By Walter Broeckx
Strong words for Untold one might say. A call for the mythical beast also known as defensive midfielder? Let us try to bring in some facts.
A quick reminder of the results so far this season.
CS a 3-0 win over Manchester City. Arteta starts and around the hour mark we bring in Flamini and we don’t concede a goal. And win a trophy.
First match in the PL 2-1 win against Crystal Palace. Arteta plays 90 minutes and we only concede from a corner. Flamini is not on the bench.
Second match in the PL a 2-2 draw at Everton. Arteta is injured and Flamini starts. We concede 2 goals one from an offside but as Arteta is not there we concede two goals.
Third match in the PL a 1-1 draw at Leicester. Arteta is still out but Flamini plays. We cannot hold on to a lead.
4th match in the PL a 2-2 draw against Man City. Flamini starts but Arteta is back on the bench after his injury. We concede a goal, fight back to be in front and then cannot hold on to the lead. Artetea comes on in injury time and we keep the point.
5th match in the PL a 0-3 win at Aston Villa. Arteta is back on the starting lineup. Flamini is not on the bench. We don’t concede a goal and are not really troubled in the match.
6th match a 1-1 draw against Tottenham. Arteta starts we look solid but then has to go off after half an hour and Flamini comes on. We concede a goal but can score back to get a point.
7th match A 2-0 loss at Chelsea. Arteta is injured and Flamini plays. We concede 2 goals.
8th match the 2-2 draw against Hull. Arteta is still injured. We go in front but cannot hold the lead because of a foul on Flamini not seen by the officials. We concede 2 goals with Flamini on the pitch but can get a point in the end.
9th match a 0-2 win at Sunderland. Both Arteta and Flamini start and Sunderland never came close to scoring a goal during that match.
10th match a 3-0 win over Burnley. Again Arteta and Flamini starting and again Burnley never came close to scoring only in the last 10 minutes or so when we took our foot of the gas. Two matches in a row with both Arteta and Flamini starting and no goals and hardly a chance for the other team.
11th match a 2-1 defeat at Swansea. Arteta is injured and Flamini starts. We concede two goals.
So what does this tell us? Clearly Arteta and Flamini are the problem.
At the start of the season and in the seasons before Arteta was under fire by those who moan about Arsenal. Arteta is not the “beast defensive midfielder” they crave for. He is the intelligent defensive midfielder.Flamini is more the kick and shove when you need to defensive midfielder and comes closer to the mythical “beast defensive midfielder” than Arteta.
But if we look at the stats we see that whenever Flamini plays on his own we concede goals and mostly two goals. This happened on 4 occasions. And in the other matches with only Flamini we always conceded a goal.
When Arteta played on his own we conceded a maximum of 1 goal in each match when he started.
This shows that the brain that Arteta uses when he is playing is far better suited for our defence than the more brute force from Flamini.
So do I shout: away with Flamini? No, not at all. Because the solution lies in the two matches that we started with both of them on the field.
Because when we started with both of them we not only didn’t concede a goal. We also managed to keep the opposition from even having a shot at goal or having a goal chance.
We started them together at Sunderland and against Burnley. And we completely nullified their danger for most of the match.
So it is clear that the best solution is not only use the brains but also the temperament at the same time and thus playing Arteta and Flamini together. That will give us a more solid defence. And that way our full backs can go up the field more and join the attack.
Of course it might hold us back a bit more offensively. Playing with two defensive orientated players or at least players who also think defensive in midfield will have as a result that you have less players joining in the attack. But it also means that when you have a lead you are more suited to defending it. As we could see against Sunderland in particular.
So I think it will be important to make sure that Arteta is fit. Maybe we should think of resting him more and pick out the matches that we really should keep the clean sheet. And make sure that the can play together when we really need to keep the other team away from our goal.
Playing only one means that we should play Arteta and not Flamini as with the latter we concede more goals than with the first one.
And this also sheds a bit of a different light on the “beast of a defensive midfielder” we need. Because if there is one out there who can do the job from Flamini (kicking around a bit) with the brains of Arteta then we should try to buy him. But the question is: does that defensive midfielder exists and will he qualify enough as a “beast” for those who want a beast? If it is only for one part it might be cheaper to play them both. And maybe play a bit less attractive in some matches but at least we will be more secured at the back with both on the field.
Of course it might help having Kos and Debuchy back to help our defending a bit. And having a player in midfield who can keep the ball moving and keep the ball away from giving it to the opposition too easily as we have done a few times this season when we exposed ourselves.
So the most important task for Arsenal till the January transfer window is to do all they can to keep Arteta fit so he can start as many matches as possible and it would be ideal if he could start those matches with Flamini next to him. As that has been the best option when we look at the results so far.
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