this year?

d) Do we need to sign a new midfielder?

The last one is, for me, the easiest to answer – absolutely not.  I know I am out of phase with the vast majority of commentators on this, but I kept arguing the position through the summer and it still looks that way to me.  If you say, “Flamini did x and we have no one to do x” then of course you need a new midfielder.   But to me, and it is just a personal  view, that is not how Wenger thinks, and it is not the right way to think.

Players are individual, and have individual strengths.  You have Ian Wright in the team, and you play to his strengths – down the middle.  You have Henry in the team and you know he goes left, so you buy a right footed left winger who can score (Pires) and tell him to run into the middle when Henry goes out to the left.

So to my mind Wenger was never going to replace Flamini with Flamini II, he was looking around at what he had and who was available, and then thinking, how can I change this to accommodate everyone in a winning formula.

And to answer an earlier question – if Denilson and Cesc continue to develop as a pair, and the team continue to win, then that’s the pairing, and Diaby and others will lose out.

One final thing – the strength among the younger players is now so great that every year we automatically have a couple of signings – players who break through.  I suspect by this time next year Ramsey and Wilshere will be more fully integrated into the first team and there will be others moving up.   The signings are done –  it is just the press doesn’t notice them until they come out with all the old phrases about the “Wenger production line” when we play in the Little Cup – as we do tomorrow – and “Arsenal are broke” during the transfer windows when we don’t sign anyone.

The truth of this final point is that the spivs own Manchester U, Chelsea and Liverpool, but they don’t own Arsenal.

7 comments to Do we need a defensive midfielder?

  • jjjjjj

    we r doing that against small teams we need a defencive midfielder to compete in the chapions league .. we need a player who would break the apponants midfield and break there play to make them play our game

  • dan

    Much more involved than that mate. Wenger wanted to buy because he needed to buy. He tried but he still can’t stomach today’s prices, which can become a long-term problem if prices don’t fall and we become frozen in the developing stage as players inevitably leave. A mix of age and youth and a squad with high quality depth is what’s needed in today’s game to challenge for honours. Sure we are Arsenal and will likely to top the league for months, but as has been said, depth tells in the end, and we’ve just not got the horses to compete over the course of the season sufficiently to win silverware. That is the great shame because with a high quality addition here and there and cover for cesc we can do great things.

  • Bilbo

    Spot on. And to answer one point – Ramsey is for the future, with cameo’s for now. Diaby’s had opportunity but never quite delivers, Denilson generally performs to a good standard.

  • Graham Kawika

    Brilliant post. I agree with you 100 percent. It’s not hard to see that we have a different style of play compared to last year. I hinted it early in the campaign, but after 8 or 9 games it’s become easily noticeable. We lost Hleb, now were much more efficient in the final third and definitely not as stagnant. We lost Flamini, so were more vulnerable down the middle, but now we see Cesc playing a deeper more box to box like role- to deal with our lack of defensive compatibility in the center of the park. Last year, at this time, Cesc looked like he was playing in the hole he was so high up on the pitch, but now he’s allowing other players to express themselves such as Denilson, Theo, Eboue, and Nasri.

    Most fans rather Cesc play higher up the field contributing more to attack and scoring goals, but I rather the Arsenal play more as a team becoming less predictable. You have to remember we still haven’t conceded in the run of play, our game is still fluent and joy to watch, but the best yet is that were not as reliant on just ONE player (Cesc), like ManUre is with CR7. At this point were an all round better squad.

    What do you think? I’d love for you to blog about the comparisons between Flamini and Denilson and our style of play compared to last year. How would you critique a 24 year old Denilson to a present day Flamini. Even though we won’t see what a 24 Denilson will bring until 4 more years, I think it’s easy to calculate that we have a gem in the making, his ceiling is so much more higher than Flamini. I’ll never forget what Flamini brought to the squad while he was here. His effort was second to none, and was vastly underrated for the majority of the time he spent wearing the red and white in London. But Denilson offers us more inventiveness and creativity with the ball (and he’s still only 20!).

