2010-11 Season Review: Thoughts On The Midfield

As I did with the defence, I looked at my review of the midfield from last season. It isn’t as relevant now as the one about defenders was but there were a few points I could borrow,

Our midfield is integral to the way we play and the performance of the three men in the middle often decides the sharpness in our attack and the solidity of our defence.

I think our defence is strong when our midfield is alert to the threats from the opposition…

There have been quite a few games this season when the midfield has gone AWOL and we’ve seen the defenders hoofing the ball up-field only for it to return in a matter of seconds.

These are relevant points, especially the first one, but there is a lot more we can discuss with regard to the Arsenal midfield.

I guess we have to start by acknowledging that Wilshere has truly been like a big signing this season. I don’t think Wenger could have acquired that kind of quality even if he’d spent 30M or so. The youngster has offered a lot to the team with his technique, tenacity, tirelessness, and temperament.

Unfortunately, what we gained from Wilshere we lost elsewhere, perhaps more.

Cesc had a few good games but was a shadow of his self in many. He still was the best player in most of those games and that only highlights how good Fabregas is and why Arsenal need him to perform all through the season. I have said this before and will repeat it again – unless the best players in the team have seasons worthy of winning awards the club will struggle to achieve the big targets.

El Capitan wasn’t the only one who disappointed. Diaby struggled with injuries all through the season and never looked near the kind of form he showed last season when he was able to string together a run of games.

These issues were compounded by the loss of form for Rosicky who’d started brightly on the back of a good pre-season. And it got worse as the likes of Denilson and Ramsey failed to perform when called upon, albeit for different reasons. Some would say Song too had an inconsistent year and Nasri didn’t really fill in Fabregas’ shoes when required.

Now you could take that as a damning indictment of a number of players but I prefer to see it as a combination of different problems.

For instance, Nasri didn’t really play in a single position on a consistent basis. This made his work that much harder. Ramsey was coming back from injury so his inconsistency and mistakes were understandable. Song was solid for most parts even though he struggled to adapt to the rotating triangle in the early stages. Diaby suffered three horrendous tackles which is hardly his fault. With Cesc it’s difficult to judge whether the impact of injuries was higher or his mental turmoil was too much for a young mind even if he wanted to do the right thing.

If we think about it, every player has a different story to tell. Each story has some bloopers, a few disappointments, moments of quality, and reasons for hope. The problem for the manager is that he has to knit it all together and keep it going all through the season. That is where the system is so important and is an area where Arsene has struggled.

Wenger always says he has to adapt the style of play to the players he has. That is the sensible approach no doubt. But a fairly valid argument is that he has to adapt the squad he has so that he can have more flexibility in the system. This is an area where Arsenal can improve.

Due to the similar nature of so many players, Arsenal don’t really have the ability to change the style as often as necessary. The midfield tends to struggle in certain games. As mentioned above, it affects the sharpness of our attack and the solidity of our defence.

People blame the defence for conceding the four goals at Newcastle but we have to ask why the team failed to hold on to the ball in that period. Did the Barcodes suddenly morph into Barcelona to win the ball back within seconds? No, the midfield went AWOL and failed to contribute in attack or defence. Ball retention is a key aspect of both.

Of course, that will make the next season that much more complicated. If we want to play two defensive midfielders and need greater height, will Wilshere have to sit out (assuming Cesc stays)? What about Ramsey? It’s not an easy decision, is it? I will cover this further while discussing tactics and formation.

No one can honestly deny the need for greater depth in midfield. In this regard, Denilson’s desire to leave can only be a positive. Hopefully, Wenger’s interest in Phil Jones was the signal of intent that the Boss is looking for the right players to shore up the defence and midfield. I am convinced the defence will look much better if the midfield offers the right support consistently.

I’d love to see a player of the quality of a younger Michael Essien added to our squad but it’s just not easy to find that kind of talent with so many clubs around that can outspend Arsenal.

In an earlier post, I’d also mentioned that Arsenal could do with the signing of an experienced player like Seedorf. I don’t believe that is possible anymore, nor is the acquisition of Pirlo, but if Wenger can find a player of that stature it will help the younger players immensely. It doesn’t have to be someone who starts many games but just a player who can come in and make a difference in the final few minutes when the team needs greater composure and stability in defence or imagination and decisiveness in attack.

