Gunners ‘D’Manding’ a DM but have we already got him, them?

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
  • Mascherano
  • (or the D’Manders favourite for a year or two)  Tiote
  • Roy Keane
  • Essien
  • Gilberto

No giants in there.

A giant of a player but not a giant of  man

A giant of a player but not a giant of man

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.

In Technical terms !!!

In Technical terms !!!


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.”

2 Wenger says we have with differing attributes

2 Wenger says we have with differing attributes

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.” 

New DM arrived???

New DM arrived???

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.

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23 Responses to Gunners ‘D’Manding’ a DM but have we already got him, them?

  1. Gary Murray August 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    I think you saw the frailties in the Monaco match pop up again. I realize the importance of the match and where it fell but against the bigger sides we lost a ton of midfield battles. I saw Kondogbia when the French won the u21’s and was wishing we’d sign him then. We wound up signing Sanogo. Not bad but I really was impressed with Kondogbia and Pogba and thought it was what we were missing. All good points throughout your post but Wenger singled out how impressed he was with Kondogbia afterwards. I for one feel that a player of his stature and physicality could put us over the top ala Caravalho from what I’ve read and seen although I have to admit limited. Kondogbia for me ticks all those boxes but then again I was wondering all along why Verm was not playing there, so I am definitely in the crowd of DMeanders!

    • Woody August 9, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

      Yes he looked good for sure, but was it really a defensive role he was playing, he was marauding forward alot too, but i get what your saying. Thanks for the read and comment.

  2. Kgun August 9, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    Well said, perhaps we already have the tools required to reach the top.

  3. Andrew August 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    I dont agree with this article at all, not even one line of sentence or a single phrase. People like you are the reason we dont go all the way in the league & the champions league because you’re happy to make do. You probably also believe 4th place is a trophy. With the players we’ve bought we are just a Proper DM & a CB short of challenging chelsea & city. The assertion that there are no longer is as delusional as i’ve ever heard & the fact you think only defensive sides of small teams use the old fashion. Yes we wanted a striker last year & wenger signed Ozil doesnt make it right are yiou kidding me? city have 2 strikers better than Giroud so does United. That cost us dearly last year so i dont even get why you’d bring a wenger mistake in this context. Im suessing you’re happy with arteta who tries to play the busquet role without the defensive acumen or the legs to do so. He was dribbled past more than any player mate dont be delusional. So Wenger says there are no defensive midfielders in the game so what will you call Martinez, Matic, Fernandinho? Gustavo, De jong, mascherano etc? And please dont play the makelele card cos he played in a 433 sitting alonside a pure defensive midfielder in Essien. And yes DM’s should be like CBs after all Petit was a CB turned into a DM and the good proper DMs these days are also played in CB i.e. Mascherano, Busquets, Martinez etc etc. A PROPER DM will relieve Ramsey of more defensive duties and unleeash him. We need someone to screen the back four & not bomb forward like Gerrard did for Liverpool last year (why do you think they conceded so much?) Arteta is no DM. face it and lets try to win the league not make do. Wenger doesnt know best no one does.

    • Woody August 9, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

      your entitled to disagree, as i said it’s just opinion, but don’t come at me with the bullshit that i’d be satisfied with 4th place etc, pure fucking childishness.
      merely stating that the tall lanky Busquets vieira carvalho aren’t the only types who can play the role, and that the role as purely defensive ie. DM has completely changed and they have to be really good footballers now, not just brutes. ie Schweinsteiger, Lahm now being used there, Alonso, Illeramendi, makelele was small, essien was small…
      Also Petit wasn’t a CB he was a full back, and he was also small.

      I only stated that no matter how much a twat moans, it doesn’t change the decisions of our manager ie they sulked and moaned pining for a striker last year and Wenger bought Ozil,not a striker, and if you think Ozil was a mistake, then, well, what more can i say.

      • Andrew August 9, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

        First off i didnt say Ozil was a mistake, the mistake was not buying a striker and secondly all top DMs are purely defensive including Busquets, shweinsteiger & lahm. We play too much off an attacking game not to have a purely defensive midfielder. Like i said this summer has been good and we are close we just need the few additions (a DM imperative) to ctach up with the Chelsea’s & the Citys simple as that. If you’d rather have the inexperienced Chambers and Arteta as DM then maybe you’re actually looking at us finishing 43h not winning the title. A DM is a must. Get with it

        • Dave Seager August 9, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

          Andrew why so aggressive> Get with it??? Who is City’s big aggressive DM? Fernandinho!!

