Do Arsenal Even Need Defensive Midfielders? Talking Tactics Tuesday

Is Coquelin enough or must we buy?  Can Santi, Rambo and Jack (Mikel el Capitan, Flamini le Veteran or Rosicky the rambling man…) do the job?  Or, are there other ways of looking at the problem?…

As preseason begins and–the transfer merry-go-round reaches full velocity– Centripetal (or is it Centrifugal?) forces push us towards external solutions or other ways of thinking about how we can get the best out of our squad.  Some of our rivals–including a couple who are doing the most transfer business this summer–will likely be trying formations with 3 (or is it 5?) at the back.  Could this be something Arsenal should consider? Would it allow a greater chance for our midfielders (and our full or “wing” backs) to do their thing?  Is it about personnel or could it be more about formation?  In other words, what should Arsene be thinking?

Maybe we already know.   According to reports–see previous post–the team looked GOOD taking down Everton in Singapore.  Petr Cech sure looked happy holding a cup festooned with ribbons sporting the Barclays name–and even better in an Arsenal shirt!  Arsenal are starting the season where they hope to be ending it.  If only it were in London in May rather than Singapore in July!

So far, Cech (and a few players out) has been our ONLY summer business.   His purchase and some minor tweaks (including finding a replacement keeper) over there at Stamford Bridge are some of the only business being done by the big teams down in London–in stark contrast to what’s happening up in the greater Manchester area.

Up there, Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal, buoyed by getting his club back into the Champions League, is buying (and selling) players almost as if it were a bodily function.  His most notable buys are a pair of deep lying midfielders–the S-C-H brothers, Schweinie and Schneidy, Bastien Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin.  Memphis Depay was secured before the previous season even ended and surely there will be others to replace departed forwards Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao.  They’re dragging it out, but all signs point to goalkeeper David De Gea heading off to Real Madrid, while Angel Di Maria could also be swapped for even more big money–and thus big money players.  It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

Across town at Manchester City, where Manuel Pellegrini persists uneasily at the helm, a calmer approach is prevailing.  Younger English players with a measure of attacking verve seem to be in favour.  Pellegrini has nabbed two of the hottest in Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph. With the money at his disposal Pellegrini surely isn’t done either.

Meanwhile at Liverpool, where Brendan Rodgers sits on a similar hot-seat, the manager has taken an older Pellegrini cast-off in search of more playing time–James Milner–amongst many others.  Spending the (absurd, obscene?) Sterling money is his next task and he must make no mistake with it.  Should he splash on a big man up front (Christian Benteke) or look to find a replacement for Steven Gerrard towards the back of his midfield?  Maybe he too needs a keeper upon whom he can really count. Luckily, City spent so much on Sterling that Rodgers can probably improve his squad in multiple positions.

Fitting all these players into first 11s or figuring out what the managers are thinking is too much for me and, frankly, I cannot wait to just get the games going.  When the transfer window finally shuts–or even earlier, with the start of the season–we will likely see some of the more subtle differences in approach. .

With all the personnel changes at ‘Pool and United I’m wondering if those clubs may also be contemplating a more dedicated 3 defender look.  Van Gaal and Rodgers have experimented with (and relied upon) these approaches in the past and there’s a belief that these formations can bring solidity in the tighter matches and in helping to protect less than fully confident goalkeepers.  Playing a sitting pair of midfielders ahead of 3 central defenders–while allowing wing-backs to work the wide spaces–seems a great way of spreading the pitch to give plenty of space for attackers to do their business further forward.

In lieu of such an approach, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City protect their keepers and central defensive pairings by employing a midfielder (or sometimes two) who organize with an eye to defending–while hoping that rampaging fullbacks can get back to help as needed.  Francis Coquelin, a player who has never scored a goal for Arsenal, was nonetheless our revelation of the season.  His organizational shouting up at Man City and the repeatedly broken nose he thrust towards the elbows of Maroune Fellaini in a pair of matches at Old Trafford will not soon be forgotten.

Still, on the back of the recent–and sumptuous–final performance in Singapore where Coquelin only came in late on, it’s tempting to believe that players with more attacking intent–including Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey–might be exciting options in their favoured central positions.  Mesut Ozil, who Wenger has said will be playing in the #10 role, has also been known to happily drop deep and do more of the mundane possession work himself while routinely clocking the highest running totals on the team.  And then there are the veteran players–all who prefer central roles–Captain Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini.  Can these guys dust off the rust and do a job directly ahead of our center backs?  I won’t even get into the youth team prospects some observers see as being ready (or nearly ready) to contribute.  For all the regular mention guys like Isaac Hayden and Krystian Bielik get from the youth watchers, those focused on the first team probably will be happy enough to hold off on their inclusion–for now at least.

The question, for me at least, is how–in a very competitive league–managers should be thinking about these positions.  Is it defense first and giving space to the attack which the 3 defender, 2 sitting mid approach of Van Gaal or Rodgers would seem to suggest, or is it all about one (or two) more cynical and ball controlling midfielders–I’m thinking about Coquelin for us, Nemanja Matic or John Obi-Mikel at Chelsea and The Brazilian pair–Fernando and Fernandinho–at Man City–ahead of a more traditional back 4?