This whole discussion could be rendered meaningless if Fabregas and Nasri were to leave the club this summer. That would force the manager’s hand in the market and will also prompt a change in system. We will have a good idea about it only after the transfer window closes so I’ll refrain from speculative analysis.

For now let’s just see how the summer evolves while hoping we get a lot more from some midfielders who disappointed this season.


36 Responses to 2010-11 Season Review: Thoughts On The Midfield

  1. Jrock says:

    Interesting read! Thanks. I was look forward to reading your posts bro! Good job

  2. Jrock says:

    Interesting read! Thanks. I always look forward to reading your posts bro! Good job

  3. G4L says:

    A younger Michael Essien, hmmm … That reminds me of the time when I was so frustrated he went to Chelsea. But to be honest he has had more than his share of injury problems. Been an Arsenal player that way if you know what I mean, lol.

    I think we need an Obi Mikel more than an Essien. Wonder what happened to him. Swap deal with Nasri going the other way and us getting some cash?

    • santori says:

      Why would we want Mikel. Song is way better.

      You must be mad swapping Nasri for him. We don’t need to make that sort of deals to land our players. Sorry market does not work that way.

      Besides, we have Ghana’s next midfield beast in Frimpong.

      • Kushagra India says:

        Exactly Song is better than Mikel but a poor version of Essien and Frimpong he is not the solution as yet IMO so much hinges on the Dm for the Arsenal I would try to get a better one than Song …..he lacks in mobility and is clumsy against technical opposition…

      • Kushagra India says:

        Blaise Matuidi is the real deal for me a beast of burden….

      • richie says:

        I like Blaise M he’s a combative little defensive mid but that maybe the problem. He’s quite short, I think he’s about Cesc’s height 1.75M. Arsene says we need a bit more height to defend set pieces and he’s not wrong.

  4. Richard Seaman says:

    asamoah is supposed to be a bit like the young michael essien, both of them are ghanian, and play the same sort of game.
    Doubt we will get him though.
    oh and for the eperienced point of view,what would your thoughts on marcus senna be?

    • santori says:

      Asamoah is excellent but I believe he is more offensive than someone who sits deeper in defense.

      BTW, we have Frimpong (6′) who is also Gahnain. They’re built like tanks.

      OTOH, we should be wary of ACN commitments.

      Senna is too old.

  5. Phil23 says:

    You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned Wenger is struggling with the rotation system. I feel that many of the squad have suffered at the end of this season because of a mix of the world cup and bad rotation from Wenger. Normally in his situation I wouldn’t make that statement but lets not forget that this is Wenger’s squad so he really needs to make the right buys so that his rotation works like a clock. Without fail and in perfect unison. I believe a rotation system should be based on three aspects, these being fitness, form and tactical importance. Players who I believed suffered from this were; Song, Koscielny, Djourou, Sagna, Clichy, Chamakh, Arshavin, Wilshere and Nasri. All played over 3000 minutes and all of them battled burnout which effected our run in and this is probably the case over the recent seasons too.
    I also agree about the midfield situation in that we at least need the option of a taller more authoritarian player in the midfield. Two senior players (on of them being 19) in the defensive two are not enough as it results in burnout proven by Wilshere and Song. Here i’d like to mention that Song was an evolved player at the beginning of this season and suffered for being the senior player while Fabregas was gone. In fact, people don’t seem to realise that Song was playing a complete midfield role and although Wilshere is very good, Song was better at it in almost every way. Another strong reason for bringing in a defensive midfielder who demands game time is that both Song and Wilshere need rest next season as the former will be at the ACN while the other has played too many games and needs to have the spotlight/pressure taken off him for a few more games as the expectation levels are massive. Of late, Diaby has made another tactless, if not downright thick comment about his Spurs shirt. I mean why the hell would you state that for millions of fans to read? Personally I think if he is that tactless and stupid Arsene should just get rid of him now and bring someone else in. Diaby is a great talent but has made a fool of himself too many times as well as being injured more than not. I ave mentioned it before but I think we should loan him away and tell him that he better sharpen up his act or he won’t be back.
    Good article Desi, thought provoking.

    • santori says:

      I’m not sure if the rotating midfield triangle was so much of a problem rather than the lack of an alternative.

