What if Arsenal bought nobody this season?
I know this is sacrilege to the transfer horny hordes out there, but it is a necessary question to ask in my opinion. The paint on the old season has not even dried and everybody is talking greedily about the players we need to buy – and I have been as guilty as anybody. We all feel we have £70m+ burning in our holsters! 🙂
Yet, I feel there is not enough recognition for the incredible feat our boys have achieved since our painful loss against the Spuddies.
In a previous post I discussed our defence, and in this one I would like to focus on the midfielders we already have. It will be hard to do so without discussing our attack as well, but let’s give it a try.
Ever since Fabregas and that other guy left Arsenal two seasons ago, Arsene has been struggling to get his midfield – the most important ‘department’ of ‘Wengerball’ – to play the football he wants to play.
This season, Arsenal’s midfield has been our weakest area, either not supporting our defence sufficiently enough and/or not contributing to our attack enough. If we take out Cazorla’ goals, our remaining midfielders – Arteta, Ramsey, Rosicky, Diaby, Wilshere – have only scored a handful of open-play PL goals, and the assists-count is also nothing to boost about.
However, if we look back at the last eleven games (including BM away) our team has done very well: winning nine out of eleven matches and conceding just a few goals in the process.
So, if Arsenal were not to buy any new midfielders, how would we cope?
It all depends what Arsene is planning to do next season. If he wants to return to more attractive, attacking football, he will have to invest in at least a DM and possibly a nr.10 midfielder/attacker as well.
With the imminent return of Mourinho to these holy football shores this summer, no team will be able to compete for the big domestic prices without having a mean defence. Even if he did not, it might be best for Arsenal to continue with two defensive midfielders who operate under a conservative remit, which has been one of the main factors of Arsenal stopping to concede unnecessary – and often early – goals.
If Arsene decides to continue with this – un-Wengerball-like – unadventurous double-DM pivot next season, he does not have to buy anybody, as the likes of Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Coquelin, and possibly Frimpong, can all play there with decent to very good effectiveness.
This would leave us with the third midfield position in Arsenal’s 4-2-1-3 formation: the ‘1’, also known as the ‘player in the hole’ position, or simply AM. Many believe Cazorla is the best man for this position, others prefer Wilshere in the hole, or Rosicky, or even the Ox.
If Arsenal were not to buy another midfielder, and simply stick to our end-of-season formation, we would probably cope quite well in midfield, as long as the emphasis is on defending and not making play from that area, as well as scoring far more goals than our midfielder did last season.
We would see a battle, this summer and at the start of the season, between Wilshere, Cazorla, and maybe Ox, to claim the AM position (I expect Rosicky to remain a back-up midfielder next season).
Jack is best suited to conduct play in midfield: to give us shape and find the deadly through-balls. However, he appears unready to score a decent number of goals in that position next season.
Santi is best suited to play close to the box, where he can find through-balls for his fellow attackers and can shoot at goal as much as he likes. However, his positioning there often leaves a big gap between the DMs and the opposition’s box, and this might be the main reason why he has been played more and more on the wings as the season progressed.
You would say that Ox is the most intriguing player in terms of determining his potential AND the most suitable position for him. Next season, we should see him make a big step forward, especially if Arsene is not to buy another attacking midfielder, which for this post I am assuming he isn’t.
Can Ox develop into a player who can do to a large extent what Wilshere and Cazorla can do: bring the ball forward from midfield and produce through-balls – ala Wilshere – as well as score goals from outside and inside the box – ala Cazorla?
I reckon he might well get there and it looks like Arsene is slowly developing him into an all-round AM. But next season is probably too early for him to take on the AM role as our main man.
So, although Arsenal have some fine players for the hole position, we are currently missing a candidate who has it all.
Eisfeld is a very promising talent who is both good at pushing forward from midfield/producing through-balls and scoring goals/producing assists. It would be good to see him getting more and more games in the first team, but he clearly has a long way to go.
If Arsenal were not to buy any midfielders, we could still cope well, even though our AM position would continue to be a work in progress. It would probably not be pretty, but if Arsene sticks to two defence-minded DMs, we could go on a very good run in the new season.
However, if Arsene wants to return to Wengerball, he will have to look for one or two additions. Firstly, a more traditional ‘beast of a DM’ (who can play a bit of footie as well): the DM should enable Wenger to reintroduce a proper box-to-box midfielder (ideally Jack if fit), and as a result play with a more attacking, flowing style of football.
Secondly, an experienced, more a Bergkamp type AM/nr10, who can set up attacks from midfield through speed, physical strength, great overview of the game, and ingenuity; produce a large number of assists and score double figures PL goals himself.
The key question, fine fellow Gooners, is: do we want Arsene to return to Wengerball OR, for the sake of stable progress and possibly the best chance of finally winning something next season, continue with, and build further on, what he and Bould have established during the latter part of the season?
The former could come at the cost of results/winning something; the latter at the cost of our enjoyment of our football (and winning something is not a given either).
Let’s see what will happen in the TW this summer: it will tell us a lot of what direction Wenger and Bould will be taking with our team.
Written by: TotalArsenal.