With Coquelin, it seems we have a guy who can see the value of playing for a draw or at least sacrificing his offensive game to try and keep the clean sheet, even if that seems the last thing our manager would ever consider.   Mourinho at Chelsea, although he was fired for his negative brand of football in his first stint there, seems uncompromising in his approach, while Pellegrini at ManCity suffered more by way of injuries to key down-the-spine players like Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure.  Do these coaches need to consider an occasional switch to a back 3 (or 5) or is the (new) tradition of a back 4 with (alternately) bombing fullbacks solid enough?  Which approach is most flexible and allows teams to turn 1 point into 3 (or none into 1).  Personnel is critical, of course, but does one (or the other) approach allow teams to switch more quickly into a more attacking mode without becoming too open at the back?  Does 3 at the back signal that it is more important to avoid losing?  Does playing with a flat (or not so flat) back 4 mean teams are always ready to go for the win?

My take on these questions is that confidence in attack can mask a LOT of issues and save (and grab) a lot of cheap points.  If the goal is a top 4 finish, getting plenty of wins against the lower teams is the way to do it.  Real confidence to absorb pressure and keep clean sheets (against the best in the league and on the continent), however, is what wins championships and those pesky (and sometimes two-legged) ties at the business end of the season.  Bottom line: I think we can safely try these more attack minded combos in the earlier home matches and easier away games but we must pull off the results.  Any slip-ups and conservatism must almost surely creep in, much as it did with the unchanged line-ups–with Coquelin likely the first name written down–near the end of last season.

We need to use the great depth of players who prefer these central postions, but how much can we rotate in the center of our midfield–and perhaps at fullback–where younger, more attack oriented guys like Hector Bellerin and Kieran Gibbs might need to give way to more experienced guys (who’ve also slotted in at center back) like Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal?  Do we need even more experience in these critical areas or should any further transfer business be done more with an eye to the future (in this area) or to getting goals by buying further forward?

When push comes to shove does experience (and defensive poise) trump attacking potential and technique in these key positions?  Are Van Gaal and Rodgers onto something with their newer (but perhaps more conservative) formations?

Sorry for prattling on as I have (but thanks for reading!)… Over to you, fine fellow Gooners (and would-be-Wengers).  Fill us in on your faves (and fears) for formation fun (or fright)… Or take me to task and talk tactics and transfers…


by 17highbury Terrace

57 thoughts on “Do Arsenal Even Need Defensive Midfielders? Talking Tactics Tuesday

  • Hi guys…Trying to publish this again with a new title for NewsNow to (hopefully) pick up… TA says copy and paste comments, so that’s what I’m trying… Eventually I’ll figure this stuff out…Maybe…

    More apologies…

    1st Comment:

    17highburyterrace says:
    July 21, 2015 at 15:59 (Edit)

    Hi guys…Sorry for the lateness & length of this post… We’re switching our internet provider and it hasn’t gone smoothly…At the moment, I can only access the web if I’m plugged in directly to the router. Lots of calls (and/or sitting-on-hold), I fear, is probably the answer as our own ideas seem used up…

    Anyhow, read the post (if you can stand is…) and hopefully there’s enough in there to get thinking about how we’re hoping to get an edge going forward…

    2nd Comment:

    Gerry says:
    July 21, 2015 at 18:16 (Edit)

    Hi HT – I think this should generate a few responses. It is a good theme for between pre-season games … as indeed we are.

    I think you have hit on a variety of thoughts about tactics and formations, but I think key to any of them working is having the right players in the right places. Without that there will be weaknesses.

    I also interpret what you say differently in some instances. Take the 3 at the back for example. That generally means having two wide CB’s and one central one. But is that any different from having two ‘normal’ CB’s, and a DM screening them, with the FB’s pushing higher upfield? We don’t use that system, partly because Coquelin goes up behind the last man, or beyond, when we are in attack. Which is also why we can be vulnerable to a quick counter-attack if both our backs are even further forwards? Also not advised because of Mertersacker’s lack of pace, or ability to turn quickly.
    I am not having a ‘go’ at either player, just emphasising the point that it is the players that are key to having a successful tactical plan.
    Another would be have our centre mids providing width, they don’t, which is why we end up relying on the FB’s to do it, and get back and defend.

    When you move on to what we have come to know as the ‘double pivot’, It should allow a little more security at the back when everybody bar the CB’s have bombed up field. But that only really works if the opponents attack, or counter-attack down the middle. If they have wide players with pace, it is easier to draw the four defender to one side, and the an accurate crossfield ball to the other wide player who then has a clear run, if they are quick enough.

    Personally I think we will target the PTB teams from any part of the league standings, top, mid or bottom of the table with few players making quick counter attacks, but leaving the defence solid should it break down. Depending on the personnel, the same 3 or 4 need not be the same ones each time. But they will try and exploit things early, and keep possession between bursts. So come the hour mark two fresh attackers can come on, injuries permitting, to keep the pressure on. So fitness will be at a premium.

    For open attacking sides, the working of opportunities with quick passing, plenty of off the ball movement, and players freely interchanging position, such as we saw against Everton.

    But as you rightly pointed out, sometimes a different tactic has to evolve because of the way the opposition are set up, and the tactics they are employing. This is where the team chemistry will play a major part, along with the individual switches that have to be made.

    As to where the fringe players get their game time, I would suggest those second half substitutes are a good place to start. Over the past may seasons we have not had the luxury of being 3 goals to the good, nor had the confidence that it would be enough to see us through. I think this season will be different, and the quality of the fringe players, and a more solid looking defence, they too can add to our goal differences in many games.