      The triangle worked wellduring the first part of this year (when Cesc was fit). However, it was not quite as effective without him and we struggled to break down teams sitting deep (partially because we were playing RVP up top on his own and he would drift out of the box leaving us no finish)

      I don’t think the traingle was a defensive issue more than an offense one.

      OTOH, we could have more height in the midfield as (sans Diaby who was consistently unavailable…prob wearing his Spurs shirt at home), we were left with only Song in the 6 foot category. When he was out, we struggled.

      I do agree with you that Song’s role in the team is therefore much underated.

      The way I see midfiled, Song is currently the only defensive minded mid we have.

      Diaby has been used by Arsene in the role and I believe he has improved this season defensively but he is much more akin to Whilshere in being one who can carry the ball forward/act as a link man..

      We certainly need to address the depth issue with Song (particularly with ACN). Firmpong (6 footer) would be a good understudy but he will likewise be commited to ACN and be surely still rough round the edges.

      Aside from purchasing from market, the other option of course is to try out Koscielny in the role (particularly if we do get that seasoned quality CBack to replace Squillaci which we should). He is both quick and intelligent and reasonably strong in the air (@ 6′)

      I’m not sure I’d send Diaby packing as yet as he offers us height/physique and more importantly an option for Jack. He can wear his Spud shirt in private if he likes but he will have to really perform this season otherwise he should be let go thereafter.

      • Kushagra India says:

        Ask the London fans what they think of Diaby’s spud Love in way to Go Man!!…on a serious note Diaby rarely has strung more than 4 matches so jury is out for me…

  6. james says:

    Good point as always, one issue I still have with our system is the lack of both wingers and true defensive midfielders (other than Song). I recall our unbeaten squad with the likes of Edu, Parlour and more backing up Vieira and Gilberto, along with Freddie, Pires and Reyes who could play on the wings. I really hope Wenger brings some players who can add pure power and directness to our play: both a strong, hard-tackling midfielder (like Melo when he decides not to lose his head) and a pure winger (really love Michel Bastos and really like Nzogbia who does seem like he wants to join us). It’ll also be nice to see if we decide to change our formation.

    • JohnW says:

      James,
      What you say is true, however the biggest diservice the manager has done is not to rotate. We start brightly, and by December many players are tired because they platy week in week
      out. When they get injured, he throws in the second
      string who need a few games to ‘warm’ up, by the time
      they find their feet, the injured player is back.
      This season, I want Arsene to start with Song and
      Cochelin in holding midfield, pushi Wilshire upfront,
      Have Theo play on the left and young Lansbury on the right in some games. I’m resigned to losing Nasri and Cesc

      • santori says:

        Song doesn’t have proper back up.

        That said, we need to be careful when adding in this area. We have Frimpong and Bartley available and Koscielny could also be roled in (particularly as he may go down the pecking order if we get a new CBack)

        I’m not sure if the solution would be to get and out and out DM in. It may be better if the player coming in to cover Song has also other function (say RB cover)

        I don’t know if Lansbury is quite up to the mark (yet). If we do pay (ridiculous amount) for Chamberlain, then I presume he will be given a shot (like Miyaichi) in the cup runs at least.

        I really do think though that we need a quality wideman (regardless of Nasri) to add (pace) option to Walcott if necessary. This particularly as AA has slowed.

        Perhaps IF Gervinho is bought (what is it with us and Brazillian sounding players who are not Brazillian), then he could again cover both striker and wing which would be one ideal solution.

      • Kushagra India says:

        Song(unreliable)(not good enough for Arsenal IMO…) Frimpong(inexperienced) both will be going for ACN in Jan and we know what will be thier states when the’ll return we need a signing there as Denilson is leaving as well there…

  7. WingedGooner says:

    Pirlo would have been the best addition to the squad in terms of CL winning, experienced central playmaker as a direct sub for Wilshere, especially with all the Fabregas drama. I saw a bit of last season’s preseason warmups and really liked the looks of Emmanuel Frimpong. I actually felt he was our younger michael essien although he needs to buff up a bit.

