TA’s Arsenal Dream Team v Besiktas

With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.
With thanks to the best paper in the country, The Guardian, for the picture.

Football is back, and although it might not be ideal to play Besiktas so soon after our battle against Palace, I cannot help but really look forward to our encounter in Istanbul. And although we won on Saturday, we all want to wash away the taste of a laboured and under-par performance with a committed, passionate, and above all winning, performance tomorrow night.

Rather than go safe and sit back to invite pressure, I hope we start with full throttle and go on the attack from the first whistle. My dream line up for the Besiktas game – rather than the predicted one as I never get these right anymore – is a 4-5-1 formation with real speed and thrust whilst also having some solid support for the back four.

I would like to see Flamini replace Gibbs for this game. We will play with Chambers again, or maybe even Miquel, and so we can do with the extra experience and calm of our French terrier. The rest of our defence picks itself right now, although I would not mind to see Bellerin getting a chance on the right wing tomorrow.

In midfield I would play Diaby if he is fit. He has travelled so he must be fine again. Diaby and Ramsey should be the deeper laying midfielders, but they are also very good in the transition and going forward. In the hole it is Sanchez for me, with OG in front of him. And on the wings, like many others have said in the past 48 hours, I would like thrust, speed and hunger and both Ox and Campbell have plenty of this.

My Dream Team:

Arsenal v Besiktas dream team

I would also be very happy to see Rosicky start instead of Campbell: Sanchez could move to the left and Rosa could play in the hole… but I would really like to see Campbell play again at some point at least tomorrow.

What it is your favourite line up for tomorrow’s game?

Let’s go for the jugular and attack from the start.

We are The Arsenal – COYG!!!

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Final Note:

We hold two competitions on Bergkampesque: Fantasy Football and a Predictions League and all are free to join – the more the merrier! 🙂

For Fantasy Football League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/bk-boing-ff-league/

For Predictions League see link:

https://bergkampesque.com/new-umf-league-2014-2015/

Where do you stand on the enigma that is Abou Diaby?

Injured Diaby

Diaby is a player who is held in high regard by Arsenal fans, and everyone in world football, for his ability to dribble past opponents with ease with close ball control; who also contains an excellent first touch and is adept in both attack and defence. When fully fit, there is no doubt that Diaby is one of the best box to box midfielder’s in the Premier League, and this is why he is one of the first names on the team sheet for Arsenal and France. It is clear to see that when Diaby plays for Arsenal, he fills the physical void that was left when Song left Arsenal for Barcelona last summer, and he is the missing link in our midfield. It has been said that the reason Wenger let Song go to Barcelona was because he said he had a replacement in Diaby, but once again, injuries have gotten the better of Diaby this season.

Abou Diaby now faces a lay-off of up to nine months after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in training, after it was initially reported that Diaby would be out for three to four weeks following a knock on his knee. Wenger has said that he was extremely surprised when he heard that Diaby would be out for up to nine months, as he thought it was just a little knock.

We all know how highly Wenger rates Diaby as a player (for his quality and ability) and as a man (for having the fight and desire to battle through his constant injuries), but now with the Frenchman facing up to nine months on the sideline, many Arsenal fans are wondering whether Wenger will lose his patience with him and sell, or more likely, release him (like Ferguson did with Hargreaves).

We do not exactly know Wenger’s views on Diaby injuries, as numerous times he has said that he has told Diaby, that he must not give up the fight and must not give up on his career. Wenger has said that Robin Van Persie also sorted out his injury problems, and he believes Diaby can do this too. However, Wenger has also said that Diaby may have to consider retirement and that very soon he is going to have to make a decision on whether to keep Diaby or to let him go.

Some Arsenal fans say “sell him, problem solved”. The problem with Diaby is that if he was to be put on the transfer list, Arsenal would receive offers so low (because of his extremely bad injury history) any money gained from selling Diaby would not be worth the sale, in comparison to the quality Diaby offers. This is assuming that any club will make an offer for Diaby. A lot of clubs would be turned off by his extensive injury history and therefore Diaby might not be able to find a club that is suitable for him.

In this case the only option Wenger would be left with, is to let him go on a free when his contract expires in 2015, hoping that Diaby will be able to find a club that is suitable for himself, as clubs would now not be put off by having to pay a transfer fee. The problem then is which club would be willing to pay the weekly wages of Diaby.

