Who Needs New Midfielders: Wenger’s Strongest Midfield in 2016

I know  you are all scanning the Newsnow Arsenal news aggregator and other media to find out whether we have finally signed Elneny now or any other new players. I must admit to also look regularly even though I don’t expect Arsene to buy anybody this month (other than Elneny).

The key issue for our manager is not lack of quality in the squad but availability of his players. The loss to injury of Le Coq and Santi made us all worried about our strength in depth in midfield, especially with Rosicky, Arteta (till recently) and Jack also out. However, we coped really well and even managed to move ahead of our opponents during the busy festive season. Flamini has been good, Chambers offers a glimpse of hope as a potential DM and Rambo is getting better by every game.

Thanking BBC for picture.

If all players are fit there is so much quality available for our midfield that Wenger could give himself more problems than he would wish for by buying more midfielders. Let’s assume that Rosicky, Arteta and Flamini will all leave this summer as their contracts will end then, and that Elneny will finally be signed and introduced to the squad this month. This still leaves us with: Rambo, Jack, Ozil, Santi, Le Coq, Elneny, Chambers, Campbell and the Ox as well as a few youngsters who are showing promise either on loan or in the Reserve Team.

I reckon we have four midfield spots available, assuming that Wenger will regularly play a midfielder on one of the ‘mid-wings’ rather than two more typical wingers i.e. Theo and Alexis. This gives us more balance and defensive robustness, especially against the tougher opponents. Four spots for nine pretty brilliant, either established or promising, talents, and that is excluding the promising youths who are knocking on the first team door louder and louder.

If all are fit, it will be hard for Wenger to leave one of Rambo, Jack, Ozil, Santi and Le Coq out; yet, he cannot play them all, unless we revert back to 4-5-1-like possession football. It looks like Wenger has changed the style of play to 4-2-1-3 or 4-1-4-1, depending on how you look at it; therefore a return to 4-5-1 is less likely.

It all comes down to what we do with the box to box midfielder position – the one next to the ‘classical DM’. With Santi next to Le Coq (or Flamini) we have a lower team centre of gravity, as Santi is less mobile but very able to connect midfield with attack through making space for himself and playing a great attacking ball in a flash. With Rambo next to the Le Coq or Flamini we have a typical, Gerrard-like and Lampard-like, box to box midfielder who motors up and down to find space and fill gaps, and connect with his fellow midfielders and attackers continuously all over the pitch.

Ozil surely is our first choice man in the hole in 2016. The only one who would be capable of dethroning the bionic German is Jack, but for that he will need to stay fit and get in the form of his life, which we all know is a big ask currently. Let’s face it, a fit Ozil is a given.


To get the best out of Ozil we need a perfect balance between mobility and anchor points – even though these anchor points need to be mobile as well, albeit it less vertical and more horizontal.

The two anchor points above the defence are the holding DM – think Le Coq – and the holding CF – think Ollie. We could opt to play with a fluid/mobile CF or no holding DM but two all-round central midfielders, and Wenger has definitely been experimenting with both scenarios over the last couple of years. It would not surprise me if we end up without a holding DM or a holding CF as our plan-A eventually, or maybe even without both, but I don’t think we will see this happen in the first half of 2016 at least. What is interesting is that Elneny is described as a holding midfielder who can play football as well, which could be an indication that we are moving towards two footballing midfielders in the double DM-pivot rather sooner than later.

The big question for now is: does Ozil function better with Santi or Rambo next to the holding DM. Both have their merits and Rambo is the most complete midfielder we have in the squad, other than Jack perhaps. With Santi and Jack out injured, Wenger does not have to worry about this question a lot, but when they are all back it will be a challenge for him. We are, however, lucky to have such a quality dilemma to be resolved, although adding more midfielders could really complicate things. Competition is good but too much of it could become counterproductive.