    I dont think our midfield needs much tweaking with a stronger defense, If Vermaelen played LB like with Belgium and maybe with a tall commanding centreback like Samba to partner Kos, we could have a great defense. A Striker is more important than a winger too.So basically we just need able replacements for denilson.bendtner,squilaci,almunia and maybe one for rosicky if he leaves. if this happens, nasri and cesc wouldnt think twice about stayin.

    • santori says:

      I’m not sure about Samba. I would prefer Hangeland.

      And I would keep Vermaelen in CBack which is his better position.

      We are not going to have to replace one for one with that many players leaving.

      There are ready made solutions coming in to first team.

      We will probably only need 3 additions (4-5 IF Clichy and Fab are an issue)

      • santori says:

        Just to clarify :

        Denilson – IMO already replaced by the likes of Jack and Ramsey. IF not frimpong will prob come in. Plenty vying for the spot im Bartley, Coquelin even Jenkinson.

        Rosicky – IF AA is kept, he should naturally assume the senior man role in midfield but this will hinge upon any Fab decisions (and Nasri)

        Squillaci- Yes he needs to be replaced. A senior man WITh quality is what we need like a Lucio (Don’t mind CBack being a tad older, I’d prefer DM younger for energy levels)

        Almunia- I would think a good solution for us is to keep the old codger Lehman around for at least another season. He is decent cover for third choice and may have a role inbuing his experience onto the young Poles( Polish them up if you like)

        Bendtner- yes we need one here.but it would be better if he has utility out wide too like a Gervinho as we will already have 2 in RVP and Chamakh vying for the central role.

  8. alphie says:

    i wouldnt blame cesc for leaving…he will leave,question is which season?
    nasri…greediness is good if u deliver ur worth otherwise i’d say sell him(its easier to replace samir than cesc) cesc’s sheer effect with talent cant be replaced currently hence the reason the system will have to change.

    we require an OLDER experienced defensive mid so that song and frimpong can benefit too. and enable us to play a double defensive pivot.

    i am curious to wonder why against teams which park the bus we shouldnt scrap the defensive midfielder and play a withdrawn double playmaker like jack and wilshire or ramsey who could dictate the game from infront of the bus where they can pick or make runs or start proper interchanging passes, or just play a direct 442 going for action, two speedy wingers,two target strikers,rvp and chamakh/or bendtner’s replacement

    • santori says:

      I don’t think we will go for 2 defensive mids. The best you’d get would be Song and Diaby in tandem (and I’m not sure if that is arguably anymore stronger than Song/Jack)

      I don’t think an experience DM is what we need either being that Song is in most case very effective. What we would need is a back up and this player should have utility elsewhere if poss.

      The one area we do need the experience(and quality) is in CBack next to TV.

      I do think though that 4-4-2 will help us with breaking down teams sitting deep. We do not have much issue controlling midfield against these teams but let in goals either through lack of concentration (on the break) or because of set pieces.

      In particular, we have a tendency to get frustrated and drop our effort because we keep hitting the brick wall when playing 4-3-3 against the parked bus. Part of the reason as I have mentioned is because with 4-3-3, RVP drifts out of position leaving us no presence in the box to harass or finish.

      In a 4-4-2, a midfield with Fabregas, Jack, Ramsey or Diaby next to SONG will suffice.

      Problem is when we do not have Song. I do think Koscileny might be able to fill the gap but that remains to be seen. Otherwise, we do need someone to cover.

  9. Gennie says:

    Desi,

    Looking for a young Michael Essien? Look no further, for the answer is Arsenal have two in Francis Coquelin and Frimpong, may be three actually, as I hear Jenkinson can play midfield but more like a Song than Essien. But we have seen how Song evolved this last season.

    • santori says:

      You’re right.

      Frimpong, Coquilin, Jenkinson, Bartley, Koscielny.

      They are all candidates if we want a strictly defensive mid.

      I would expect them to be rough round the edges though but it’s worth a look into.

      Still experience does count (particularly if they were to replace Song due to injury). I would think Kos is the only one with sufficient experience to plug the gap, although it remains to be seen if he is effective enough in the role.

      I certainly think he has the attributes being quick, intelligent (as a defender he should know where to cover his mates.) and reasonably tall 6′ (good enough to cover high balls coming in over the top)

      I think if there is a ready made solution in the team, it negates our need of effort in spending from market thereby (hopefully) affording Wenger more resource to commit to the one area where we truly (IMO) need height and experience, CBack.