This was the problem which injury prone Hargreaves faced when he was released by Ferguson, with Hargreaves struggling to find any clubs that would pay his weekly wage. Hargreaves finally found a suitor in Manchester City (after releasing a video on youtube showing his fitness levels), but he was not paid a weekly wage but a ‘pay as you play’ deal. All did not end well with Hargreaves, with him only playing in one league match, in which he scored one goal. He then did not receive a winners medal when Manchester City won the league, because he was not eligible to receive one as he did not play enough for City in the league; he then was released by City and the rest is history.

There are a lot of football fans, pundits and writers who would class Diaby as ‘deadwood’ and ‘liability’, but I cannot agree with these people.

Deadwood refers to people who just sit on the bench, content collecting their pay cheque, cannot be sold because they lack quality, and do not deserve to be playing at the club they are currently at because of their lack of ability; and when they are asked to play because the manager has no other alternatives and is forced to play them, they play poorly. A ‘liability’ refers to someone who does more bad than good and costs his team matches rather than win his team matches; someone you would rather just not have in your squad and cannot wait to transfer out.

Diaby is far from this. Diaby is always fighting to get back to full fitness to play matches and is never happy watching his team mates play instead of playing himself. I am sure that Diaby would trade his weekly pay cheque for an injury free career! When he is fit and playing he runs the midfield, offers a physical presence in midfield which we lack and covers the length of the pitch like it is nothing, and with his quality he deserves to be at Arsenal and to be a regular starter. If it was not for his injuries and Diaby was made available on the transfer market, I can guarantee that any club in the Premier League would want Diaby. To me a quality injury prone player is not ‘deadwood’. Diaby is far from a ‘liability’, as when he plays he rarely makes mistakes that cost us matches and is often the midfield force that wins us matches.

I personally think Wenger will keep Diaby till his contract expires (which is in 2015) and based on whether Diaby can get the better of his injuries, the manager will make a decision on whether to release him or offer a new contract.

I will now say no more and ask you five questions, and I would like you to tell us all your answers which I hope will lead to some great responses and discussions:

Do you think Diaby should be given his marching orders? If yes, when? and why? If no, why?

Will Wenger give Diaby his marching orders or keep the believe in Diaby? If yes, when? and why? If no, why?

Do you see Diaby getting the better of his injuries like RVP did?

Do you think Diaby should retire? If yes, when? and why? If no, why?

Where do you see Diaby in three years?

I would also love to hear any other thoughts on the topic.

Written by: AFC.

Ramsey for DM

_65475931_arsenalcelebrate

So every morning before heading to work, I go through news websites to check on Arsenal updates as I sip my tea. It’s become an important part of my day and without the comfort of this routine, I know I’d be having an incomplete day.

Every now and then, one piece of news screams out making me shake my head either with disappointment, or nod in happy glee. A few days ago, was one such day… unfortunately the head shaking was in sad disappointment.

Abou Diaby is out for nine months. Yep, the next Patrick Vieira… the man who was going to shore up our defense from midfield better then a sold Song, the man who would allow Arteta the luxury of NOT being the sole starting DM… you get the picture….

Abou Diaby

Oh yes, the man who feels like a new signing every time he gets fit again, and one more if I may, the man because of whom we chose NOT to buy Diame or any other DM (I’m assuming here, maybe the right deal couldn’t be struck)…

But basically, the man who looked like a million dollars in the first few games of the season and ever since then has been a “what if” is now out again for another 9 months.

I shook my head in utter disbelief… how unfortunate is Diaby. And please, don’t get me wrong… I hope he gets fit again and I hope he resumes his career. It’s never easy for an athlete to lose out because of injuries, and the cruciate ligament injury is a really tough one. And for the record, I would also like to say that I had hopes for Diaby. I thought he might stay fit this time… and he might become the player that he has shown that he can be in patches.

I genuinely believe that a fit Diaby, at his best, really adds value to the team. This very interesting article (http://news.arseblog.com/2013/03/diaby-at-swansea-by-the-numbers/) at Arseblog News is sort of testament to that fact. But now it’s gotten late for Arsene and Arsenal to keep waiting for a hopefully fit again Diaby.

It got me thinking that now we are in a bit of a fix… who now to support or back up Arteta?

