Note: The author wrote this article before Tomas Rosicky picked up his injury
With the additions of Messer's Ozil and Flamini over a long drawn out transfer window Wenger must now decide how he will set up his team for the forthcoming season. It’s difficult to pinpoint the role either player will play without currently looking at the attributes and strengths of our current players.
At the start of the season, many would have argued that Ramsey and Arteta would have played as a double pivot in midfield; Arteta would drop deep, picking the ball of our centre backs and begin attacks from there, his metronomic passing allowing for a fluid transition from defence to attack, whilst Ramsey would perform the tireless running, bounding from box to box, harassing and chasing opposing players and hopefully popping up with the odd goal.
In front of them would arguably have been Rosicky or Wilshere; I for one don’t believe Wilshere is suited to the number 10 role and prefer to see him playing a lot deeper. He doesn’t have the vision or technique to quite play in that role yet and he is wasted as a box to box style player. I think Wilshere himself is not quite sure where his future lies but for the time being I see him being used in rotation with Ramsey and possibly in the number 10 position. I see no problem with this as he is sure to start plenty of games given how many times we play and the likely injuries and suspensions a team accrue over a season. Rosicky for me can play at number 10 or as one of the double pivot as he has the know how and the ability to play anywhere in and across the midfield.
Many at the start of the season would have suggested that Carzola play number 10 but I had a feeling that Wenger would utilize the diminutive Spaniard out wide and let him drift, tormenting defence and midfield at the same time. I think this was proved correct when we saw Podolski fail to start in the first few games.
Lastly I believe Walcott was always nailed on for the right wing as he is so clinical when he makes them darting runs between the left back and centre back and seems to have struck up an understanding with our handsome French centre forward.
With Arteta currently injured, I am curious to see whether Wenger gives Flamini a starting berth or plumps for Wilshere or Rosicky. In the Villa game, Wilshere and Ramsey struggled to connect in midfield and their lack of understanding led to Villa’s third goal. And whilst I find it hard to believe that two professional footballers with their remarkable talent cannot play together, I do think a more senior head is required alongside one of the duo. In years gone by we have made the mistake of surrounding young players with other young players and seen them collapse under pressure; this season we have three experienced international midfielders in Arteta, Rosicky and Flamini who can accompany them. With Arteta currently sidelined, Flamini and Rosicky have a chance to break into the team. For me Rosicky, whilst a fantastic player, is suited to playing higher up the pitch and may not be able to resist joining the attack with Ramsey, leaving us exposed to the counter. Flamini, on the other hand, offers a doggedness and hard hitting style of play we haven’t seen since…well since Flamini of 2008. He is tenacious in the tackle, marshals the team well and breaks down attacks. We have not had a player of his controlled aggression for a long time, and I say controlled because I have seen Wilshere dive in for a few tackles and been lucky not to have seen red. Flamini, whilst his energy and hard hitting tackles are certainly attributes we have missed, he is also smart, knowing when to foul a player and in what area of the pitch as to not allow the team to get caught out. For me, he is the solution while Arteta is sidelined, but Wenger could opt to change it given the opposition or whether we are playing at home or not. In Flamini and Ramsey we have two players with bundles of energy, one of which is disciplined and will sit while the other will connect defence and attack through his tireless running and improved passing.
As we come to the number 10 role, I think it is safe to say we have three very strong contenders. All three players, Carzola, Rosicky and Ozil prefer to play centrally but you do not spend £42 million pounds on a playmaker and not play him in his favoured position. Wenger will look to play a trio of Carzola, Ozil and Walcott whenever possible with Ozil in the middle and Carzola drifting in from the left. But what does this mean for our style of play?
Firstly, Ozil being left footed will occasionally drift right of the midfield duo and pick up that little pocket of space, in these scenario’s defenders will either have to push up and try stem the attack or have midfield try crowd him out. If the defenders decide to push up, this could leave an alleyway for Walcott to exploit; he has done this quite a lot this season but our midfield have not been quick enough to see it to make the pass, Ozil has the required vision and ability to play a weighted ball through and create the goalscoring chances that I hope Walcott will gobble up. If the midfield decide to crowd him out, this gives Carzola and Ramsey space to drive into and hopefully collect the ball before unleashing a shot, playing a one two with Giroud or bringing our wide players into play. As Carzola begins to drift inside, we should see Gibbs overlapping to greater effect. He was quick to strike up an understanding with Podolski and should do the same again with Carzola; both should compliment each other well with Carzola offering trickery and guile and Gibbs offering speed and directness.
The biggest benefactors of the Ozil transfer look to be Carzola and Walcott; in too many games last year Carzola was man marked or sometimes had two players on him. With Ozil in the side, teams cannot afford to team up on the diminutive Spaniard and will spend too much time worrying about the German playmaker allowing Carzola the freedom and space to dictate play. In addition, Walcott, whilst rarely targeted as Arsenal’s main threat, was our top goalscorer last year; his biggest strength is undeniably his pace and his finishing but his timing of runs has improved incredibly this year, with Ozil in the squad there will be less emphasis on him to beat a man and greater encouragement on him to continue to make runs between centre back and fullback.
Last year with a forward three of Podolski, Walcott and Giroud we were far too one dimensional, all offered power or pace but none had a trick to go past a player, the brains to orchestrate a move or the vision to find a pass. This now changes with the introduction of Ozil behind Giroud and the inclusion of Santi on the left. There is a beautiful mixture of brains, power, technique, guile and even work rate there.
It is truly exciting to see the effect that Ozil and to a lesser degree Flamini will have on the squad and whilst this may seem like I am looking at everything through rose tinted glasses I think come May we will be happy with how the team have progressed.
Mean Lean's Response
Lovely article John, agree with pretty much all of the above.
I have to say, our midfield looks incredibly strong right now, probably the strongest it has been for many years. That is not just first choice options but in terms of depth. This is not even to factor in the quite obvious talents in Zelalem and Crowley a few years down the line hopefully.
Having long term injuries to players of the quality of Arteta and Diaby would normally mean a large hole in the squad but this is not the case. Since you have written this piece, Tomas Rosicky is the latest to have been dealt a bad hand by the cruel injury gods. You would imagine that Tomas would be relegated to squad member since the arrival of Özil which makes sense even if I am one of Rosicky's biggest fans. I just hope there is a place for Cazorla, Rosicky and Özil on the pitch at the same time. It may be when a team comes to the Emirates without any ambition to come out and play but those three could make sweet music together on the pitch. I suspect I will be waiting a while to see that happen or perhaps not at all though.
I agree that Jack does not yet have a position, at least not a fixed position. His biggest enemy at present is injury, once he can string a run of games together then he will do a Ramsey but just in his own way and we will see big things from him.
I am interested to see what happens to the deepest midfield position. Arteta has been superb in that role but now that he is out, his position is open to someone who can grab the bull by the horns. When Gilberto was injured at the start of 2007/08 a certain lad called Flamini did just that.