It’s been a while since my last blog, far too long in all honesty but the hardest part about starting again is knowing where to start. I have many issues with this current Arsenal side and particularly with Arsene Wenger – but there is one area of the pitch that irks me more than most at present. I think it needs stability and we need a clear sense of direction, so that we can maximise our potential. This is an area that when they play well, we play well but it is way too inconsistent and often in big away games it’s an area that exposes our weaknesses. Which position am I referring to? Centre-Midfield.
When Wenger adopted this formation it took him a while to fathom out what he wanted from his midfield trio. It’s worth remembering that we are supposed to take advantage of playing against a two-man centre midfield. Our strongest tactical set up is one defensive midfielder (Or i should say a centre midfielder that sits back because we can’t find a DM on this planet good enough to improve on Arteta and/or Flamini), one box to box midfielder and one attacking centre midfielder. We have gone away from this style and entered into the some hipster world that uses DIY terms to describe football formations. Take last Saturday at Sunderland for example, we played two holding players and Alexis shouldering the whole attacking responsibility. However playing two players like Arteta and Flamini against poverty opposition like Sunderland isn’t my main concern. There are a couple of issues that need resolving, particularly for the good of the team.
Jack v Aaron.
For me, it’s one or the other not both at present. A mini-Lampard v Gerrard contest if you will. At the beginning of the season it’s Ramsey’s position but now, it’s Jack’s. Ramsey has been way off the pace this season. Ridiculous flicks, coupled with some outrageously poor passing but masked by some key goals has led me to compare him to David Platt. Meanwhile Jack, with everyone hyper-analysing England’s next biggest thing has slowly gone about his role and improved game on game. Sometimes in your darkest hour you find out the true players in your side. I remember reading that George Graham used to only have potential signings watched away from home (not the Giroud sense either). This told him more about their character and their ability to work under pressure. At Chelsea recently we failed to record a shot on target, which is an absolute disgrace but it was Jack that was trying to drive things forward. It was he taking responsibly and showing the drive needed to get us back into the game. Qualities we lack on too many occasions. They want to be the same player box to box player, they both want to get ahead of the striker but as there needs to be balance and as one sits, they also lose some of their strongest attributes as well. Another factor in Aaron’s decline is the loss of Giroud. He’s proven to be a good axis for Aaron and as he is absent it appears the Welshman is struggling to adjust.
Then we move on to the next issue – Who is our attacking midfielder?
Is it Ozil, Cazorla, Alexis, Rosicky (LOL), Ox or AN Other? I’m not sure Wenger knows either. Ozil got a run out in his preferred position at Villa, played well, scored, assisted and was promptly returned back to the left wing, it was a bit like day release for him. Cazorla has probably has had his opportunities but at present his production is in the Rosicky sense – nice touches but little in the way of goals and/or assists. Then there’s Alexis, who was a breath of fresh air in that role on Saturday. Pressure from the front which complemented Welbeck extremely well. It came as no shock that his industry led to a tap in in the 91st minute. He also sees the picture well, is happy to get beyond the front man and his finishing is just something else. Look how easy he made the 1v1 on Saturday look, he’s truly world class. Will he remain there though? That remains to be seen. However, this side will need to muster an identity, this total football brand hampers our fluency, particularly with the tendency to play sideway passes instead of getting our key players in possession of the ball when a team is stretched.
I would cover DM at this point but what’s the point? You, me and the pigeons in Trafalgar Square all know we need one but it hasn’t been forthcoming for about seven or eight years. So lets leave that there.
The key to a good midfield is balance. Wenger knows that, all you have to do is look at his championship winning sides. We’re trying too hard to find answers to questions that don’t exist. At present I’d run with Arteta-Wilshere-Sanchez. Let them learn each others game and see where it takes us. Let those that feel that they are first teamers (like Aaron) earn their right to play again and not get by on reputation alone. There’s nothing more motivating in football than the fear of getting dropped but that’s never been Wenger’s forte either. We have some excellent midfielders in our squad but much like where England failed with Gerrard & Lampard, we can’t fathom out what is best for the team. It’s square pegs in round holes but our performances must improve and whilst it’s encouraging that we got six points from our last two away games I can’t help but feel a massive sense of relief that we weren’t playing anyone with an ounce of quality.
So I’ve eased myself back, thanks for reading and I hope you join me next Wednesday where I’ll be focussing on all things BFG related.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on our centre midfield. So feel if you like it, comment below.