I hear the likes of FL08 say that rotation is the answer to using the available quality as best as possible… and they have a point. If all are fit, it is still tempting to have an established first eleven in which some play almost constantly and others provide an opportunity for resting them. Most managers will opt for this as the benefits of a cohesive and telepathically connecting first eleven are huge. But, given the large number of injuries in midfield and the quality of players available, we really need to rotate more; and then do it in such a way that we don’t lose much, if any, of the cohesion and telepathy an unambiguous first choice eleven would bring.

For the DM role we have: Le Coq, Elneny, Chambers(?), Bielik etc

For the B2B role we have: Rambo, Santi, Jack and the Ox

For the man in the hole we have: Ozil, Jack, Santi, Ox/Iwobi/Zelalem???

If all are fit for say the Barcelona game (which I know is very unlikely), or our likely PL championship decider against Citeh at the end of the season, I would be tempted to play:

—————Le Coq—Santi—————-



But I would also get excited playing:

————–Le Coq—Rambo—————-



Or what about:




Elneny, (Campbell), Chambers and the Ox, by working their socks off and starting to make a real difference are all capable of playing themselves into our first choice midfield as well, even though I have my doubt about the Ox doing this without going on loan for a while. On top of that, till at least the end of this season we will be able to play Flamini, Rosicky and Arteta too…. if they are fit of course.

Fine fellow Gooners, we are blessed with the available quality and quantity of midfield players and it will be hard for Wenger to choose his first team midfielders when most or all are fully fit to play.

What would be your first choice midfield?

By TotalArsenal.




14 thoughts on “Who Needs New Midfielders: Wenger’s Strongest Midfield in 2016

  • Hey TA… I was just about to post my match preview but I can hold off until this afternoon or evening (your overnight) or even wait until tomorrow (your mid-day)… I was also gonna scold JK for his silly talk about our away form… 😦 😀 but now I’m JK (just kidding) too…

    Anyhow, on this one (which is excellent and maybe should be republished next midweek when we get a rest)… I think you’re absolutely right… Elneny will be cover and competition for Le Coq and both of them as well as Jack and Rambo are footballers who can add to our squad with their positioning, passing, tackling and shooting and making runs into the box to score. While Gooners have been lusting for the “next Vieira” since the real one departed, I think Wenger has been wanting a “team” approach to his midfield play. I think you could classify this as his version of total football, esp. when you consider how much attack and possession play he also asks of his FBs…

    Like you say, it starts with FIT players of quality, which we lack. (Not the quality, just the fitness…) Whether they’re big or small, pacy of slow, matters a whole lot less as, again, it’s a team vision. Sure, big and fast is the preferred version (and Elneny looks like he perhaps fits the bill…) but positional sense and ability to use the ball trumps those physical elements…

    This makes playing two towards the back of MF–but allowing them to still move freely–the key element of the master plan…

    We play at Anfield tomorrow and some may be able to recall opening day 2010 when 18 year old Jack Wilshere played at the back of our midfield. It was a tough match. Laurent Koscielny, making his debut, got sent off, making it all the harder but we got a well-deserved late draw through a Pepe Reina own goal. My point is this: young players who need playing time (and experience–like Jack way back then) can learn discipline by playing deeper in MF.

    Older players–prime examples being Arteta and Santi at Arsenal, Pirlo, Xavi and Makelele at other places–who bring all that experience and maybe a range of passes–can also sit deeper and help control matches even if they can no longer get forward for goals and assists as they once did… None of those players are physically imposing but they have all been (very) important and impressive in those roles…

    So, IMO at least, you’re right…We’ve got the players and, if all are fit (a truly lol proposition, btw…so no “preferred” group for me…) we have lots of options, pretty much exactly as you’ve laid them out. Integrating them together is where the magic happens, and I see a plan–with plenty of contingencies, slowly emerging for the 2nd half of this season…

    For the very near team, it’s FlamBo…with Elneny, Chambers, Arteta and the Ox given opportunities as fill-ins. (Iwobi, too, maybe esp. vs Burnley…) Once healthy, Rosicky will get some opportunities too… After that, Jack, Le Coq and Santi re-integrate and, like you say, many of them–if they play well enough centrally–can also start in those mid-winger roles.