    Of the two you mention Hayden and Bielik, the latter is injured, whereas Hayden, like Silva, stayed back from the tour to work on their fitness – Fresh from Jorge Bird’s blog earlier.

    That is my odd penn’rth anyway.
    17highburyterrace says:
    July 21, 2015 at 18:49 (Edit)

    3rd Comment:

    Cheers Gerry… I’m not so sure we’ll get too many comments…For some reason (TA, help me here…) the title doesn’t seem to getting picked up by NewSnow…

    Additionally, I’m not sure people want to get too deeply into thinking about formations beyond “that c*nt Wenger shoulda played a 442″ or “how can you play x or y or z out wide, you f**king idiot.”

    That said, you hit on the exact heart of the matter–Is Le Coq as part of a central back 3 any different from playing Van Gaal or Rodgers approach?… IMO, it is different, in that it requires a keeper more comfortable off his line–the proverbial sweeper-keeper role Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) is perfecting and our own (Whoa Check me out…) Szczesny is aspiring towards… Ospina came off his line pretty decisively as well and usually to decent effect. The rap on Petr Cech is that he was a LOT happier playing behind Mourinho’s deeper back line than with Andre Villas-Boas higher one… Playing a more traditional sweeper (a CB directly in front of the keeper) seems a tactic better suited to keepers who really want to keep between their posts and just block shots… Mingolet and De Gea might be just the sort to benefit from such an approach, but maybe our keepers (Cech, in particular) might like it too… Similarly we all get moist in the pants when we see the BFG way upfield or out wide…Maybe keeping him closer to the D (at the top of the 18 yd box) would help us breathe easier…

    All for now. I’m hopeful people have some things to say, but so far it’s just us…:

    4th Comment:

    TotalArsenal says:
    July 21, 2015 at 18:50 (Edit)

    HI Seventeenho 🙂

    A very well written, analytical post summarising the most modern of topics in the ever evolving game of football. I am busy now but if I find a bit of time I will give you my views. Cheers buddy, just what the blog needed. 😛

    5th Comment:

    TotalArsenal says:
    July 21, 2015 at 18:55 (Edit)

    17… the title is possibly too long and I don’t think Newsnow likes brackets in titles… I suggest you reissue it with a shorter title and use this one as in introductory sub-title. What about ‘Does Arsenal still need a DM?’

    Once you reissued it you can delete this post, but first you need to copy over the comments.

    6th Comment:

    steve says:
    July 21, 2015 at 19:29 (Edit)

    I’m in the mindset that there is always a happy medium to be found within the two defensive structures you put forward HT – a goldilocks system if you will 🙂
    If you take the Man U approach of 3 at the back with 2 holding midfielders ahead of them, that pretty much means an almost constant presence of 5 in the defensive third whilst the wing backs are attacking down the flanks.
    If you take our current approach with 2 at the back and 1 DM in the defensive half whilst our full backs bomb forward that puts that defensive presence at 3 (in attacking situation you understand).
    So one offers an attack limiting over protection on the defensive side and the other an over indulgence on attack leading to getting caught on the counter as we’ve seen in the past.
    Can’t we play a system which keeps 4 in that defensive half and split the two approaches right down the middle?
    All it would take (as has been discussed many times here already) is for one full back not to follow the attacking play up the field – most probably the one on the side in which the play is not developing (makes sense).
    That would leave you with 2 CB’s and a full back playing as a CB and a DM in front of them – sounds good to me 🙂
    Do we have the personnel?
    Once BFG moves on yes, but until then i really don’t see him playing a wide right CB in the situation where the left full back stays behind to become the left sided CB.
    If i took him out of the equation for a second then what you have are a group of players who are quite adept at playing both full back and CB depending on what the situation warrants:


    Play develops up the left and Monreal joins in with the midfield and even further forward:


    Koscielny i trust all day to play a wide CB and to even take on full back duties should Monreal be to far up to get back in time.
    Debuchy proved last season that he is very adept at filling the CB role and of course his full back duties will be top notch.

    Play develops up the right and Debuchy joins in with the midfield and even further forward:


    The same as above, Monreal showed his ability to play CB and Gabriel has the speed and agility to play wide CB and even provide full duties.

    It would take some practicing and time to implement but wouldn’t this seem to be the best of both worlds?
    One full back adding to the width up front, say in the case of Monreal running the line to let Sanchez cut in, whilst one stays back. Do we really need that extra width on the other side also?

    Midfield rotation is an easy one for me (as you know), i think along the lines of players slot into the positions they like playing in to provide rotation throughout the season 🙂
    I’d be happy if Wenger was to say……
    Cazorla and Ramsey would rotate throughout the season.
    Ozil and Wilshere would rotate throughout the season.
    Coquelin and the best of the bunch from Arteta, Flam and Hayden (as it stands atm) would rotate throughout the season.
    Job done 🙂

    That would leave
    as our our attacking drive, with the likes of
    OX, Welbeck, Rosicky, Silva even Akpom maybe, to fill in if any of these players need rotation for fatigue or injury.