My answer is Aaron Ramsey.

images (2)

Now Rambo has been having a bit of an up and down season. He has been the cause of many a fan’s frustration time and time again, but I’ve always felt that the primary issue has been the fact that he gets played on the right. I distinctly remember when he first came on the scene, he would play CM almost always, and for a large part of last season he looked like a solid box to box midfielder with the capacity to play some lovely balls forward. Unfortunately he ran out of form somewhat but still ended the season with 8 assists (Song got 11 and Walcott got 9, as per Wikipedia).

I’ve generally always felt Ramsey best slot is the DM role in conjunction with Arteta or Wilshere, and so I’ve often been surprised that he ends up playing the utility role. Therefore, I decided to compare a few stats and see if indeed Ramsey is good at the defensive role or not.

First, let’s look at Diaby and Arteta in the first three games of the season, where we drew with Sunderland and Stoke, and beat Liverpool away, all the while keeping clean sheets (seems like a lifetime ago!). I think it’s fair to say those three were solid defensive displays that we’d love to see on a consistent basis.

Aug-12

Diaby vs. Liverpool (away)

Diaby vs. Sunderland (home)

Diaby vs. Stoke (away)

 

Total Passes

64

Total Passes

67

Total Passes

65

 

Completion %

91%

Completion %

88%

Completion %

72%

 

Defensive Passes

47

Defensive Passes

48

Defensive Passes

45

 

Completion

83%

Completion

88%

Completion

71%

 

All duels won

10/13

All duels won

7/15

All duels won

13/30

 

All tackles won

2/4

All tackles won

1/1

All tackles won

3/5

 

Clearances

0/0

Clearances

0/0

Clearances

2/4

 

Head clearances

0/0

Head clearances

0/0

Head clearances

2/4

             
             

Aug-12

Arteta vs. Liverpool (away)

Arteta vs. Sunderland (home)

Arteta vs. Stoke (away)

 

Total Passes

92

Total Passes

119

Total Passes

77

 

Completion %

95%

Completion %

96%

Completion %

87%

 

Defensive Passes

49

Defensive Passes

75

Defensive Passes

48

 

Completion

92%

Completion

93%

Completion

85%

 

All duels won

6/13

All duels won

6/12

All duels won

10/14

 

All tackles won

3/3

All tackles won

2/4

All tackles won

4/6

 

Clearances

1/1

Clearances

0/0

Clearances

0/0

 

Head clearances

1/1

Head clearances

0/0

Head clearances

0/0


Interesting stats! Diaby, as is evident, is good at getting into the thick of it. He does well when it comes to tackles, and is decent in terms of winning duels.

Versus Stoke, he got into 30 duels, winning 13, which is not shabby at all. However, he lags behind in terms of total passes and the pass completion.

Arteta on the other hand does brilliantly well in terms of total passes and pass completion %, and does fairly well in terms of tackling and overall duels.

Interesting to see also, that he got into 14 duels winning 10 against Stoke.

Now let’s look at Ramsey in the two games I remember him starting as a DM, vs. WHU and vs. Brighton away. Both the games took place in January 2013.

Jan-13

Ramsey vs. WHU

 

Ramsey vs. Brighton

 

Total Passes

123

Total Passes

89

 

Completion %

95%

Completion %

93%

 

Defensive Passes

75

Defensive Passes

49

 

Completion

93%

Completion

92%

 

All duels won

6/9

All duels won

8/16

 

All tackles won

3/3

All tackles won

5/6

 

Clearances

1/1

Clearances

1/2

 

Head clearances

1/1

Head clearances

0/0

WHU was a comfortable win, while Brighton away was a tight win for us. Interestingly, Ramsey out-does Diaby in terms of total passes and pass completion %, which to me is not surprising.

What, however, is interesting is that he does very well in terms of duels won and tackles won. In the tough away Brighton game, he wins 5/6 tackles.

It should also be noted that in both these games Arteta was not playing, so the burden of defensive duties was more on Ramsey than on his partner (Rosicky, Santi and Jack on separate occasions).

So my point essentially is that Diaby’s injury may actually be a chance for us to get Ramsey playing in a position in which I think he can do a good job for us, and also get his confidence up. Ideally, I’d love to see Ramsey and Arteta playing together with Jack/Santi up ahead.

