Forget Suarez, Arsenal's Midfield Weakness Needs Seriously Addressing

Ok, perhaps not forget the Uruguayan, but it's becoming clear that Liverpool won't budge and the weekend games showed the midfield needs some attention if silverware is to be won...
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Ok, perhaps not forget the Uruguayan, but it's becoming clear that Liverpool won't budge and the weekend games showed the midfield needs some attention if silverware is to be won...

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The headlines revolving around Arsenal may well be focused on Luis Suarez at the moment, with Gonzalo Higuain already having evaded the Gunners, but the Emirates Cup did reiterate that it’s not just a new striker that they need.

The first game against Napoli saw Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey as the two deepest central midfielders, with Tomas Rosicky operating in the hole ahead of them. Neither Wilshere or Ramsey are naturally defensive players, and both usually impress most when paired with a defensive player in midfield. Wilshere’s most impressive form for Arsenal came when Alex Song retained his discipline, while Mikel Arteta and Ramsey formed an excellent partnership last season.

One issue for Arsenal is that Arteta and Wilshere don’t seem to work as well together – Wilshere is less defensively adept than Ramsey, and seemingly less eager to do his share of the defensive work, given that his talents lie elsewhere. With Song that was okay, as the Cameroon international was a natural at shielding the defence. Arteta, however, is not, and is also aging, meaning that he’s more and more often exposed by younger players.

Alongside Ramsey, that’s not as much of an issue, as the Welshman is usually there to cover for his team-mate, but if Arteta is left for dead and is playing alongside Wilshere, it usually means that Arsenal’s defence is exposed. The same thing happened against Napoli in the Emirates Cup, and it was particularly evident for the second goal.

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Marek Hamsik strolled forward through a huge gap in the Arsenal midfield, with Ramsey and Wilshere seemingly leaving the defensive protection to each other (partly due to not having played together in front of the defence much, although hardly are defensive players by nature), and the Slovak was able to split the exposed defence to put Goran Pandev clean through.

The goal could have been prevented had Per Mertesacker or Lukasz Fabianski made better decisions, but it all stemmed from the lack of protection at the back, and the defence shouldn’t have been exposed so easily. With Arteta and Ramsey, Arsenal don’t have to worry as much, but if either one is injured and Wilshere plays in a deep role, the other will not be sufficient to protect the defence.

So it’s quite clear that Arsenal need a central midfielder: one who can cover for Arteta when he’s injured/rotate with him in order to keep him fresh, and also cover for Wilshere on the pitch and play a disciplined role. Wilshere and Ramsey both seemed to be playing the box-to-box role on Saturday, as they’re both suited to that role. What Arsenal need is a defensive minded midfielder – not necessarily a hard-man, but a disciplined player who can protect the defence and play a simple ball to more creative players.

Yann M’Vila was earmarked a season ago, and was infamously meant to be booked in for several medicals, which turned out to be Twitter nonsense in the end (surprise, surprise). However, despite his poor attitude which eventually appeared to stop the move in its tracks, he’s the type of player Arsenal could still do with, especially seeing as they have just three players, perhaps four including Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are natural central midfielders – Rosicky and Cazorla being attacking midfielders rather than playing in front of the defence. And even then, Oxlade-Chamberlain is a box-to-box player, rather than a holder, which is what Arsenal desperately need. They may be focused on Suarez, but doubtless they have other priorities too.