    I’m a happy bunny atm i must admit and (like you) am pretty much just eager to get the season started tbh.
    I suppose my biggest question is whether the “best of the bunch” as i put it of Arteta, Flam and Hayden are good enough to rotate with Coq should need be – especially if that is a lengthy rotation for something like a serious injury – still not sure on that one, definitely sure i don’t want to see any of Ramsey, Wilshere, OX etc or any other attacking midfielder take up that Coqulein role if he was absent, i hope the days of playing attacking midfielders as DM’s are behind Wenger now (please God, please) 🙂

    7th Comment:

    steve says:
    July 21, 2015 at 19:32 (Edit)

    shit, jumped straight into my response there – great post HT, a nice weighty bit of writing to get stuck into during this lull, just what the doctor ordered and much appreciated bud.

    8th Comment:

    steve says:
    July 21, 2015 at 19:37 (Edit)

    Why is it the correct vernacular for the title of the post is indeed correct as it is written; “does Arsenal……” but it just sounds more comfortable to say (out loud) “do Arsenal…….”
    Maybe its just me lol

    9th Comment:

    17highburyterrace says:
    July 21, 2015 at 20:24 (Edit)

    haha…good stuff, and I think we have a lot of agreement, F11ngers, OK, I’ll give it a go…And the new title will be DO Arsenal even need a DM?… 😀

    Only question I’ve got…Are you the same guy who immediately started talking transfers after the FA Cup and generally favors (favours) youth over experience?… Vs Monaco we played Le Coq (later replaced by the Ox…) and Gibbs and Bellerin at the FBs…Didn’t exactly work a treat that night, I fear… 😦
    😀 If only that cnut Wenger would listen to me and play the likes of Nacho (available) and Arteta and Debuchy… I guess those two were injured… Dammit… 😀

  • Rest in peace, Dick Nanninga

    My home team, Roda JC, all time top scorer, who famously scored a late equaliser in the 1978 World Cup final sadly died today, just 66 years old.

  • “Real confidence to absorb pressure and keep clean sheets (against the best in the league and on the continent), however, is what wins championships and those pesky (and sometimes two-legged) ties at the business end of the season.”

    Agreed, 17ho 🙂

    I reckon Wenger is now more willing to adjust the balance in the team if and when required. If we can dominate a team we quite likely play with two footballing central DMs i.e. two out of Ramsey, Jack, Arteta, Cazorla, Rosicky etc. When not losing is key, I expect us to play with at least Coquelin and possibly Ramsey or Arteta next to him. The middle way has Coquelin starting to keep it simple and protect the defence and a box to box midfielder next to him. Wenger can now shift things round to keep everybody happy and deal with an opponent individually. I sincerely hope we do not make the mistake that we think we can do without a proper DM in most if not all of the games: a good DM, like Coquelin, is crucial for balance in midfield.

  • Interesting post 17…

    Imo, if Coquelin is fit, he starts, as far as CL/EPL/FAC is concerned…

    Everything else will take care of itself…

    I wouldn’t fiddle about too much with the Le Coq role.
    He is the best we have for that role, at the club.

  • so true allezkev. I watched him play dozens of game. A classic CF, very strong in the air and absolutely fearless in the box. I was 11 when he scored that equaliser and seven years later we lived in the same street. After the footie he became a florist. RIP Dick.

    Night all. 🙂

  • Hi guys,

    Wow, nothing much for me to comment about. Pretty much summed up what I would say.

    So, now see if the hot rumours are true and land KB?

    And yes, allezkev, 66 is no age at all. Its like a few years older than my parents. Really.

    And to sum up 17ht and TA, consistency is what we need to achieve till the end of the season. That’s what makes hell lot of difference.


  • And talking about transfers, seems like WS1 has agreed a loan to Roma.

    Something which I had mentioned before, so now Ospina please stay.


  • Morning all. Starting with Dick Nanninga. Indeed RIP.

    There is something rather nice about him being a Florist after the hurly burly of the football world? I hope that brought him many years of contentment, with time to fully reflect on a good career. Age though, that is too soon. I have got used rock stars younger, or, of a similar age to me, hitting the obituary news. Healthy footballers you think would fare better?
    Truth is, no one can escape the randomness of a cancer strike, let alone the other things that are around today. I’m am not far off my ‘three score years and ten’, so Ill be starting my ‘bonus years’ as I refer to it in my dogs. Hence the words of this song come to mind …
    ‘Now I live my life from day to day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way’.

  • On the topic of how to rotate our side for the different challenges ahead is very hard to predict.
    Particularly the way AW will do it. He is a bit of a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ type of guy judged on his past record. What a difference a stronger squad will do to his thinking.

    My thought of his approach will be to have a set of attackers for one mode of play, backed up by a set of midfielders, whilst the back 5 remain more or less constant, only tweaked individually. The difference with the other two areas is it will mean two or more changes for each set, and a bench that can reassess it as and when it needs to. I am hoping this is where the influence of Arteta will come in? Either dressing room with the players, or on the bench behind AW.

    TA – your last comment suggest that you are still hoping for a proper DM in this window?

    If we got a Kk type, solid defender it would change the dynamics of the team, and to a large extent, undermine Coquelin’s position, particularly as first name on the team sheet?
    It also has big reference to this tactics topic, because it would strengthen the 3 at the back, minus Per – agree with Steve on that, but not on him moving on. This is another variation, not necessarily a ‘one shoe fits all’ move.

