Arsenal need a defensive midfielder, not Clement Grenier

Gunners Town Scouting report on Clement Grenier by our French correspondent Global Gooner contribution from Vincent Fabre better known to many on Twitter and to French Gooners as @Grooverblog. Vincent has run an Arsenal blog in France for many years.

He is our Editor in Chief Dave Seager’s go to contact for all things French that effect our beloved Arsenal. So who else would we go to for a scouting report on Clement Grenier who by Arsene Wenger’s own words has been linked to a move to the Arsenal.

He is a young and talented player, with a lot of skill on the ball. He reminds me for some part a bit of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.”We follow him, that’s true.” A few words from Arsène Wenger and Arsenal fans were discovering Clément Grenier.  First of all, short lesson of french : “Clément” should be pronounced something like “Klay-man” (with a “close sound” at the end) and “Grenier” is the exact translation of “attic”. So, put attic in google translate, and try the “audio spelling option”. Here we go.Grenier is 22, right-footed and has spent his (short) football time in Olympique Lyonnais. He joined the Lyon Academy in 2002, and improved year by year before becoming a pro in 2009.

During the major part of his scholar time, the Academy was headed by former Gunner Remi Garde, a long time student of Wenger, at Arsenal but also in Monaco. I don’t think we need to explain the way Garde is choosing and teaching his pupils, but for those of you who have doubts, be sure that it’s really not far from the Wenger’s way : skillful players who love to play and moving/passing forward with the ball. In 2011, Remi Garde became first-team head coach, and in his long-time plan to make a competitive team, he instinctively chose several of his best former students to built his starting XI. One of the first he put in his list was Clément Grenier. Not surprisingly though, it was the moment Grenier started to improve; becoming a regular of the first team. 30 games in 2011-2012, for a total of one goal and four assists, and a victory in the French Cup. In 2012-2013, Grenier played 32 games, scoring seven goals and making eight assists, playing as creative midfielder in Lyon’s 4-3-3, alongside Maxime Gonalons and Steed Malbranque.

An interesting fact is that Clément Grenier has a lot to share with these two players: Gonalons was a teammate in the Academy, and the 33 years old Malbranque was himself a product of the same Academy, started his career in late 90’s as. creative midfielder. Grenier regular season stats show how important was in contribution in Lyon’s third place. With an average 33.5 passes, 74.1 rate of success and 1.6 key pass per game he also get the best cross ratio, with 1.6 per game and second best accurate long ball with 1.7. This line puts him in the top flight of his team, and second best of a midfield panel composed of experienced players like Malbranque or Gourcuff (who, to be fair, struggled with injuries during a large part of the season). But as you know, stats are only a part of the truth. And talking about truth, only the field can show you the best part.

I watched a lot of Lyon games this season, and I must admit Malbranque and Grenier were the two players who seduce me the most, especially by the way they drive the ball so easily. Sunderland and Fulham fans still remember Malbranque as a beautiful player, and despite a late injury in the season, he bossed Lyon’s midfield several times. It was clear, game after game, Grenier’s improvement was mainly due to this partnership. The young player learned fast and learned well but also showed his own skills.

One of the most impressive is what I like to call “head-up display” : no matter what happened, how many players chasing him, the pressure, his head is always up, his eyes seeking for a solution before calmly giving a pass. This is the main aspect that I think we can put close to a Fabregas style of play: the way Grenier is reading the game with always a leap ahead the others, the ability to “freeze the time” in a heartbeat.

Another interesting (and spectacular) skills is Grenier strong shot. A large part of football fans have seen his deadly free-kicks against Nice and Rennes, or his long-range strike against Montpellier. There, again, is a story of learning. As a young scholar, Clément Grenier used to train with the first team, and most specifically with a famous brazilian player named Juninho Pernambucano, a player Thierry Henry defines as: “the best free kick striker I saw in my entire life”. Grenier used to watch again and again Juninho’s training sessions, analysing and trying to reproduce the movement. This shows most of Grenier’s behavior as a football player: talent is great part, but the research of experience, the ability to learn from the others in order to improve his own game is a rare and vital skill for a young lad.

These are a few of the reasons why I think Grenier could fit perfectly in Arsenal style, and, no doubt, one of the main reasons the boss has an eye on him. But, to be fair, I must say Clément Grenier can’t be the type of player we need now, assuming Arsenal is in despair about a real, strong, defensive midfielder. The young Frenchman is not that type, with poor defensive qualities. On the other hand, with an addition of a Capoue or a Gonalons, Grenier can be one of the masterminds of Arsenal, creating and learning alongside talented players like Cazorla or Rosicky.

Vincent Fabre  


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5 Responses to Arsenal need a defensive midfielder, not Clement Grenier

  1. Attila Takos June 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    First of all, Grenier’s signing would not rule out signing a defensive midfielder. Rosicky and Arteta won’t get any younger but as they are still remain with us for one more season, Grenier would have a chance to learn and gain experience from them. Normally, he wouldn’t be under severe pressure to perform, and regarding his contract situation, we have an extremely good chance to lure him.

    Secondly, I disagree with the thesis. As we saw in the run-in stage of the last season, Arteta and Ramsey – pure CMs – did wonderful jobs in terms of defending or help the defenders – while they were able to contribute to our attacks as well. It’s all about the right discipline, and commitment. It would be a huge luxury and waste of one place in the line-up to sign a proper defensive midfielder.

    No doubt, Grenier would have to learn a lot how to defend as a pure CM in the Premier League, but if Wenger believes that he is the right man, we should accept it.

  2. Studio7group June 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    I agree with you as he will not have an impact right now, however Rosisky won’t be able to play an entire league and Cazorla do have a couple of season at his maximum, Grenier could be introduce slowly and then join the first team full time in a couple of season. If we can get him for 10m then it’s a bargain for that type of player.

  3. frank_spencer@rocketmail.com June 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Nice article. I also remember Malbranque with fond memories, especially while at Fulham.

    I’m not convinced on the need for a DM at all. The team, in the formation used in the last 11 games or so, looked incredibly solid defensively, all while under pressure. The Arteta – Ramsey partnership looked strong. Arteta himself is a solid player, and actually above average in all aspects (making many interceptions and takcles and rarely giving away possession). Ramsey is the best tackler at Arsenal, and one of the best in the PL. Critically this team formation cut down the number

  4. Erasto Mbugi June 2, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Greinier is good player, but where does the words ‘a kind of player arsenal need now’ comes from. Can’t Arsenal sign him together with a defensive midfield as well as a defender and a striker? To be sincere, Arsenal need about 5 players which could mean Greinier is among them. Let us be not narrow minded by focusing on single player’s signing but a group of quality players who can add quality to the existing squad!

  5. Groover June 2, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    Thanks to you all for your comments.

    As I said, even if I highly rate Clement Grenier, I don’t think we need. But, as Studio7 pointed it, catching the player for 10-12 M of £ can be a real bargain. Because Grenier is, I assume, Arsenal material without any doubt.
    Attila pointed Arteta and Ramsey’s work, wich was undoubtedly massive. I spend a lot of time backing Ramsey during hard times, and i really enjoyed to see him become a pivotal player this season. But truth is we showed a huge lack of pressing in many games. We also allowed too many long range shot from the opponent. For all this reasons, we must find a player to protect both our defense and our midfield. Grenier, alone, is not that type of player, but Gonalons is, for example. I’m really doubt we can catch both of them (Lyon’s owner is very tough while negociating), but that kind of combination can work

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