    As for your questions.
    1) I think it’ll be a while before we see Rosicky and Nasri feature together on opposite wings especially the way Eboue has performed the last few fixtures and with the extent of Tomas’ injury. But if Rosicky is back to his old self after recovery than we’ll see Rosicky slot back at LW. While Nasri has looked the part when he’s played down the left, even chipping in with goals, his left foot is good enough to trouble the keeper cutting in on the right. There’s so many games in a campaign these days that I still believe Rosicky will play a crucial part in a run to one of trophies. Whether it be CC, FA, CL, or PL. Remember this!
    2)That’s a great question. It really matters the situation though. Against big teams away and CL, I reckon we’ll see a five man midfield with Song playing a holding role. But if all were fit—- since I haven’t seen Bischoff and I’m pretty sure he’ll be used on the wings, Rosicky has never played in the middle at Arsenal, and Diaby has never played next to Cesc before. I guess it’ll have to be Rosicky—–Denilson—Cesc—-Nasri
    But this could all change there’s plenty of games to be played. Every player should be on their toes. Diaby and Denilson have the best case though.
    3)This one is simple. Starting CC midfielder, cameo appearances everywhere else. I could see him starting some FA cup games as well, and maybe champions league if we qualify from group stages early. I see the talent, but he’s so young it’s hard to get him minutes. He’s one for the future nonetheless. I love his versatility can play almost anywhere on the pitch, a real gamer.
    Keep up the good work mate, I appreciate your incites.

  • john

    Alex Song? I think through the match he has been better than Denilson but the latter has produced more of the end product even though his overall passing performance was not as good. Eboue has pleasantly surprised me in addition to Gallas in the last 3 games. Clichy made a mistake for the Bolton goal coming of the post. Others have held their own in the team… Adebayor, Van persie, Bendtner. I’m a bit dissapointed in Toure and FAB4 but I feel we always expect a lot from them and that this will come with games… hopefully against the other top 4 (us being one of the new 5!). All in all a good star and to an extent very unexpected.

    Is it me or have we been forgotten by the media in the last couple of seasons??!

  • Gilberto

    Two words: Alex Song

  • FunGunner

    I would agree 90% with Tony and Graham K. I DO think Arsene felt we needed a midfielder. My take is that he wanted a top-class experienced midfielder as insurance, even though he had a hunch that the current crop would work out. We are definitely playing a different style, though – looking at the range of midfielders AW was interested in, they were all sorts, not straight-down-the-line DCMs.

    I really can’t answer any of the questions a-d, but I’ll have a stab at d). Cesc/Denilson could work as well or better than Cesc/Flamini. Denilson has played 90 mins of every game and he hasn’t been injured. Both huge plus points over a whole season. And he’s technically very sound. Great finish for the third goal and great crossing.
    However, my real answer is that although we have been thinking about “a partner for Cesc”, perhaps Wenger thinks of the midfield unit as a whole and will rotate depending on the conditions, the opponent, injuries etc. Which might be less problematic than it sounds. It struck me how the midfield quartet got into a groove so easily on Saturday. Interchanging positions, taking turns to go forward and stuff like that. Even Song, our most defensive midfielder, popped up in the opposition penalty box and unleashed a cracking shot and a header, both on target. They’re all good enough at all aspects of the job to take over temporarily from the player who is best at any particular aspect. If Cesc wins a tackle and the ball breaks, Denilson can pick it up and send the slide rule pass to Eboue or Walcott or Adebayor, so we retain the initiative and the attack is started without having to go back to Cesc. It’s total football, Arsenal-style and it will keep everything fresh and unpredictable. And you can tell the team absolutely love playing that way.
    One exciting thing about this game and the Blackburn game is that we seemed to have so many attacking styles, even with all these creative attacking players – Nasri, Diaby, Rosicky and Eduardo – out of the picture. We can play balls over the top, we can make lightning runs with the ball, we can do short quick passing, we can run the channels and send crosses into the box…so many possibilities!
    Cesc is adapting his game to Denilson’s, but he’s very comfortable going deep and it really doesn’t matter who scores the goal as long as the ball goes in the net.
    I’ve now seen enough personally to feel that we don’t need anyone else in midfield. I’m not saying they are all the best midfielders in the Premiere League, just that they represent a very wide range of midfielder. We do need them to keep improving, though.