I feel Rambo can be massive for us if used properly, and now is the chance to do exactly that.

ramsey

Would love to know what you guys think on this!

Written by: Umair Naeem

A couple of side notes:

1 – I have used games that I felt illustrated the defensive prowess of the three players best, and for Ramsey the two games analyzed can serve to highlight the defensive potential that he has.

2 – By no means do I intend to opine that we don’t need to buy a DM now. Rambo can be an option till the summer, but we need to get a solid DM as a starter or a back up once the transfer window opens.

3 – Source for the data is a nifty iPhone app called EPL Live.

What to do with Arteta, Rosicky and Diaby – Is Arsene paying the price for selling Song?

Since the departure of Fabregas, almost two seasons ago, Arsene Wenger has struggled to find the right combinations in midfield.

Last season, he experimented desperately to get enough creative spark in his beloved 4-2-1-3 formation. He tried Ramsey as his lone creative/attacking midfielder (CAM) but it did not work out. If and when Rosicky was fit, he was played as our CAM and the team often played a lot better as a result. But Tomas Rosicky’s anagram of ‘Sick Room Stay’ seems to always follow him, as he was once again more injured than available for Arsene. Wenger was hoping either Wilshere or Diaby would return to fitness, but they also remained in the treatment room, and in both cases for the entire season.

Ultimately, Wenger found a solution in asking Song to become our lynchpin player between defence and attack, which included producing a significant number of assists. Song did a great job at this and together with Theo and van Judas he saved our season, in terms of goals and assists. Many fans criticised some of his defensive performances, but these were the price to pay for the invaluable support he gave to our attack.

The Cameroonian’s partnership with Arteta had become a very strong one, and if Arsene could have added a new CAM during last summer, or JW10 would have returned to full fitness from the start, we finally would have had a strong and consistent midfield to kick-off the 2012-2013 season.

Inexplicably, Song was sold late in the summer and no replacement was brought in. Yet, Arsene did bring in a quality CAM in Cazorla, and luckily, JW10 finally returned to full fitness as well. Initially, everything looked great as both Arteta and Diaby started the season strong, both individually and as a ‘double DM tandem’.

However, Diaby became injured once again and Wilshere took his place once he became fully fit. With our defence not firing from all cylinders, and Arteta not the prototype DM many of us have been asking for, Jack was forced to stay back and help out on the defensive side a lot – and I would say too much. At the same time, Santi struggled to really give shape and purpose to our attacking play, and it became clear that the balance in our midfield was not right, once again.

During the January Transfer Window, we were linked with a number of typical, hairy-arsed DM’s, but regrettably, nobody was signed. Diaby has returned and has played a number of games recently. However, he is a shadow of the player we applauded so much after his game at Anfield, at the start of the season. Furthermore, and even more worrying; his partnership with Arteta has gone flat, as both players struggle to protect the defence properly, or support our attacking moves with the necessary impetus and gusto.

Rosicky has been fit for a while now, but does not seem to be able to get a foot into the first team anymore. This is surprising, given that he signed a new contract not so long ago and Wenger has always liked him. Rosicky had a decent game against Blackburn last weekend, but did not start against Bayern, and did not feature at all against Aston Villa. What is going on here?

I know that Song is not every Gooner’s favourite player, but I feel we are missing him badly at the moment. I am convinced that if Arsene would have asked Song to play as a sole, traditional DM, he would do this with gusto, and be very good at it as well. But he was sold and not replaced, and I feel strongly that this is biting Arsene badly in the arse at the moment.

So what to do with our midfield and with the likes of Diaby, Rosicky and Arteta?

I was glad to see Jack being played in the CAM position this Saturday, but just as against Blackburn a week ago, both Diaby and Arteta did not provide him, or the defence, with the required quality of support. This is a worry, and on top of that Diaby is injured again, and God only knows how long it is going to take before the lanky Frenchman is fully fit again.

We cannot buy a DM until the next TW, so we have to make do with what we have. I guess the easiest solution for Arsene is to put Jack next to Arteta and play Cazorla as our CAM. Another option is to combine Arteta with either Ramsey or Coquelin. For me, they are both not ideal but either of them should have a run of games now. Another option is to play Rosicky as our CAM, or even next to Arteta, but Wenger does not seem to want to play him regularly anymore.

