Arsenal Finally Have a Triple-Beast of a Midfield

Every team needs a solid defence and a sharp attack but success depends for a large part on the quality of its midfield: the core of every team. For many years, Arsene and then Unai have struggled to get the midfield right, but we may finally be witnessing the birth of a PL-winning midfield right in front of us. I am of course talking about the combination of Xhaka-Partey-ESR. The latter may play in front of the other two but he really is a proper all-round midfielder and forms a great trio with them.

Thomas Partey is the missing link here of course. He has that Vieiraesque presence on the pitch and skill set, and if he can get back to full fitness will become a force to reckon with. I have a feeling that he will continue to struggle for a while and we will only see the best of him, as in a consistent way, from next season onwards. That is why Elneny is also really important. He may not excite everyone but Mo is tidy and reads the game well, positions himself well and has that great ability to allow other players to shine. Granit loves playing with Elneny, and they know each other of course for a long time, going back to their days at Basel (2010-12). We have also seen evidence of Partey combining well with Elneny, so it looks like Mo is the ideal man to be the spare tire that will be used regularly.

I agree with Kev that we need to have at least one more quality DM(like player) going forward as we cannot rely on Xhaka (150+ games for Arsenal already) continue to be fit all the time. It takes a midfielder to appreciate a midfielder and it is obvious that Mikel loves what Granit has to offer and will continue to build the team around the Xhaka-Partey partnership; and I am pretty sure that Emile will become part of this potentially all conquering midfield.

I know that many will not agree with this but right now there is no better deeper laying midfielder in the league than Xhaka. Combine him with the right player and he will become the nerve-center of the team: he holds us together and translates Mikel’s tactical instructions on the pitch to a T. Like all deeper laying midfielders he will now and again make a mistake as they are under so much pressure these days, but focusing on this would be besides the point. Arteta has a great influence over him and this is leading to a calmer style of play and less sanctions, and so, at the great age of 28, Granit is turning into a powering Matterhorn of a midfielder right now. Like the BFG and Giroud, who also were not the greatest athletes but had great intelligence on the pitch, slowly but steadily fans are learning to appreciate and even love Granit the longer he wears the red and white colours. One day, the club might even put up a statue outside the stadium for him. 😉

What I love about ESR is that he does not want to be the poster-boy whose sole focus is on producing insane through-balls all the time. He has really surprised me, and credit to especially Highbury Harmony who predicted a breakthrough for Emile a few months ago.

He is more of a Freddie Ljungberg than a Mesut Ozil, if you ask me. He keeps his head up when on the ball and when he is about to receive the ball – the sign of a great player of course – but he will battle with his head down, his sleeves up and socks down for the ball at all times. And that is what reminds me of Freddie. Both have that ability to get stuck in and yet create those beautiful moments of vision and technical mastery as well. Emile is therefore the ideal fit for partnering the DM-pivot duo of Granit and Thomas as they need somebody to come close to them when needed and run between the lines to offload the ball to under pressure. Emile is very tidy with the ball and always looks to combine with another player in the most advantageous way. Therefore he is the glue of the team and is superb at connecting up midfield with attack. And on top of it all he can also produce those breathtaking through-balls when there is an opportunity.

ESR has of course another couple or even trio of players to work with: the fellow players in the ‘three’ (in our current 4-2-3-1 formation) behind the attacker, and the attacker himself. Only Saka is a given at the moment who truly has made the position on the right his. On the left of ESR there is real competition with either Auba, Pepe or Willian taking this spot. It may explain why Martinelli is having to wait for his chance right now (so no need to worry). Our CF is also a ‘choice-situation’ with either Laca or Auba getting the nod from Mikel – and this is also a position Martinelli (and Eddie and Balogun) are competing for. But Emile will play with them all and will just get on with it, knowing that he will get great support behind him from both Thomas and Granit.

