Why Arsenal Not Signing A Class Defensive-Mid Will End In Disaster
When Chelsea’s signing of Cesc Fabreags was confirmed, I was very upset, yet also very excited; upset, as one of my favourite ever Arsenal players was set to don that hideous Chelsea blue, but excited to see what Arsene had up his sleeve. Surely, having passed up on the opportunity to bring his footballing son back to Arsenal, fellow Arsenal fans could expect big movement in the transfer window?
In fairness, Wenger did purchase some excellent players in this summer window. Alexis Sanchez has already shown he’s capable of bringing his Barcelona form to the Premier League, Calum Chambers is certainly an exciting prospect and Danny Welbeck’s departure from Manchester United made their fans so upset that he’s already a successful signing in my eyes. But we didn’t get a defensive midfielder. And That’s REALLY bad.
Speculation regarding William Carvalho lasted all summer but came to nothing, and Southampton seemed reluctant to sell Morgan Schneiderlin after having their squad decimated this summer (and spectacularly ending up with a better team, I hasten to add). Sami Khedira seemed close to Arsenal at one point, but his wage demands allegedly led to a collapse in negotiations. It was clear from the start of the window that Arsenal desperately needed a defensive midfielder, and to not buy one was extremely poor management to say the least.
The new system that Arsenal have started with this season also makes the lack of stability in midfield a massive issue. Seemingly switching from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1, the problems with this new system were highlighted on Tuesday after an embarrassing performance in Dortmund. With Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey acting as the “pivot” in midfield, Mikel Arteta was left with very little support defensively, due to Wilshere and Ramsey’s attacking mindedness. Borussia Dortmund’s speed on the counter attack coupled with Arsenal’s fragility in midfield was exposed for both Dortmund goals, and Arsenal were only spared a thrashing by Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s lack of composure in front of goal.
The defeat against Borussia Dortmund didn’t actually show that Mikel Arteta is a bad midfielder; I think it showed that Arsenal need an extremely good and mobile one. In this 4-1-4-1 system, the sole holding midfield player needs to posses an array of skills, one of which is purely mobility and ability to cover the full back areas (especially due to their need to provide the width due to Arsenal’s lack of “real” wingers). Arteta is a terrific passer and he’s been very good for Arsenal in his time at the club, but neither him nor Mathieu Flamini have the physical attributes to occupy that holding role.
In a recent interview, Patrick Vieira said that Arsene Wenger’s biggest strength and weakness was his “faith in his players”. I think the lack of midfield signings despite the abundance of money in the bank shows that Wenger’s faith in Arteta and Flamini may be a sign of “weakness” (whisper it quietly, but I think Arsene Wenger is still hoping for the return of Abou Diaby). Will this huge faith in his players cost Arsenal top 4? Probably not. Will there be a title challenge from North London this season? Probably not.