Amid talks of strikers and defenders being monitored, bids being prepared, agents being called (wasn’t that illegal?) and big money being amassed, there’s very little talk about a handful of players who already are at the Club and could have a massive impact in the upcoming season.
Outshone by Aaron Ramsey’s stunning performances at EURO 2016 and the consequent tactical debate, penalised by unfortunate injuries which kept them out of action for too long and undeservedly cast aside by the much-anticipated arrival of Granit Xhaka, three men are currently paying the highest price for this summer of international football and transfer speculation.
…but, who are they?
After picking up an odd injury against Norwich City back in November 2015, the midfield artist has only played in the final game of last season and has since slipped into forgottenland among Arsenal fans; guilty of not being available for long time, the former Villarreal and Málaga man is constantly being overlooked by fans, pundits and experts who play the ever-favourite game of predicting the Arsenal ideal XI for 2016/2017.
Despite his unique profile of two-footed, inspired and composed playmaker, Santi Cazorla looks destined for a supporting role instead of his original status of orchestra director. Why?
We should not forget how much the team performances have dropped since his injury and how difficult it was to move the ball from the back to the forwards, in his absence; we suddenly struggled to feed Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez and our offensive players with decent passes, we suddenly started to show difficulties to play acceptable football and often looked short of ideas and febrile on the ball.
Of course, in Granit Xhaka we got a player who can pull the strides and move the ball around but the Swiss isn’t the most mobile player and surely doesn’t have Santi Cazorla’s close control and smart use of lower body.
Asking Granit Xhaka to be the only source of play from within our third would mean replicating the error that perhaps cost us the title, last year – why would Arsène Wenger take the risk?
Talking about mobility and clever use of a football, the name of Mohamed Elneny should automatically spring to minds – yet it doesn’t.
Having arrived from FC Basel during last winter’s transfer window, the Egyptian took very little time to adapt and had an immediate impact on the team’s dynamics. Virtually faultless on the ball, always keen on providing a passing solution of his teammates and tirelessly covering every inch of the pitch, the midfielder have shown all the marks of a great signing, one of those that Arsène Wenger used to make regularly…
For some reason, he’s not rated as highly as he should be.
His neat, simple style of play often makes him “disappear” from the pitch and you will hardly see Mohamed Elneny going into a marauding run or playing an audacious through-ball, he will instead look for the best passing option and run to the most effective position on the pitch, to assist his teammates – exactly what a central midfielder should do.
While Aaron Ramsey grabs the headlines with his impetuous style, Santi Cazorla stuns the crowd with his technique, Jack Wilshere fights against his body and the whole world and Francis Coquelin goes into another powerful tackle, Mohamed Elneny could quietly and effectively win a place alongside Granit Xhaka in midfield.
From being another youngster who failed to make the grade to a mainstay in the first-team, Francis Coquelin has lived quite a remarkable year; you know the story already, so I’m not going to tell you how the Frenchman managed to rescue his career in a relatively short amount of time.
He’s been one of our best performers between December 2014 and January 2016, then an injury struck and he lost his magic touch – together with the starting berth in midfield.
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Probably the one who suffered the most from Santi Cazorla’s absence, the former Lorient and Charlton loanee has seen his tactical flaws exposed both by Aaron Ramsey’s anarchy and Mohamed Elneny’s composure.
The recent struggles shouldn’t cancel all the good things that Francis Coquelin has brought to the team, tho: he’s still the best tackler and interceptor at the team, still one of the finest defensive midfielders in the Premier League and – at 25 years-old – he could improve a lot.
Don’t bin the Coq yet!
We will need his ferociousness and desire next season as much as he’ll need his more-experienced teammates advice to finally become more composed and less naive – to avoid silly mistakes like the red card picked at White Hart Lane.
I’ve been quite harsh on him in some of my articles and I plead guilty of overlooking his tenacity. Towards the end of last season he’s been requested to perform a role that was not his and paid the highest price; he needs an established, disciplined midfielder next to him to shine and give the best to the team, someone he can drop the ball to and someone who can offer balance for his over-enthusiastic approach.
Aaron Ramsey can’t be that man but Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny and Santi Cazorla can – to Francis Coquelin’s great benefit.
Don’t forget these names, then, they might come extremely good.
If we only had the same options upfront…