The Frankenstein syndrome.
Here we are in again in August, on the eve of the Community Shield and the outlook has changed most definitely from recent years, as in, by mid-July, we already had four signings made, and good ones at that, with good money spent. Also, we’re back in England, as we’re actually playing in said Community Shield, and not watching it from sponsor driven friendlies in Borneo, Uzbekistan or Zanzibar, or from a training camp in altitude just outside of Mogadishu.
We have our manager discussing the possibilities of more signings, a trip to Wembley, and the reality that our team still looks very sexy indeed, even without Ze Germans. Contentment is widespread throughout the fanbase???? You’d think so, but not a bit of it.
In between the fan groups patting themselves on the back, claiming it was their moaning and pressure that has forced the manager and the board to start spending again following the Villa defeat last August, and carrying on until this summer, and the happy and calm fans who actually listen to the manager and realise the club are most definitely working at bringing in more players sooner rather than later, we have the bulk of our group it seems – “The D’Manders”.
Yes, you read right. “The D’Manders”. The people who spend their days DeManding a DM, that scarce and mythical creature, that has been formed in peoples minds over time, a Frankenstein like creature, created from mismatched bits of players that we’ve seen in the past, moulded together to create a half Adams/half Messi cocktail. (No doubt these were the same people D’Manding that Vermaelen should play DM).
A scarce and mythical creature who’s formation has been helped along the way by extinct pundits who come from a different era, that simplify all defensive problems when dissecting a game by throwing in the “a defensive midfielder would stop all that”, “they need to buy a defensive midfielder or they’ll be in trouble this year”.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and poo poo the idea completely. Of course there needs to be a balance between defending and attacking. Too much emphasis on attacking, especially against the better teams, and you get punished. Likewise, too much emphasis on defending and without lots of luck, you’ll get punished by the better teams also, but is that balance brought about by the inclusion of just one player? I’m not so sure.
A lot of people seem to have created this image of the big, tall, almost centre-half type of player, who can play a bit too, in their minds, who just sits in front of the back four and glides around the place, putting in crunching tackles and shouldering people off the ball, and nonchalantly strolling away with the ball, playing a great pass forward and setting up the attacks. Easy right? I’m not too sure.
This image (the shape and size idea) has no doubt come about from the Vieira era, even though he most definitely wasn’t a DM. Funnily enough, when I think of so called out and out DM’s the picture is very, very different too. None actually seem to be that big. They didn’t look like centre backs, and certainly passed it better than centre backs –
- Emmanuel Petit
- Claude Makelele
- (or the D’Manders favourite for a year or two) Tiote
- Roy Keane
No giants in there.
Let us not forget the ultimate objective of a midfielder is to link the play between front and back.
Assist, when possible, it’s back 4 when defending, but also assist the forwards while attacking.
For me therefore, we don’t need a designated DM, we need versatility and intelligence. There needs to be players who recognises when to sit back or when to push on, depending on the situation, even if they are more inclined to be an attacker, if they look up and see the other midfielders have pushed forward, they should then drop into the middle and hold. Some will say but these players are too small to do this, but I say, you don’t have to up-end a player to stop an attack, just get a nick on the ball, or block a players path, slowing it down, thus giving the rest of the team a chance to drop back and help out. Intelligence and game management.
I am not saying the DM role doesn’t exist, of course it does, but it tends to be in lower teams or very defensive teams. I also believe we can use it, but only when we feel we’re far, far inferior to the opposition that we’re playing, or if we play a top team away from home, then why not, set up a solid base to set up counter attacks.
We’ve all seen us struggle to break down sides, especially at home last season, when we gave too much respect to sides, by playing Arteta and Flamini in a holding role. Our passing, distribution and attack suffered. Of course people jumped the gun, picked out Arteta as the scapegoat and blamed him. It’s the easy solution for them, there isn’t much thinking involved. Flamini was bombing around, dissecting opponents limb from limb, the idyllic picture that those pre-historic pundits, and supporters love, therefore the fingers point to Arteta. Even though it probably isn’t Arteta’s fault, it was more likely the system, and ironically, the attempted use of this so called DM role. So you see the irony, in days like that it could have actually been the DM role that hurt us, yet the support crucify Arteta, and then the funny bit – D’Mand another DM.
So this is just a warning to those demanding the DM. Last summer the same probably demanded a striker – Wenger buys an Ozil, (not sure he actually heard the fan groups properly 😉 ) therefore demanding a DM this summer doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll buy one, and these quotes from recent times seem to back me up –
“There are no defensive midfield players at the moment,” Wenger said. “We try to find the defensive balance collectively.
“We have fewer players who are purely defenders but some are physically strong in defending like (Abou) Diaby, some are tactically strong like Arteta.”
And the next ones seem to show that if we do pick and choose the games that we might use the DM role, then the players are already in the squad. The next quotes came just after we sold Song (who some saw as a DM) to Barcelona –
“If you look at the numbers you will see that Song was more of an offensive player than a defensive midfielder,” he added. “Arteta can play deeper – the kind of Pirlo role – and we have Diaby who is a very strong defensive player”.
Also we may have bought our “DM” already, on Chambers, Wenger said –
“He can play a major role because in what I observe he has the qualities to impose himself in this part of the team. I believe he can play in defensive midfield and that’s where I see him.”
For me these quotes are pretty conclusive, but to stop a wave of mass DM driven suicide, I’ll tease the DM fans a little, Wenger said –
“If someone really top, top class comes up… I do not need to buy an average midfielder,” said Wenger. “If someone top, top class turns up, completely defensive, we will consider it.”
Though, I wouldn’t hold my breath, as he also said –
“We have Flamini who can play there. Last season we played with Arteta and Ramsey there in many games in that position,”
We wait and see.
In the meantime, I won’t be D’Manding anything, just enjoying the new buzz.
‘Til the future,
P.S – I’ve seen a lot of people comment on blogs recently, that there are no facts in a piece to back it up. So before you say this, you’re right. I wrote this over a coffee contemplating the arguments that I’d read on my T/L the day previous. It is opinion, my opinion, not fact. I’ve thought it through, and formed an opinion on it; I wish others might try the same ;).
PPS – be careful what you wish for ;).
The Frankenstein DM.
I’m a 37 yr old Irish Gunner, and have been for 27-28 years now….
(Really 20, but trapped in a 37 yr olds body)..
Answer to ‘Woody’, as normally when ‘John’ is used, it means I’m in trouble for something..
I took my time deciding, didn’t follow the mainstream, and definitely chose wisely…
I let the club choose me, and didn’t let other people’s views or successes choose my club for me..
Seen the good times, the great times and the bad and really bad…
And strangely, enjoyed all of them, as you can only relish the good and great after you taste the bad…
Thats why I try to keep on the level-headed side of things, when things don’t go our way,
as it’ll make the successes all the sweeter when they arrive…
… and they WILL arrive…