However, Wenger will need to get this balance right as soon as possible: our defence needs better quality protection and our attack the right level of thrust and creativity. If he gets it right, we will finish in the top 3/ top 4 this season; if not, it will most probably be ‘Channel Five – Thursday Night’ for us.

Written by:  Total Arsenal.

Happy & Prosperous New Year Fellow Gooners: Ten Wishes for 2013

emirates-02

I would like to wish all fellow Gooners a happy & prosperous New Year!

Here are my ten wishes for the New Year (in no particular order):

  1. A top-three finish: both the Chavs and the Northern Oilers are there for the taking and we can finish in the top-three, no doubt about that!
  2. The team to keep its mojo now and to find the perfect balance between a mean defence and attacking football;
  3. A Diaby miracle: he is fit again apparently and I am hoping he will stay fit for most of the remainder of the season to help us finish as high as possible in the league;
  4. Theo to commit long term to Arsenal and the purchase of an additional, quality winger;
  5. A beast of a DM (see previous post for reasons why);
  6. Change of captaincy: TV is a great player but not a great captain. In fact, the captaincy makes him weaker, and there are good potential captains in our team: Mertesacker, Arteta, Wilshere, Szczesny;
  7. A good cup-run either in the CL, or FA-cup. It would be great to beat Bayern Munich, and if we do, this team can get far in the CL. In a way, the same goes for the Swansea away game: a win there could mean the start of a great FA-cup run;
  8. No return to a busy sick bay: it is absolutely fantastic that we have all key players fit and available now, and long may it continue – our bench is looking very strong now;
  9. Holding on to all our key players for once this summer. Arsene to be given full support by the BoD to continue building a top-team by not selling any of our key players, and giving him sufficient funds to strengthen where needed;
  10. Dennis to join our coaching staff and to get a statue at Ashburton Grove!

Victoria Concordia Crescit! 🙂

Written by: Total Arsenal.

Arsenal’s biggest priority is to buy an orthodox DM

Arguments can be held for prioritising on the purchase of a quality left back, another central striker, or a right winger; but I reckon our first and most important new arrival should be a quality, experienced, beast of a defensive midfielder, come this January.

Arteta is a very fine player, and from the moment he arrived from Everton he has fitted into the team extremely well. Many of us had expected Arteta to play in a more advanced role, but he became indispensible in the deepest midfield position: the anchor role.

I have written recently what a shame it was to break up the partnership between Song and Arteta. They both made each other better players, and as a duo they became awesome last season. Their biggest problem was not having a high-quality attacking midfielder in front of them for most, if not all, of last season.

With Santi, and now also Jack, we have two very suitable players for the most advanced midfield role; and would we still have Alex Song playing for Arsenal, we would have far better options to rotate our midfielders regularly.

At the moment, we don’t have that luxury. Rosicky and Diaby have been injured for months now, and Coquelin is not given enough opportunities by the manager; which must mean only one thing: he is not impressing Arsene enough during training sessions and the few opportunities he has been given  in the first team this season.

I like Coquelin: he has potential to become an Arsenal first squad regular over time. But I can see why Wenger has not given him more regular starts as yet. He has not quite made a mark for himself; and in this new era for Arsenal, in which the young, up and coming players have to compete hard with the new, more experienced arrivals – a policy which started after the acrimonious departures of Cesc and Nasri two summers ago – you have to take your chance if and when it arises.  Gibbs and Jack did it, but Coquelin and Frimpong – for different reasons – have not grabbed their chances (as yet).

As a result of all of the above, thirty years old Arteta has been played in all twelve PL games, and all five CL games. And it is starting to show now. Especially in the middle of the second half of recent games, Mikel has looked a bit jaded, and the shield around our defence has suffered as a consequence.

Some opposition teams have also tried to target him, and he is often left isolated in our current 4-3-3 system; in which our midfield is often stretched vertically, with the lynchpin position – currently held by Jack – having to move between defence and attack almost constantly.

Arteta is incredibly versatile and can play in all three midfield positions. He is a great player to have in our squad, but I reckon we need to get a more traditional defensive midfielder in as soon as possible. Jack is the best player for the lynchpin role – especially now it looks like Diaby’s injury problems are haunting him once again; and Cazorla is our best option for the most advanced attacking midfield position.