    Anyhow, great article (and, I repeat, you should think about republishing it–with a tweak or two, after we’ve got more evidence to go from–during a quieter time later in the TW)… Lemme know when I should publish the preview…


  • Thanks Seventeenho. Agreed it will be FlamBo as the first choice pairing and Elneny has a good opportunity to play himself into the team if his work permit gets sorted rather sooner than later.

    Please post the Match Preview between 11-12PM tonight (UK time). I might indeed write another midfield post this month and then make reference to this one. 😉

    Henry is desperate to do his business, so got to pop out. Catch you in a bit.

  • Very interesting post TA..
    With Flamini, Cazorla and Coq still absence.. And we never know how well is the progress.. I prefer we play Elneny sooner.. So he can blend with the team before the clash of Barca.. Hehehe..
    Sorry about Wilshere.. As long as Oil and Ramsey stay fit.. I don’t think there is a room for him in our mighty team.. Hahahaha..

  • 17HT,

    Alternatively, feel free to issue earlier/now as this one has not generated much response and I guess the focus is on the big Pool game. Let’s take the Ox by the horns! 🙂

  • TA, I’ll have to do it this afternoon (your evening) as I’m also out the door…

    The lack of comments is sub-optimal and I’m particularly regretful if FL-08 is gone due to my attempts at giving him a little grief (taking the piss, ribbing, humor, humour, etc., etc)… My real belief is that the Arsenal blog-o-sphere was (more or less) invented as an anti-Wenger platform so that when things are OK, there’s less need to vent… Luckily, we have another slippery one here in 26 hours or thereabouts… 😀 😦

    More later…

  • It seems to be quiet on most of the blogs but yes disappointing it is.

    Just post it when you ready and enjoy the snow… if there is any left.

    We had some last week and my daughter was able to do snow-angles on the ground. Much better than rain and wind…

  • Evening TA. A quick comment from me as things do seem quiet here, and that doesn’t reflect the quality of the posts that you and HT have been presenting.

    I agree on the overall picture that Elneny apart I can’t see us adding to the squad this TW, nor any need unless some SQ becomes available. I am trying to keep expectations of Elneny down at a realistic level – at £5m it feels like a signing for the future rather than real immediate cover for our DM, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

    We don’t need more bodies, we need more fit MF players. I hope we keep Rosicky yet, and I’m sure we will Arteta too. In part as much for their technical quality for our younger players to learn from in training. Flam has less to offer here I think. But Santi will (I hope) become our next Ros and be integral to bringing on new MFs. How many we discard in the summer will depend on how Wenger assesses the youngsters – Iwobi and Jef in particular; if they are deemed ready – to compete, not just cover – then we may let more go.

    I think Campbell is starting to suggest he might be serious first team competition for a few others; with Sanchez on the left, Campbell on the right, and Coq plus Santi or Rambo in the pivot, we have a lot of work and options. The next few months will be fascinating here as his confidence can only grow, whilst all his history suggests he will never lack effort or drive.

    The one area of minor difference I have is around whether we might drop the DM role altogether, for 2 B2B types. Whilst I understand the attraction looking at the players we have available, I think we need to look behind them too. Making that system safe against quality opposition would require a change of CB, replacing Mert with someone who had both his positional/leadership qualities and the pace/anticipation of Kos – one hell of a CB in fact. Without that (what would be the best CB pairing in the league by a mile) we would always be quite open through the middle without a Coq type, and probably easy prey for the top Spanish sides in particular. Of course our B2B players could develop more defensive nous, but I’m not really counting on that to be honest.

    As ever, pretty good problems to have, making the choice between a range of quality options. I trust Wenger here to make the right judgements and find the right combinations.

  • Hi guys,

    Our away form is just a little short but then we are in good form so get the win tonight.

    I will also start with FlamBo as double pivot, and maybe end with ChambTeta.


  • I think JK is probably just reacting to the 4-nil drubbing at Southampton in our most recent away match…

    Cheers AB for the comment but I gotta bury it with a….

    New Post

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