    However the reason why Coquelin, alone or in combination, is so good for the way we have been playing is because he moves forward behind the attack so in effect we play a (risky) high line offside trap. The only way teams can beat that is with pace, and why we might rely on the Gibbs and Bellerin type to get back quickly. Bellerin’s tackle inside the box against Everton is a typical example of what I mean. He even got a goal kick out of it :D.

    But if we are not going to ‘high press’ teams, particularly good ones, then a proper defensive support for Coquelin would be good. Another variation?
    Rabiot’s name surface again in the rumour column’s, largely thanks to his out spoken mother (again), saying he will not get enough playing time at PSG. I am not saying he is necessarily my ideal type, but AW was keen before. he is young enough to develop within the Arsenal squad, a good second DM, although more a Ramsey type B2B, and presumably who he would displace? So would probably alternate with Santi, as another option tactic.
    Yes, I could see that happen depending how the budget is spent elsewhere.

    Well the rumours are particularly quiet at the moment (sssh JK!), only the flexible full back a possibility to replace Monreal? We missed out on Baba, who has gone to Chelsea, so we shall get a chance to see how good he can be I guess. He will suit their counter attacking style very well, as he would ours. Be warned!

    What is going on at Man U. First they get reported that Rooney will play central striker, and now they are after Llorente? Interesting combo?

    I suppose it is another day of NewsNow hyper excitement, followed by the anti climax of reality?

  • Ok, back to my old self. If the transfer is not reported officially then out of my head.

    Gerry, I agree we should alternate Le Coq with Santi tactic wise, but it will be very tricky and risky. However, like you said, if it aint broken, do not fix it. Or even try to.


  • Guys and Gerry, maybe Sergi Samper rumour is worthy to comment, and I believe he is not for Mikel Le Capitan, like he was reported to replace, but a strong understudy and backup to Le Coq.
    Mikel wasn’t a stay-at-the-back DM to begin with.

    Not sure if you guys have the same ideas as I do though.

  • JK – this has all the hallmarks of AW waiting until the pieces are in place before nipping in quick with a release clause offer, and having the player interested.

    It should work for the same reasons as I outlined for Rabiot above. But it needs to get done quickly now it is in the open

  • Its a shame to hear that Draxler is looking like he’s off to Juve, i thought he was the most likely new Wenger molded striker prodigy but looks like i was wrong.

    22 year old 6ft tall wide playing attacking midfielder from Juventus moved central at Arsenal – Henry
    21 year old 6ft tall wide playing attacking midfielder from Feyenoord moved central at Arsenal – RVP
    21 year old 6ft tall wide playing attacking midfielder from Schalke moved central at Arsenal – Draxler

    ah well never mind i suppose it was not meant to be 🙂

    I think i would have rather tried that type of experiment with Draxler than actually just sign an already established striker like Benzema, but that’s just me.

    I am sure Gerry is not too happy to hear this either.

  • JK, isn’t Sergi Samper slight overkill in that area at this age group? Its basically sending a big f*ck you to Hayden and Bielik not to mention the possibility of Chambers playing there. Plus (i have not seen him play btw) but i am always very dubious of defensive midfielders from Spain, the ones i have seen usually present themselves as more of a deep lying passer tbh and not the patrolling enforcer type that would offer the back up to Coq that we need.

  • Steve, you are right about the DM we are supposingly getting. However let’s just see what is going to happen next.

    Somehow your description reminded me of our captain. He is that type of player when he was younger. And a box to box type.


  • JK, perhaps that’s what Wenger is doing, building the new Flamini / Arteta partnership, with Coq and Samper – mind you is there really space for another deep lying midfielder after Cazorla, Ramsey and even Jack if he’s not played further up?

  • Gerry, I kind of agree with Steve as getting Rabiot or the barca will mean the end of our DM youngsters.

    However Steve, thinking back, I might think that Le prof feels that Hayden and Christian is not ready yet. But they have been here for quite sometime so its a matter of a couple of years before they have to break into the first team. So getting someone like Rabiot is both a good and a bad idea. If we get someone at the twilight years it will be good but not great.

    Well, someone please fill in the blanks?


  • Jk, for me if the gap needs to be filled anywhere it is the space above Coquelin and is exactly what Flamini SHOULD be but isn’t, a well established and competent DM with about 3 or 4 years left of peak playing time to fully blood Coq into that role and rotate between the pair throughout the season.
    For example:
    Ramsey has Cazorla
    Wilshere has Ozil
    OX has Sanchez
    Bellerin or Jenko have Debuchy
    Now when i say Coq has Flamini it doesn’t sound anywhere near as comfortable as all the rest of the options in other areas.
    I am trying my hardest not to jinx anything but who says Coq is destined for such an amazing second season anyway? how many players do you know who have had break out seasons have managed to take that form so competently into the next season? I hope he does don’t get me wrong but lets just say he has a bit of a wobble, it will be his first full season playing DM don’t forget, i would want to know we have proper cover like we seem to have all over the rest of the pitch.

    Javi Martinez – 27yr
    Grzegorz Krychowiak – 26yr

    they both have a good 3 or 4 years at the top of their game to help rotate with Coq and properly blood im into that role – and after they move on Coq will be about 27yr and ready to do the same for the next generation 🙂

    I still hope for players like Hayden personally but this was to answer your question.