No doubt we are not there yet, but I have confidence that the midfield of Granit-Thomas-Emile(Saka and Pepe/Auba/Willian) will be one that will get us back to the top. Elneny is great backup and there is one more backup position to fill. This will be either Willock or AMN, who are making good progress with their loan clubs, or from the market this summer. Finally, we need backup/competition for ESR and that is where I see one of Odegaard and Ceballos, or one of the youngsters making their claim. Exciting stuff fellow Gunners!

By TotalArsenal.

19 thoughts on “Arsenal Finally Have a Triple-Beast of a Midfield

  • Great piece Total. Beautifully written. Optimistic and realistic at the same time. I actually believe we are on the right track, and only need to add a little to challenge for top 4 next year. Midfield is the key, because we are strong in most other positions. I’ve been saying my concern lately, is over reliance on Partey and Smith Rowe, who physically need more than occasional rest. To get the most out of them we need them healthy and not pushed to the limit. We’d be in trouble without the Ødegaard loan. We need someone there permanently and someone else good enough to mix in cm. Maybe one more fullback and we’re good to go.

  • All agreed, J. I guess Chambers can also play midfield so we have some cover. Partey is special and difficult to replace on a like for like basis, but there is also a worry, possibly a bigger worry, that Xhaka is out for a long time. The three game suspension cost us dearly a few months ago. So priority is another quality DM/B2B player.

    Also agreed on the full back situation. Three good to great ones but we need extra cover in case of multiple injuries.

  • Arteta recognises that ESR at 20 yrs age, is only potential, but lacking the basic fundamentals of requisite “pace and balance” is not in the same class nor ever likely to be as is Martin Ødegaard at 22 yrs age, who will develop further to be another Isco !

    The reason why Arteta does his best to shoehorn ESR in LW. I also disagree that RW is Saka’s best position as Saka is equally proficient at LW. and Pepe is ruthless at RW, when he has a RWB like Cedric and not Bellerin as Cedric has an intelligent “football head”and compliments Pepe with “Over lapping” or Under lapping” runs as the incidents require. Where as Bellerin cannot use both feet and inefficient and lacks ability thus confidence to over lap and deliver telling accurate crosses to box, thus Bellerin nearly always cuts in to centre with Pepe rather than over lap and drag the opponents with him.

    Check the stats: Pepe and Cedric on RW and RWB respectively with Pepe and Bellerin in same positions; constructive positive touches by Pepe; 71 to 18.

    Arteta and Edu are enduring to sign Ødegaard this Summer on a permanent basis and as Real Madrid are looking for funds, who knows?

  • Hi Omar,

    Good comment and agreed re combo of Pepe and Soares. Yet, Saka is the star man there now with great stats (see also end of previous post).

    I disagree re Ode and ESR, though. Emile is already the better player and Odegaard, although classy, will have to work a lot harder and do the link up play with the rest of the team better if he wants to get a contract offer from us. Arteta is not looking for another Ozil but a KdBruine, I think. Having said that, I do like the way Odegaard plays and he could help us a lot over the next few months.

  • Emile is a very rare one-touch, two-touch player. Also he is a better athlete (faster) than Odegaard.

  • Going forward we must not allow Balogun to leave……and for that matter free. I rate FB ahead of Eddie and honestly think that he should be our future along with the mentioned solid midfield trio,that’s our future and if we let FB go…..we will live to regret coz am 100% sure the boy will be a superstar wherever he will go… is with Serge Gnabry. Artete and Edu must do whatever it takes to nail him down to a new looong term contract and we can be sure of success nearest future with a team full of youthful exuberance and energy and beautiful football that traditionally has been associated with our club. As you know our strike force of Auba &Laca agewise are nearing their tail end. BALOGU MARTINELLI must be our future and no need to venture into the market for other strikers.

  • Yes haveheart. Ødegaard reminds me of Ozil in a few qualities, but he does press much better than him. I’d like him to go for goal as well.

