I like to clear things up so I’ll start by saying I’m not trying to defend Arsene as I’m still baffled at how he refused to bring in a top quality shield in the summer, especially since we seem to favour 4-1-4-1.
However, the issue of Arsenal needing a defensive midfielder has been somewhat overrated in the sense that a lot believe if we purchase a screener who’s capable of bullying Nemanja Matic, all our problems would be solved.
While I’d love us to intimidate some Chelsea players I would be realistic, and point out that lacking a defensive midfielder isn’t our only problem. (We could get him and he’ll unfortunately rupture his knee ligaments like Javi Martinez).
Seriously, there’s no guarantee that we would stop conceding silly goals if we do sign one. Just like how we’re still struggling to create the required number of chances despite adding Campbell, Sanchez and Welbeck to the attack this summer. This brings me to my next point.
Where have the chances gone to?
Since the second half of last season, I’ve noticed a worrying steady reduction of chances created by Arsenal, taking into consideration the amount of individual creativity we possess.
Aside the Galatasaray win where we made proper use of our strengths, I’m not quite sure we’ve elevated our game to the fifth gear in the last six months.
However, it wasn’t so costly back then because any player could step up and have a brief defining moment which would hand us a 2-0 victory. To be honest I wasn’t always pleased but kept quiet nonetheless.
Now it’s becoming more frustrating as we don’t have the defensive efficiency to make up for the non-existent chances. While I’m worried about the way we’re shipping in goals (trust me I am), the few number of clear cut chances we create in most games still gives a greater degree of uneasiness.
It was partly due to this reason that I called for Arsenal to adjust to a system that could accommodate more attacking players, rather than sacrificing a maestro for a handicapped defensive midfielder. Sadly, this doesn’t look likely to happen at the moment.
A new defensive Per.
Back to the defensive side of things, reprimanding Mertesacker might seem like taking advantage of the moment, but I think we should be looking for a quicker partner for Koscielny, with Per’s weaknesses starting to overshadow his strengths. That’s aside the small issue of Koscielny already approaching 30; a year which almost certainly begins to reduce the pace of players.
I understand the need for balance in defence and the Per-scielny partnership has been excellent in the last few years (to the extent that they forced out our ex-captain) but we need an upgrade on the German if we want to cope better with the demands of the EPL.
A defender who possesses impressive qualities such as presence, cultured aggression, awareness and an all round technical ability are all attributes of modern day centre-backs and Arsenal need theirs. Someone intelligent enough to consistently close down the space created by our overlapping left-backs; an area which continues to be exploited by many of our opponents.
Also, when you consider the fact that Arsene sees Calum Chambers in a midfield role in future, it’s not over-optimistic to envisage a centre-back in his early 20’s as Arsenal’s next defensive addition. But he must be given the chance to challenge our first choice centre-backs.
It would also be refreshing to have three top centre-backs who are all dangerous on set-pieces; although I still feel we should have a couple more effective players in the air, regardless of their height.
Welcome back, Theo.
Last season, I noticed a slight improvement in Theo Walcott’s game. He seemed to be more than willing to get on the end of crosses with his head! It didn’t pay off too often and he registered only a single headed goal – his second strike at West Ham on Boxing day.
However, the fact that he has seen this part of his game as a possible means of giving his style another dimension pleases me. He also seems to have added a few muscles and I believe this will begin to pay-off the moment he catches up with the pacy league that has left him behind.
Hopefully his return will aid in giving us that extra dimension of directness that we’ve lacked for a while now. Our current fit midfielders in Cazorla, Chamberlain, Ramsey and Wilshere are all more than capable of slipping him in as history suggests. While Sanchez and Welbeck can keep enjoying their partnership cycles and possibly create room for one more partner.
It’s too soon to discover the real identity of this team as they’ve only been able to showcase their collective strength in patches. Injuries haven’t helped but I think the management knew since the summer that we would always have players sidelined one way or the other.
Despite these piling injuries, I guess we would only be able to make a proper evaluation of the team when we sign a defensive midfielder and centre-half but Arsene also needs to realise that the efficiency in the final third could do with some systematic bolstering.