Most of us believe that Arsenal need to get a beast of a DM in the summer, in order to strengthen the ‘double-pivot’ in our midfield. For this article, I am going to assume that Arsene will strengthen our midfield over the summer with a midfielder who can either replace, or play next to, Arteta in the ‘2’ of our 4-2-1-3 formation. It does not look like Arsene believes that either Coquelin or Frimpong are ready for this pivotal role on a full-time basis, although this could still change over the coming summer.
I am also assuming that Arsene will not change next season to either 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1 or 4-1-2-3 as our Plan-A formation and playing philosophy, but that we will continue with 4-2-1-3. Therefore this post is all about the ‘1’; our most advanced/attacking midfielder in that particular formation.
This is a fascinating position, and having the right man in it will make all the difference. In order to decide who should ideally play ‘in the hole’, we need to establish what such a player needs to be capable of in order to get the best out this crucial position.
The most important task for the ‘1’ is to initiate attacking moves; to direct our play going forward. One of the two double-pivot midfielders can help with this, but the main driver of all our attacks is our most advanced midfielder. Success should be measured by the number of attacking moves initiated from this position, and key in all of this is, that the advanced midfielder combines a great overview, with quick decision making and accurate execution of passes, forward runs, and deadly through-balls. This player needs vision, close ball control, passing, speed, drive, stamina, and can get past a man, or two, if needed.
An attacking midfielder in a 4-2-1-3 does not necessarily need to score a lot goals, or even produce a large number of assists; but what he does need to do, is start attacks and get the best out of the other attackers (and FB’s).
A good ‘man in the hole’ gives our team shape and purpose by conducting our play, and will produce a great number of indirect, or penultimate, assists.
The advanced midfielder in our formation has three attackers in front of him and should get extra support from the box-to-box midfielder. Although, I believe that scoring goals is not the most important task for this position, it would be great if the advanced midfielder can offer this as well.
In the great many discussions we have had with regards to this position, I often detect a strong believe by fellow Gooners that we need a lot of goals from this position, in order to be successful as a team. If we were to play 4-4-1-1, I would fully agree that we need a great number of goals from the ‘1’ behind the centre-forward, but in a 4-2-1-3 this is less important in my view; in the main, our goals should come from the three attackers up-front.
This, for me, is an essential point; and unless we can find/develop a player who can combine the conducting/initiating part of this role with scoring a lot of goals, the main focus should be on the former. We had the perfect player for this role in Cesc, and it comes as no surprise to me that we have struggled to replace him properly ever since he left; although things are looking better now.
It is looking better because Jack finally recovered from his long injury lay-off and Arsene bought Cazorla. On top of that, Rosicky has been available since December last year. If we could put both Jack and Cazorla into one person we would get Cesc-2. Cazorla is a great attacker and, for me, would be ideal in a Bergkampesque 4-4-1-1.
The diminutive Spaniard can play everywhere and be effective, but I reckon he is most effective close behind the central striker, just outside the box. Using Santi in the hole, we could come close to the style of play of Bergkamp in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
However, I reckon that Santi’s tendency to play close to the box often keeps him from giving shape and purpose to the team, and as such leaves a big gap (behind him) in the team.
Jack, on the other hand is most effective in the wider midfield area, where he can find space and exploit it.
Jack has the vision, and natural/technical ability to give shape to our play and lead our attacking moves. When Wilshere gets the ball, the whole team starts to get into shape and action, because they know something promising will be created by him at any moment.
And I reckon, Rosicky is pretty similar to Jack in terms of type of midfielder.
If we were to get our beast of a DM, I believe we should move Jack in’ the hole’ permanently and play Santi on one of the wings, with a licence to move centrally if and when he wants; in fact, I would just give him a free role similar to Messi at Barca. It would be key, though, to have a proper winger who tends to stay wide on the other wing, and for the full-back on Santi’s side to link up really well with him.
I would prefer it if we can keep Rosicky as back up for Jack, but only if he is able to stay fit, which as we all know, is a big IF. It also looks like he might make a move back to Germany this summer, and I could live with that too, albeit reluctantly as we need experience in our team.
Ox might develop into a good replacement for Jack, but I reckon, like Cazorla, he would also play at his best behind the central striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. And the same goes for Podolski, in my opinion.
So it is Jack for me from the current crop of players, but what about those players we have been linked with on more than one occasion: Jovetic, Isco and Benzema?
Of all those players, taking into account the question of this post and my assumption that Arsenal will continue with 4-2-1-3, I am most excited by Jovetic playing ‘in the hole’. He seems a very good mix between attacking midfield play and being a shadow striker. I can see him play at Arsenal in that pivotal position with Jack behind him as the box-to-box midfielder and a beast of a DM next to Jack.
Jack and Jovetic could take turns in ‘the hole’ role, or both fitted into the team as mentioned above.
Isco, from what I have seen (not much) and heard (quite a bit, thanks to HH and others), seems to fit best in ‘the hole position’ of a 4-4-1-1 formation, or on the wing in our current formation. And Benzema looks like a proper CF to me, who could also probably play behind the main striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
So Jack or Jovetic ‘in the hole’ for me next season, but do you agree? And if not, who do you believe should play as our most advanced midfielder next season?
Written by: TotalArsenal.