  • Omar if Ødegaard is going to be another Isco, is that the young potential Isco or the never realized potential Isco ? I wouldn’t be satisfied with the latter. His potential ceiling seems even higher though.

  • Our best 11 ATM @ The Arsenal is:
    Cedric Luiz Gabriel Tireny
    Partey Xhaka
    Saka ESR Abu

    ( C O Y G )

  • Honestly, I think Arteta should bring back Matteo Guenduzi and integrate back into our midfield. He will a better job than Xhaka.

  • Another fine article, TA and coming right after an equally thought provoking one by Kev, makes for a wholesome read on the state of things into the future, at the Arsenal. I also think the addition of Partey has raised the quality stakes in our midfield and brought some calm to the way our boys conduct their play in games; whether he is on the pitch or not, he raised standards, methinks. It is just like when a Manager just gets a certain player to start warming up on the sidelines, with the sole intent of forcing one in the starting 11 to “wake up”. Partey has had that effect, especially on Xhaka. That’s not saying some good personal coaching by Arteta hasn’t helped too.

    It is no secret that I have always admired Granit Xhaka, even when much of the Arsenal Fandom were critical of him (and the errors); my argument was that his position and the way the defence is instructed to play always makes any error by Xhaka to lead to a scary moment and a few times, a goal against us. These situations get over-amplified because he isn’t very athletic (read quick) and just simply won’t bomb passes forward at the risk of losing possession when there is a closer, safer option for the pass (he picks his moments, by the way). I would always point at the fact he played ALL 38 league games in Wenger’s last season, been a certain pick by all the managers we have had since; if that doesn’t say enough about the man, how about the fact he was in the Bundesliga team of the season for the two seasons preceding his arrival at Arsenal? On a personal note, he has and exudes a passion for the club and just loves to win.

    I like ESR and love to have him around the first team for many years to come; but I feel if we can get a finished material or better, we must not hesitate to go for it because our offensive play is key to our defensive solidity. ESR is learning his trade, for now, and combines well with his fellow academy graduates while also looks ruthless when he senses opportunities. I hope he develops well to the point of having eyes at the back of his head. It underwhelms the number of times he passes backwards in a one-touch situation when he, otherwise, had time to turn and release a pass for offensive action. He needs to improve that aspect of his game; otherwise, a great talent in prospect. Oh, and Odegaard isn’t the ESR upgrade I am thinking about.

  • Hey, PB. Great work on the stats put up for Saka and Pepe in the previous thread. Very revealing too and tells a story in future tactical considerations.

    I feel Saka is just, all-round, a threat and can produce from either flank in equal measure. The goal contribution of any player may depend on a wide range of circumstances and these are hard to configure in analyses: the opposition, the psychological state of the team, injury situations (resulting in new instructions to cover for the replacements’ weaknesses) playing with 10 (or 9 men) for long periods, absence of a key cog in the offensive side of the team and many other possible reasons. Just the other day, we were eulogizing Pepe’s better output from the left. His recent performances from the right look no different, now, which suggests he needed a kick up the backside to trigger his potential. He has grown in confidence and will, fingers crossed, continue the trajectory. Long may it all last.

  • Congratulations, GN5, for topping the predictions poll last time out. As the season closes and relegation threatened sides pick up the pace, there will be some unexpected results, making the game even more exciting. Thanks for the good work.

    My predictions for the weekend’s pick of games are as follows:

    Burnley v Arsenal –. A
    Aston Villa v Wolves – D
    W.B.A. v Newcastle – H
    Man City v Man U –. H (4 – 2)
    Tottenham v Crystal Palace – H
    Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid – D

  • Cheers Eris, good comments. All agreed re XhakA of course, even though I don’t see the link with Partey and his changed attitude to be honest.

    Re ESR, I’d rather go for competition than an upgrade. We cannot rely on him playing all games in a season for us, but he is so good that an upgrade, if there is even one, would likely set him back. He is so talented.

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