If Arsenal can get a heavy-weight, traditional DM in January, Arteta could be used either for cover of any of the midfield roles; for which there will be ample opportunity, or he can keep his first team position – but we know then that we have very good cover available on the bench, if and when needed. It would also cover us for the potentially very costly risk of Arteta obtaining a long-term injury this season.

My personal view is to go with the former. I reckon a strong, traditional DM would protect our defence better and allow Jack to join Santi more regularly in making things happen up-front. Jack is not bad in helping out on the defensive side, but he is no Song; and Diaby is unlikely to come back for a long run of games. Arteta is more than capable in the deeper midfield position but he does need defensive support, which he is not getting enough of currently.

By buying a classic DM, Arsenal would become a more balanced team and Arteta would become very useful in helping with the necessary regular rotation of our midfielders. I would love a new LB and a RW, but more than anything, Arsenal need to buy a super quality DM in January.

Total Arsenal. 

Please note: 

Bergkampesque welcomes all new bloggers. Although some bloggers might appear very familiar and informal with each others, please never hesitate to comment if you feel like it. 

Letting Alex Song go is proving to be costly for Arsenal

Last season’s ‘under-song’ Cameroonian hero, Alex Song, has been the one player Arsene could not afford to let go without replacing him adequately this summer.

There have been many fellow Gooners last season who kept pointing out that Arteta was so much more important than Song; that it was the Spaniard who did all the defensive hard work, whilst Song was simply not sticking to his defensive tasks, and was as such letting the team down. But they were wrong, and it is only becoming clear now how much the Spaniard needed the Cameroonian to do his job properly.

I was pretty devastated when I heard Song had been sold to Barcelona. The combination of Song and Arteta in the centre of our midfield had grown into something special: they got to know each other really well, and became very good at sharing the responsibility of both shielding the defence and helping out our attack. In a poll I organised during the summer on the ‘ArsenalArsenal’ blog, Song and Arteta were voted as the best Arsenal pairing of last season.

Song was clearly asked by Arsene to help out on the creative front. Our most advanced midfielders, either Ramsey or Rosicky, were often struggling to make things happen up-front, and needed support from either Arteta or Song in our 4-3-3 system. Much to everyone’s surprise, it was Song not Arteta, who took up this task; and he did it with verve. Without his double-figure assists tally – 14 in all competitions, and 11 in the PL – we would never have finished in the top-four last season.

In his last year at Arsenal, Alex Song showed he had become an all-round midfielder. Yes, he sometimes gave the ball away unnecessarily, and suffered occasionally from a lapse of concentration, but they seldom or never led to us conceding a goal. Song was a slow starter during games, but once he got going he was unstoppable: a total force to be reckoned with. One of his best games was the home win against Milan in the CL last season, in which he played as a classical DM in front of our defence. I will never forget his performance in that game.

There were some rumours that Song had fallen out with Bould and Wenger, as a result of not sticking to instructions given to him during practice sessions in the summer. But it is far more likely that Song was sold because he and his agent kept asking for a new contract that included – by all accounts – a significant, but not entirely unreasonable, pay increase as the main objective.

Song believed he had earned this; as he felt his performances, status and contributions to Arsenal’s overall achievements had significantly risen during the course of last season. I think he had a point, but he obviously upset Wenger so much that the Frenchman allowed him to move on.

Barcelona came knocking on the door, and before we knew it, he was allowed to join the Catalans and our former hero Fabregas, without much of a fight at all. Two players who had been developed to incredible levels by Arsene were allowed to leave when they were at the prime of their footballing lives: such a shame!

I can see why Wenger believed he could compensate the loss of Song, but until now it has not worked out for us very well. Diaby made us instantly forget about Song, but then he got injured – no surprise there. His replacements: either Ramsey or Coquelin, have struggled to convince us in that pivotal role, and only now that Jack is back are we starting to get our shape and control back in midfield.

Arteta has started really well, but once again is being overplayed and should have been rested more. However, Arsene has limited options to replace him. Coquelin and Frimpong are still too inexperienced and Wenger has not risked them in the ‘anchor’ position yet. All recent games already turned into ‘must-win’ encounters, in which Wenger feels he needs to play his strongest team every time.

In my view, we have really missed Song during the last few months. He can play in both Arteta’s position and the linchpin position (the one next to Arteta in a 4-2-1-3) and he would have helped us to keep a better shape in our formation; and deal with pressure on our defence a lot better. Arteta would have been rested more, and Cazorla would have had better support in trying to create attacking moves in the last few months, if and when the Cameroonian would have played in the linchpin position.