  • I don’t think it will affect Hayden or Bielik tbh, as they are not competing for THAT role.

    As I said about Rabiot, it is the Ramsey B2B spot that is being covered here. The other two are more your stereotypical stay back DM’s. It doesn’t mean that Hayden might not go out on loan for half a season, but somebody has got to give Coquelin a break.

    I would be so quick to give up on the Shalke situation. I worked out that his requested is around £70 grand a week, and Juve are only offering less than £18m. I thought he was a bargain at £28m. Either way we could better the Juve deal.

    The fly in the ointment is Walcott. It needs the other ‘deal’ to go through quickly so they get a yes or nay from Walcott. With a striker in place the club would feel they have more leverage?
    I don’t somehow think they will contemplate both, and the ‘mystery’ striker may well be Walcott if the other goes pear-shaped?

    But in needs the Juve thing to stall long enough for AW to know what he wants. For options, I would have both.

    But whatever will happen will happen, on all fronts?

  • Gerry, they may not be competing for that role but surely they will be competing for that position?
    If he’s not a Coq style DM which i hope now we have learnt that really need now in the team at Arsenal what other role is he going to fill? if it is the passing type of midfielder that sits next to the DM then surely Cazorla, Ramsey, Zelalem etc give more than enough options?
    Anyway not going to get too caught up in it as it is a transfer rumour that doesn’t really interest me in the slightest so i will go with what you have said – keeps it easy. 🙂

    Hey Gerry,
    Would have been nice to see 🙂

  • Hi all..
    17ht.. A very comprehensive (long) but great post.. Hahaha..
    Answering to your question.. I say no.. Without a new DM we can beat all teams.. Hehehe..
    But if we bring Carvalho.. It will be more than great.. Hahaha..
    Yes.. Some of you will argued about his injured.. But for me that’s a great news.. First his price will goes down.. Second we will get less competition.. And last.. He won’t forced to be in our starting eleven.. A very perfect situation.. Hahaha..

    JK.. Gerry.. Steve.. Add Goetze and Shaarawy as another great possibility.. Hahaha..

  • Henry – WC’s problem is not his injury. It is that he just cannot tackle.

    I thought you would have been raving earlier in the week when Hakan was linked?
    It came to nought though, as I believe he is staying put.

  • Ko Henry,

    I myself would not add Mario and the Italian youngster. Reason? Because we have too many fighting for the same spot.

    Gerry, Steve, if it Sergi looks like he is a ball playing DM then he will replace Mikel Le Capitan long term.

    Seriously I am thinking we are running out of options of the tough tackling DM side. Unless Wenger gets his scouts telling him we have found someone unknown for a really good fee that tackles like a monster.


  • I think the transfer uncertainty has temporarily killed the discussion HT.

    From a quick glance at the headlines it does look like a lot of big deals will get thrashed out this weekend? The big hitters are after big names, Zlatan to United was not one I expected, although I never expected them to get Muller. If only Wolfsburg can stand firm and not let De Bruyne leave ….

    Similarly, if Juve could keep hold of Pogba they might not have such great ambitions elsewhere? Sadly, I think it is destination Barcelona for him, in January. But whether they can agree a fee before their new President is in situ, is another matter?

    It is good to know AW has taken my advice regarding Akpom and Iwobi, as both may start (together as a ‘pair’) in the first game against Lyon. I am suspecting, it will be a similar pattern to the Asia tour, with a sprinkling of ‘youth’ on the bench, with the above two starting. Then a serious workout for our best 18 against Wolfsburg. No disrespect against Lyon, but these are pre-season games, so fitness is key. Very few, if any, will play the full 90 in both games, so a balance between the two games has to be struck. If we win the first game then it would be difficult to test the fringe players in the second game with a trophy at stake?
    Well that is my thinking for a more second string approach in the first.
    Personally I would like to see Zelalem start in the game against Lyon, in the free roaming Ozil role, rather than Crowley in the more central ‘Wilshere’ position. However, he may play in the Under 21’s tomorrow, along with a few others hoping to impress?

    I will be relying on Jorge Bird’s blog to give an overview on that game, whilst BT are covering the Emirates Cup matches that Arsenal are involved in.

    Well that is the best I can do until any news, of a concrete sort, comes over the airways …
    Fingers crossed! …. (no pun intended, Steve).

  • Gerry, I am hoping that all the youngsters play the game tomorrow, and the second stringers play against Lyon and the first team play against Wolfsburg.

    I might be wrong, and as it is quite late (11.20 pm Singapore time for both games on Sat and Sun), I might only catch the one on Saturday on TV.

    So, very much look forward to your review on the youngsters’ game tomorrow.


  • TA, we need you back here.

    Something worthy to have a shout out. Chelsea lost their preseason match against the youngsters team from new york red bulls. They got beaten 4-2.

    I haven’t seen the highlights yet but to score 4 goals against the blues in any match is quite shocking. Lemme find out more.


  • There are only about three stories that interest me atm; A-M-N is scoring freely in his pre-season build up with Ipswich, Diaby is eyeing a move to West Brom (which would be great to see) and Draxler valued at only £17M surely that is a f*ckin steal for a player we once approached at £37M.

