Since the departure of Fabregas, almost two seasons ago, Arsene Wenger has struggled to find the right combinations in midfield.
Last season, he experimented desperately to get enough creative spark in his beloved 4-2-1-3 formation. He tried Ramsey as his lone creative/attacking midfielder (CAM) but it did not work out. If and when Rosicky was fit, he was played as our CAM and the team often played a lot better as a result. But Tomas Rosicky’s anagram of ‘Sick Room Stay’ seems to always follow him, as he was once again more injured than available for Arsene. Wenger was hoping either Wilshere or Diaby would return to fitness, but they also remained in the treatment room, and in both cases for the entire season.
Ultimately, Wenger found a solution in asking Song to become our lynchpin player between defence and attack, which included producing a significant number of assists. Song did a great job at this and together with Theo and van Judas he saved our season, in terms of goals and assists. Many fans criticised some of his defensive performances, but these were the price to pay for the invaluable support he gave to our attack.
The Cameroonian’s partnership with Arteta had become a very strong one, and if Arsene could have added a new CAM during last summer, or JW10 would have returned to full fitness from the start, we finally would have had a strong and consistent midfield to kick-off the 2012-2013 season.
Inexplicably, Song was sold late in the summer and no replacement was brought in. Yet, Arsene did bring in a quality CAM in Cazorla, and luckily, JW10 finally returned to full fitness as well. Initially, everything looked great as both Arteta and Diaby started the season strong, both individually and as a ‘double DM tandem’.
However, Diaby became injured once again and Wilshere took his place once he became fully fit. With our defence not firing from all cylinders, and Arteta not the prototype DM many of us have been asking for, Jack was forced to stay back and help out on the defensive side a lot – and I would say too much. At the same time, Santi struggled to really give shape and purpose to our attacking play, and it became clear that the balance in our midfield was not right, once again.
During the January Transfer Window, we were linked with a number of typical, hairy-arsed DM’s, but regrettably, nobody was signed. Diaby has returned and has played a number of games recently. However, he is a shadow of the player we applauded so much after his game at Anfield, at the start of the season. Furthermore, and even more worrying; his partnership with Arteta has gone flat, as both players struggle to protect the defence properly, or support our attacking moves with the necessary impetus and gusto.
Rosicky has been fit for a while now, but does not seem to be able to get a foot into the first team anymore. This is surprising, given that he signed a new contract not so long ago and Wenger has always liked him. Rosicky had a decent game against Blackburn last weekend, but did not start against Bayern, and did not feature at all against Aston Villa. What is going on here?
I know that Song is not every Gooner’s favourite player, but I feel we are missing him badly at the moment. I am convinced that if Arsene would have asked Song to play as a sole, traditional DM, he would do this with gusto, and be very good at it as well. But he was sold and not replaced, and I feel strongly that this is biting Arsene badly in the arse at the moment.
So what to do with our midfield and with the likes of Diaby, Rosicky and Arteta?
I was glad to see Jack being played in the CAM position this Saturday, but just as against Blackburn a week ago, both Diaby and Arteta did not provide him, or the defence, with the required quality of support. This is a worry, and on top of that Diaby is injured again, and God only knows how long it is going to take before the lanky Frenchman is fully fit again.
We cannot buy a DM until the next TW, so we have to make do with what we have. I guess the easiest solution for Arsene is to put Jack next to Arteta and play Cazorla as our CAM. Another option is to combine Arteta with either Ramsey or Coquelin. For me, they are both not ideal but either of them should have a run of games now. Another option is to play Rosicky as our CAM, or even next to Arteta, but Wenger does not seem to want to play him regularly anymore.
However, Wenger will need to get this balance right as soon as possible: our defence needs better quality protection and our attack the right level of thrust and creativity. If he gets it right, we will finish in the top 3/ top 4 this season; if not, it will most probably be ‘Channel Five – Thursday Night’ for us.
Written by: Total Arsenal.