Arsenal remain thin on the ground with regards to a long term, adequate replacement for Arteta in case of injury. I am all for giving Coquelin a chance in the ‘anchor’ role, but he is inexperienced and it all comes with a high risk: it is better to keep easing him into the team.

Arsenal should not have sold Song last summer imo, but hopefully Arsene is still on the look-out for a strong and experienced defensive midfielder, who can also help out on the creative side if and when required.

Total Arsenal.

Will Ramsey get another chance in the ‘Diaby/Wilshere’ position?

Image

So, with Diaby confirmed out for at least three weeks, Arsene faces a difficult decision with regards to who should replace him tonight and on Saturday.

In the system that Arsenal plays, the ‘Diaby/Wilshere’ role – one of the two deeper laying midfielders positioned between the defence and our attack minded players – is one of the most unconventional in football. A large variety of skills are required and the success of the team depends for a considerable part on how well that role is performed.

Arteta and Cazorla – the former the deepest laying midfielder who shields the defence, and the latter mainly responsible for conducting our attacking play – have more or less clear, straightforward roles in our team. For the other deeper laying midfielder, the tasks and requirements are less clear-cut.

For the sake of not having to refer constantly to the ‘Diaby/Wilshere’ role or the ‘second-more advanced deeper laying midfielder’ role, I am going to use the term ‘the Lynchpin’ from now on in this post.

The Lynchpin links up our (mainly) defensive players with our (mainly) attacking players. If he does his job well then defence and attack are linked up seamlessly in the middle. The Lynchpin needs to be able to help out the defence when under extreme pressure: read the game well, positioning himself cleverly, win back balls, hold on to balls, simple and effective passing of the ball, and the most difficult skills of all: being able to break through a wall of oppositional pressing, move the play forward quickly with either a simple pass, a powerful run (utilising the space in front of him), or delivering a penetrating pass to an advanced attacking player as quickly as possible.

On a good day, Diaby can play that role to perfection. He was so good against Liverpool that I almost cried of joy. It seems a long time ago, but Jack Wilshere is another player who can play this role to near perfection. He was, for example, one of the key players responsible for that memorable home ‘turn-around’ win against Barcelona two seasons ago.

Although we are blessed to have two such great players, we all know that they are both very prone to injury. I am convinced that if either of them had played for us the whole of last season, we would have done so much better. And their fitness is likely to make or break our season also this time round.

Diaby is out for three weeks and JW10 is still not ready for full-on first team football; so who should Arsene select in the Linchpin position for the next two games against Olympiakos and West Ham?

Rosicky is also still injured, so he is not an option. Coquelin is a possibility but he is still inexperienced and I am not sure whether this role is the right one for him. Coquelin could be slotted into Arteta’s deeper laying role and Arteta could move into the Lynchpin role. But we need the security and stability of Arteta as the main protector of our defence and I am also not sure he has all it takes for the Lynchpin role.

The Ox is an option but I reckon he is still too inexperienced for such a big role, and he is probably not strong enough (yet) defensively.

The most obvious candidate is Aaron Ramsey, but he struggled to get a grip of the Lynchpin role against Chelsea on Saturday. I reckon Aaron is the perfect attacking midfielder in a classic 4-4-2, but in our system he is not allowed enough time and space to control our games. I like Aaron, though, and he had a good game against Citeh in that position, especially in the latter stages of the game. So maybe he should get another chance against Olympiakos and West Ham in that pivotal position.

A good alternative to consider is moving Cazorla in the Lynchpin role, and play Podolski or Arshavin in the creative midfield position. I personally like the sound of that, although I am not sure how he would cope with the defensive side of things, especially against a very physical side like West Ham on Saturday.

And then finally, we could consider moving Vermaelen into midfield as a classic DM ‘bruiser’, and play two attack-minded midfielders in front of him; say, Arteta and Cazorla, or Cazorla and the Ox. It would be just like we did against Milan at home, with Song in that role and both the Ox and Rosicky in front of him. Although I would like that very much, I cannot see Arsene changing the system so much right now.

So, plenty alternatives, but who do you think should get the all important Lynchpin role in the next two games?

Total Arsenal.