    Thats all i’ve got tbh JK, slow day and my brain is pretty much clicked into Emirates Cup build up mode 🙂

  • Hey fellas…Extreme tech difficulties at this end…in fact, I’m on a new computer this (early) morning but have lots of (slightly more) real world stuff to catch up on… Yeah, we probably need an Emirates Cup preview post…Volunteers?…

    It’s true Gerry, I was hoping for a bit more discussion about the ideas in the post…My overall thought has been that AW had always hoped for a different type of deep lying mid as embodied in the switch from PV4 to CF4 a decade ago. If the club had had more success with Cesc as a deeper lying quarterback type (the new Pirlo?…) this argument about (physically dominant) DMs might not be quite so ingrained… That said, I think there are playing methods–3 at the back or FBs who rotate back aggressively, that can prevent us (or any other team) from being exposed so regularly on the counter. Coquelin’s tendency to keep his attacking ideas in check helps as does his decent pace and willingness to give up his body (or face, at least) and take a yellow now and again with the cynical fouls. Santi, Jack and Rambo can all do likewise–if the “team first” mentality is in place. Arteta needs to get back to his physical best if he wants to get playing time in this role.

    Is Flamini off to Istanbul? If so, trying to pluck the guy who hasn’t featured at Barca seems interesting. If he’s got Bellerin hectoring him about the benefits of coming, all the better… I scoffed at that one just as I did about Whoa-Check heading off to Rome. The latter looks firmer and firmer and, I have to say, I’m shocked…Good times for my old friend, James Bond…and now I’ve got more regrets that I didn’t work harder to find an Ospina shirt when I was in Medellin…

    Anyhow, maybe TA can chime in about the plans for the weekend… (Sorry Boss about the death of the Dutch player, btw…Did you know him personally or at least say hello when you lived in the same area?)

  • Interesting bit from Jorge Bird on the game tomorrow night. He thinks 3 youngsters will feature in the Emirates Cup. The two AW has named, plus either Crowley or Zelalem?

    My theory is that Gedion will benefit either way. Why? Because I think he defers to the other half, and it ruins his game. When he played for the USA, I am not sure if he played in the first game, but if he did he did nothing special? Roll on to the second game where he came on as a second half sub. Now I don’t know if he directly replaced their creative mid, or he came on because other options had failed. What I do know is, in that game he was ‘the man’. Everything creative went through him and he was brilliant. MOTM performance to boot.
    Fast forward to the next game, and he was in from the start. Once again he drifted in and out of the game, but I am betting there was another senior (relatively) player also playing in midfield.
    Roll on to the game he played alongside Crowley against the Singapore X1. I watched him time and again play 1-2’s with Crowley, and it was invariably Crowley took the ball on. The only time he sparked into life was down the right-hand touchline, while Crowley was stationed in the middle.

    I’ll repeat what I said earlier, if he starts in place of Ozil, with freedom to roam and no Crowley (or Wilshere), I think he will sparkle. Especially if Santi plays, as he is good at letting others work their game. But if he plays in the Boreham Wood game, he again will be the key player in the creative department. Even if Toral starts as he will play the more advance role I hope. And with J R-E, Willock, Mavividi, and maybe Gnabs at some point, he should have a field day directing that traffic?

    That is my theory anyway.

    I hope Dick Law and co will be clocking up their ‘Air miles’ this weekend. Two stops in Spain, and a quickie in Italy, on the way back to Germany … is that too much to ask?
    Well the last one is not! I agree with Steve, too good to be missed.
    I cannot see a second call in Germany being needed, or be successful?

    But that is as far as I am going to indulge in TW chatter …

  • Soooo….All Sir Chez to Roma stories seem to have vanished… Even the more reliable sources fooled by this one?…

    Anyhow, I was innerested in 3 (or 5) at the back, which seemed a real theme a summer ago… Others in the youth matches or which youngsters might get a run out in the EmCup matches…

    Where’s TA and how should we proceed?…

  • Gerry, no I don’t want us to buy another DM desperately, and it won’t happen anyway. I want us to play with one in most games and Coquelin, Arteta or Debuchy are all good candidates.

  • 17ht, I believe that they have nothing else to write for Arsenal transfers yet so everything died down.

    However we have 200m pounds to spend. And we are looking at centre forward. Quoted from newsnow.

    Well, more to come but with so little time left on the TW?


  • Volante(holding midfielder): Coquelin, Debuchy*, (Hayden – U21 team)
    Regista(deep-lying playmaker): Cazorla, Arteta, (Zelalem – U21 team)
    (Box-to-Box midfielder, alternative): Ramsey, The Ox, Rosicky
    Trequartista (advanced attacking playmaker): Ozil, Wilshere

    We have played with at least a couple of combinations:
    1 volante & 1 regista (Coquelin & Cazorla; mostly in the 2nd half of last season)
    1 regista & 1 B-to-B (Cazorla & Ramsey; recently against Everton in the BST final)
    2 volantes (Coquelin & Flamini; mainly to either hold on to a lead or maintain a draw)

    And our combination midfield play extends further up to our trequartista & another wide raumdeuter(space interpreter).
    (We regularly started with 4 midfielders which will include a wide B2B midfielder/raumdeuter alternative – The Ox/Ramsey/Rosicky and 2 forwards – any 2 combinations from Alexis, Giroud, Walcott, Welbeck, when fit.).

    *Debuchy began his career as a deep-lying playmaker with Lille.

  • JM, well written on the DM formations.

