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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why a Tough Midfielder Is Really The Last Thing Arsenal Needs

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Why a Tough Midfielder Is Really The Last Thing Arsenal Needs

I'm sure you've heard it all before. Arsenal's midfield lacks bite. Arsene Wenger never replaced Gilberto, Flamini and Vieira, and as such, there is a gaping hole in the midfield that needs to be filled with a tough-tackling, gritty player.

Is there much truth to the above statements though? My opinion is that while a tough-tackling midfielder would fit into most teams, this is a type of player that Arsenal does not really need.

Judging by performances from this season and last, Arsenal has two big problems. One of them is that they cannot unlock teams that play all 11 men behind the ball and scrap for a draw as if their lives depended on it. The other problem is that they tend to be bullied aerially, especially in defence.

The first problem can be solved in two ways. The first way is the Arsenal way, that is, find more creativity, somehow, either by buying a new player, or promoting someone from the reserves. By introducing a new threat that teams are not quite sure how to prepare for, this increases the number of goalscoring chances, and in turn, the number of goals. Our struggles were clear this season, when they failed to get chances against the likes of Fulham, Wigan, Sunderland, and many more. It is no coincidence that Arshavin's arrival has sparked Arsenal back into form, as he has opened defences up with his unpredictable running and passing.

The second way is to bypass the packed defence by lumping the ball into the area, and hoping a big man up front wins the ball in the air. I think this is a style totally unsuitable for Arsenal, as they do not have the personnel required for this.

So, assuming Arsenal go by the first way, which is to find more creativity within the team, a tough midfielder is really the last thing Arsenal needs. As of now, Wenger usually plays Adebayor/Bendtner as one of the striking pair, and both of them don't really add to the creativity department. That leaves Van Persie, Arshavin, Fabregas and Denilson as the sources of creativity. Should Arsenal get a tough midfielder, then this reduces their creativity, as Denilson is the likely one to be replaced. In most of their games, they are knocking on their opponents' door for the duration of the 90 minutes, and their opponents rarely venture forward, so I do not see any use for a defensive midfielder to shore up the defence.

The other problem Arsenal has is at the defensive end. They tend to be bullied aerially, as evidenced against Stoke City and any other team with tall players. This is obviously a problem with the centre-backs, who are both not tall enough to cope with such a threat. Gallas and Toure are both good covering defenders, but they desperately need someone who can win more battles in the air.

Once again, it's difficult to see how having a tough-tackling midfielder will help here, as teams often bypass Arsenal's midfield by thumping it straight up to their burly strikers.

I think what Arsenal really need is a centre-back tall enough to improve their aerial presence at the back, and I honestly do believe that is the final piece of the jigsaw to make them a regular contender for top-spot in the coming seasons.

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