  10. santori says:

    BTW Desi, I’d include both Walcott and AA in your midfield assessment.

    I know they are out wide but they have important defensive duties to perform and they affect the defensive integrity of the midfield considerably.

    I for one am of the opinion that AA has slowed and is struggling out wide (hence our need for another man to cover wide pace-wise)

    The permutation should therefore be :

    1) if Fab stays, than maybe AA should make way.
    2)If Fab leaves then AA should stay and be moved more centrally as a playmaker.
    3)If Nasri leaves then AA should stay out wide as cover for the new man.
    4) If both Nasri and Fab leave (god forbid) then it will be more compicated with AA moved in field to cover playmaking and a second wide man to be bought from market who can possibly also play infield (Say a Hazard)

    Interesting times. I certainly feel that IF Wenger brings Gervinho in (as he can cover wide left), that this may also have an impact with the Nasri decision although whether it be positive or negative will still substantially depend purely on Nasri’s appetite for the fight in our cause (and money)

    • Miranda says:

      I agree, unless we know who’s staying and who’s coming it’s impossible even to think about the shape of next season’s midfield.

      I can’t believe Cesc is expecting to stay. He has been in London since the end of the season, not on the beach like most other players, not even going back home to visit his family. It’s like he’s waiting around for the deal to happen. As to whether it will, I’d guess it depends on whether Wenger wants the players Barca are offering in part-exchange. In most cases, no, but Affelay we might be happy to take?

      Nasri? I doubt whether United will offer him higher wages than us so, even though he may have been trying a Rooney, money isn’t what’s going to decide things. Maybe if Cesc leaves and Gervinho comes in, that will be in our favour because Nasri will take his preferred playmaker role with a quick goal-scoring winger either side of him. If team strength, potential trophies, is the deciding factor, Wenger had better get going because currently United still look stronger than us, but with Gervinho and/or Hazard, then we’d definitely be the side with more potential in attacking midfield.

      I reckon things will be clearer by the end of the week – or am I being too optimistic?

  11. […] 2010-11 Season Review: Thoughts On The Midfield As I did with the defence, I looked at my review of the midfield from last season. It isn’t as relevant now as the […] […]

  12. Kushagra India says:

    On another note

    Bendtner, Denilson, Cesc, Theo, Robin Van Persie, Sagna and JD have all made comments about the squad not being good enough so time to wake up Arsene or we are about to disintegrate IMO…

    • Kushagra India says:

      I believe most of the restrictions have been self imposed and it all went to the boar members’ pockets a few tweaks every year would have done us a world of good..

  13. Kushagra India says:

    every1 is spending big its now or never for Kroenke and the board…

  14. Kushagra India says:

    if Clichy is leaving then Arsenal shouldn’t replace him, but should instead upgrade. Clichy is Arsenal’s 11th best player in aerial duels and teams know that so they target him there. Last season he was basically 50-50 in aerial challenges. There’s also a small problem with the fact that he gets forward so much and yet he completes less than 1 cross per game. That said, defensively, he is Arsenal’s most prolific tackler at 3.4 per game and tops the list in terms of interceptions with 3.2 per game. He also only gives away one foul per game.
    There’s some speculation that if Clichy leaves Arsenal have targeted Leighton Baines as his replacement, which I thought was strange at first. But when you look at the season he’s had, 5 goals, 11 assists, passing rate of 80%, and winning 63% of headers you can see why Arsenal might be interested. To put that season in perspective, Andrei Arshavin had 6 goals and 11 assists and he’s an Arsenal forward and Arsenal’s best crosser of the ball. Baines’ assists ratio is no fluke either: he had 8 last year and 6 the year before. He’s getting better every season.

    Baines excels at crossing the ball, putting in three successful per game, and in key passes putting in 1.95 per game. That key passing rate is second on Everton and if he managed that number at Arsenal, he would have been second at Arsenal as well, above Nasri. Defensively, he’s 5th on Everton in tackles at 2.2 per game, but only Fellaini makes more than 2 tackles per game for them which I find odd. Clearances are similar, with both players 5th on their team in that category, but Clichy called on almost double the number of times that Baines is.

    http://www.7amkickoff.com/2011/fell-into-a-stat-hole/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+7amkickoff+%2

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