    For me we work best in the 1 volante & 1 regista. This is what we saw during the second half of last season.

    When we used the regista and b2b formation, we were a little shaky, as per first half of the season when we dropped points.

    On the match vs Everton when we closed up the attacks and played with 2 volantes we allowed Everton to attack, we were not tight enough and allowed the goal. We should take queue from the mistakes we made and ensure that we do not make them this season.


  • Yes JK, it does look like the lull before a storm on the TW?

    Regards WS1 HT. I think there are other things going on: One, we are trying to buy from them while they are trying to secure a loan deal. A loan deal that includes a right to buy. But Szezzer wants to return to Arsenal after a year. This would make the loan deal untenable for Roma, as they would be just training him up for Arsenal, and it makes him sound only half committed?: Secondly, while this window is open, there is no guarantee that Ospina will not get an offer that appeals to him (and his bank manager/agent?). He was the first to explore other possibilities when the Cech signing was going through remember.
    All that it pretty obvious. Now whether within that clause of ‘right to buy’ it can be down to the players wishes whether he stays or returns is probably what Dick Law is working on. But the pressure of us wanting to buy gives them a strong hand.

    I suspect ‘big mouth’ Lord Harris is not the most popular person in the AW household, nor even with ‘Silent Stan’? When AW looks to buy players at a reasonable (low) price, the last thing you need is somebody saying how much money is in the wallet. Neither Benzema, at a possible £35m, having had the £31m turned down, is going to look too clever when they are looking to fund a £42m bid for Reus (allegedly)? The ‘Alternative’ probably would have taken an offer around £45m. Now???
    However, if Baba Rahman is still looking for an alternative to Chelsea??

    Better still, get stuck into Schalke for a double deal asap!

    You can also see how this is going to go down with disgruntled fans at the first slip up after the window closes ….

    On the bright side …. No there isn’t one! Grrrrr!

  • Hm.. Gerry, I saw a similar one regarding Lord Bendtner. Looks familiar…

  • Hahaha the BK dreamers are hanging on to every rotten bit of gossip morsel. 🙂

    The squad is complete with only space for a super quality midfielder or attacker when the price or moment are right. So buy yourself a good book, find yourself a fine woman or just hibernate for a while. I whisper it…. We are good to go as is! 😉

  • Lord Harris, what a proper carpet fitter?!
    Not that it makes any difference, as you say about the squad Total, I think it’s good to go, as it is…

    Maybe a top top striker as the cherry on the cake…

  • Ok. Let’s hibernate and wake me up when we sign a player. Sad that we have to do this year in year out.

    TA, after rampaging the good and the bad rumour sites, I have decided to stop rampaging. It just feels like Wenger has closed shop.


  • “Wenger: Director overstated Arsenal’s transfer power”

    (“He [Lord Harris] has gone a bit overboard because that is not true,” he added. “We are in a situation where we are working hard where if an opportunity comes up we can do something but we are not in the need.

    “We are in a strong position with a strong squad I am happy with.

    “We are open-minded everywhere. We work very hard to find the players we can. We spent a lot of money in the last two seasons and bought Gabriel in the middle of the season to be ready for this season.

    “We are not reluctant to spend the money. Now we have the money, if we can find the players we will spend the money.”)


    on Emiliano Martinez…
    (That’s not decided yet, he could still go out on loan.)

    on where Wilshere fits in…
    (I personally see him in a creative, offensive position. It can be on the flank, it can be through the middle but for me he’s a creator in the final third.) — (Trequartista role for Wilshere)


    For the Emirates Cup fixtures against Lyon and Wolfsburg

    on team news…
    (We have everybody available who came from Asia. We have no injuries. Flamini has a little bit of a knock on his ankle but I will decide if I involve him or not over the weekend. Szczesny might not be involved because he might move to Roma as you have seen. Apart from that I hope I can give 90 minutes to every player.) — Flamini still around; Szczesny could be going out on loan to Roma.

    on if Welbeck and Sanchez will feature…
    (No. Welbeck has not completely recovered, he is not in full training and Alexis comes back on August 3. Ospina comes back on Monday, and Alexis one week later.)

    on Danny Welbeck…
    (He is supposed to start to go outside and run again this weekend and if that is positive in the next three weeks he will be available. He will be short for the start of the season in two weeks, but three weeks should be all right.)

    i.e. Giroud, Walcott & possibly Akpom to hold fort for the 2 forward roles until both/either Welbeck and/or Alexis return fully fit and match ready.

  • JK there are two realities and one big fantasy. The two realities are: Arsene does what he want and he will act when you least expect it – and that includes not acting at all. The fantasy is: the media who have to attract us to their articles with little made up stories that they believe we want to hear… cause the flesh is weak.

    We are good to go with a super squad as growth from within is strong and we have quality in all areas. And just when we get used to that scenario Arsene turns in the summer father Christmas. Put up your legs, Arsene has it under control! 🙂

  • Total 😀

    Yeah, it seems that Arsene is gonna give him some opportunities, at least up till January. See how he does whilst Welbeck is having injury issues…

    Man City took one hell of a beating…
    What with the Chavs losing 4-2 the other day, it’s been a very satisfying pre-season so far… 🙂

  • The Under 21’s is off tonight, btw. Waterlogged pitch.

    Just because things have gone quiet does not mean the same as nothing happening.

    Wait and see …

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