Squad analysis: Part 2 - Midfield
Part 2 of 3 - Michael Strevens and Adam Pembrey review the shape of of Arsenal's midfield unit assessing the depth and quality of the deep lying and central midfielders. Part 1 looked at the defence and Part 3 will review the Forwards.
Adam Pembrey's review:
Centre midfield is for me the area with the most uncertainty. Will Frimpong provide able backup to Song? Can they play together? Will Arteta fill the void left by Cesc? How long is Wilshere going to be out for?
With so many unanswered questions it's difficult to say how satisfied I am with the options. IF Wilshere is fit in 2 months and IF Arteta steps up quickly and Ramsey finds his form and Frimpong pushes Song hard for a starting place then I think we are laughing. However if Wilshere is out for a while, Ramsey continues to struggle, Arteta takes a while settle in and continues to be plauged by injuries then we could be in trouble.
I was hoping Diaby and Rosicky would be moved on but that hasn't been possible for a number of reasons. There are a lot of players ahead of both of them now so hopefully their appearnces will be sporadic and in fairness both can offer something on occasion.
I'm actually very happy with our options out wide. We have seen very little of Gervinho of course however he has shown a lot of promise. He seems capable of going at players, ging past them and finding his man, or testing the keeper. He appears to be quite direct and savvy with his runs as well which should start to pay off soon.
Benayoun is another guy with question marks hanging over him. What is his fitness like? has he lost a yard of pace? Is he the new Rosicky? What I like about the Benayoun signing is that its fairly low risk. He is on loan so we haven't paid much of a fee, we have lot's of others who can play in his position and he has lot's of Premiership experience so homesickness, lack of adapting won't be an issue. Also and most importantly I feel he is a talented player who will add something to our attacking play.
Walcott seem's to be improving steadily over the last 18 months, he is quite the threat now. He has made no secret of the fact that he wants to play up front and I'd like to see it too which is why I'll speak about him in part 3 tomorrow.
Arshavin does seem to have gone off the boil but he still has quality and can still add something to the team. Behind them we have two exciting young players in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ryo who I hope we see plenty off this year. They have both shown what they can do to an extent already, Ryo in Holland and Chamberlain for England U-21's.
I'd be interested to see if we stick with the 4-1-4-1 formation this season or if we revert at times to 4-4-2, I think the personnel we have now are capable of thriving in both.
Michael Strevens' review:
How do you replace the irreplaceable? The answer is you can’t, at least not directly. The team was built around Cesc Fabregas for five years and now he is gone, the way we play will inevitably have to change. Wenger has a difficult balance to strike in midfield. He has to find a way of adding some solidity whilst compensating for the creativity we have inevitably lost as a result of Cesc’s departure.
I am delighted with the signing of Mikel Arteta. Not only do we have a player with vast experience and quality, but someone who is desperate to prove himself on the biggest stage. He will be expected to slot right in and supply the ammunition to the forwards. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long before he is joined by Jack Wilshere.
Jack should be at the heart of our team for many years, but we are paying the price for over-playing him over the last year and he must be allowed all the time he needs to recover from his injury. Whilst he is unavailable, I would like to see Alex Song and Emmanuel Frimpong play behind Arteta or Aaron Ramsey, especially away from home when the back-four need extra protection. It could well add the steel we’ve been lacking since the days when Patrick Vieira linked up with Emmanuel Petit and Gilberto to such devastating effect.
Yossi Benayoun could be a very shrewd short-term addition as he can play in the middle and out wide. It gives us the option to rotate if we need to and eases the pressure on Aaron Ramsey who has already played a lot of football for club and country this season.
Elsewhere, we have Tomas Rosicky who did so well against Udinese then struggled badly at Old Trafford (along with everyone else). His Arsenal career has never quite taken off, but he is still a useful player to have around the dressing room.
I'm not sure the same can be said for Andrey Arshavin whose good days have long been outnumbered by the bad ones. We all know he is capable of changing a game in a second, but he rarely shows any stomach for the fight when things are going against us.
Finally, spare a thought for forgotten man Abou Diaby. Any contribution he can make will be a bonus, as his injury curse shows no sign of lifting soon. It will be intriguing to see how the new-look midfield shapes up over the coming months. Even though we lost one of the best midfielders in the world, the blend looks about right for the first time in years.
Read Part 1 - Defence
Read Part 3 - Forwards
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