In recent weeks I’ve heard rumours bandied about regarding Arsenal’s transfer business and what we need in the summer; top of that list is supposedly a striker and centre midfielder. It’s hard to deny that we need a new striker to add both quality and depth to the team but I don’t think the need for a centre midfielder is as pertinent as some would have us believe.
Arsenal have been incredibly unlucky with injuries this season (do we intentionally train underneath ladders or smash mirrors with stray shots?), something which is surely not lost on anyone who watches or follows football. Our biggest loss has arguably been Aaron Ramsey, the form player for the first half of the season. His box to box runs, his passing and scoring form propelled us to the top of the league and he would certainly be our talisman in the middle of the park if he was available. Now hopefully, fingers crossed there are no reoccurrences or setbacks, he should be back for the remainder of the season before having a nice long holiday and a proper preseason, given that Wales won’t be competing in the summer. We can expect to see him in centre midfield next season, bossing games and scoring goals.
That leaves us with a holding midfield role and I truly think we have three players who can do the job fantastically well. Firstly we have a personal favourite of mine, Flamini; he is a tenacious tackler, a dogged fighter and someone who will shout and scream his way through a match. He is not a typical Arsenal player and I sometimes wonder why Wenger doesn’t play him more often but I feel this may be due to Arteta’s stature as club captain. With all his traits in mind and his experience from his spell at Milan I think he is the perfect Yin to Ramsey’s Yang.
Arteta, someone Wenger converted to a holding midfielder, offers us something slightly different from Flamini, by using his experience to fill the right area of the pitch, intercepting passes and recycling possession, much in the way Carrick does for United. He is a truly understated and underappreciated player and someone I feel fans have neglected somewhat this season, forgetting many of his excellent performances last year. I can see him playing a reduced role next year by playing in rotation, his experience and leadership should prove invaluable in big games and coming off the bench to kill games off.
Finally we have Wilshere, the main reason I don’t think we will dip into the transfer market for a midfielder. Wilshere has been heralded, by some overeager fans and a hyperbolic media, as the future of Arsenal Football Club and the savior of English football. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree as he certainly has the potential to do it but also has a great number of flaws in his game. With a suspect injury record it is hard to place too much burden on a player of his fragile frame; in addition I think flaws in his current game include his decision making, reckless tackling and a propensity for giving away possession in key areas; but it is his raw, unrefined talent for picking the ball up, riding challenges and orchestrating attacks via intricate flicks and sublime pieces of control that make him such a mouthwatering prospect. Ozil is clearly our number 10 and Ramsey has nailed down the box to box position in midfield; I think if Wilshere is looking to play centrally, which a player of his ability should, he will have to start to adapt his game. It will be a slow process but with Arteta and Flamini working alongside him each day he can learn the intricacies of a position that is somewhat alien to him whilst holding onto the characteristics that have thrust him into the nations footballing spotlight.
We have heard from Wenger time and again about killing another player’s development by buying a readymade version and I simply can’t see Wenger doing this with a player that symbolizes the Wenger style of play so much. I think Wenger see’s Ramsey and Wilshere as a midfield duo for the future, using their energy and work rate to provide a platform for Arsenal’s attacking play to thrive upon for years to come.
The team came very close this year to mounting a real title challenge and our efforts were finally curtailed when injuries mounted and form faded, so there is no need to overhaul a potentially very strong team. Rather, there is a need for stability and with so much change on the horizon with the potential departures of Sagna, Vermaelen, Bendtner (not a terrible departure by any means) and Fabianski and the arrival of a third choice centre back, a new right back, a striker and the usual promotion from within I think it would prove difficult to add a new centre midfielder when we are already well stocked in that area.
I know that people will clamour for new signings as they make us feel warm and fuzzy inside but let us not forget how Ramsey transformed himself in the space of 6 months to become one of the best players in the league; we may not see the same transformation in Wilshere but I think Wenger will give him time to fulfill his potential.
Til next time,