          • Andrew August 9, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

            Sorry Dave & Woody for the percieved agression i just feel our need for a proper DM has been too understated for too long a time . Before the sales of RVP, Fab & co. there were times where all we needed was just Good DM to bridge the gap like in the 2009/10 & 2010/11 seasons where we were quite close just needed a top class DM to close the gap but we tailed off because our defense didnt get enough protection & now we’re back in that spot again needing just that little push to be able to upset the apple cart. Our need for that player shouldnt be understated. sorry once again for the percieved aggression.

  4. pedantic george August 9, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

    Wonderful, stupendous and marvellous. Sadly you have wasted your time.

    • Dave Seager August 9, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      Me too George haha

  5. Ollie Hackney August 9, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Agree with this post 100% To play the way we play tactically our deep lying MF or DM if you will are for interceptions and reading the game ( whilst still retaining possession and linking defence and MF).

    I hate to say this and hopefully it has been because of preseason but arteta seems off the pace.

    • Woody August 9, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

      thanks for the read and reply. Yes, exactly, and Arteta did look a bit off the pace, but then again so was the whole side, so we shant read too much into it, hopefully

  6. Khot Rambang August 9, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    According to me Wenger is not a coach who is after smart football, you can’t truth Flamini who didn’t even get a chance in france squad in world up to be the midfielder of the season and you expect to wine the title, Arteta is good but can’t be good for this competitive season, Diaby suffered injury for so long he need one more season to be fully fit. Chambers used to be a defender and young he need little concentration first, Wenger have money but don’t want to spend , how can you wine when you don’t want to spend? he is planning to use Giroud who led us down last season, look at what we got from Liverpool Chelsea and even lost against Man U. Wenger has no champions league title and 9 years without a cup. what is that, this will be my last movement in Arsenal . we are tired of stressed

  7. barry August 9, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    You are completely wrong.look at what Bayern achieved with Martinez in the side and see what happened when he was taken out last season.fine margines. Especially with the little players arsenal have we definitely need a big midfielder to add some power to the midfield.if its not a huge box to box midfielder like yaya toure or khedira it has to be a defensive midfielder like Martinez, busquets, matic and mikel the benders, sweinsteiger. It gives every team more balance so i don’t know where you came from with this idea. Completely wrong

    • Woody August 10, 2014 at 1:04 am #

      well there you go.. Martinez is a dm, but Schweinsteiger isn’t exactly one but plays there brilliantly, Khedira isn’t either, so as i say, it doesn’t have to be your typical big tall DM, that is my point, i wouldve loved Khedira, but alot of people were unhappy, as he wasn’t a DM. But thanks for the read, andcomment, that;s all i wanted to do, create a debate.

  8. Anicoll5 August 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    Another good and thoughtful piece. My tuppence is that the position of DM as many fans imagine it is dead.

    Teams have to possess midfield players who are sufficiently skilled and tactically astute to play in every position from 6 yard box to 6 yard box.

    The new dominant midfield player will be a Ramires, or very much like him.

  9. Woody August 10, 2014 at 1:05 am #

    thats my thinking, thanks for the read, and comment

  10. Rich August 10, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Woody, a good a and thought-provoking read.

    Now I’m tempted to cancel my disputations- yeah, I have some- as I always am after reading any of the typical complaints about the club/ Wenger. I hear them, and suddenly being more positive becomes a lot more attractive.

    But anyway, I like the challenge your thinking throws up, but can’t agree with it totally.

    If it’s not this mythical dm, then it’s something else. That is, what the hell was the cause of those God-awful collapses and, going further, the poor performance overall against top opposition for a number of years?

    More importantly, are we set to do much much better in the big games now?

    Concentrating On Liverpool and Chelsea, the main things I’d pick out would be the critical importance of getting the first goal in those matches, especially against a Mourinho side. Get the first, and they have to come forward a bit, leaving you primed to get them on the break (I swear we could be as devastating-think Ev in the cup, or the beautiful ten mins in Dortmund, when they went for it- as anyone in those scenarios – before Sanchez!- but we barely got to see it, so rarely did we take the lead against teams who are unwilling to countenance defeat in a match, which normally means big teams).

    So, we didn’t tend to get the first, because we lack a brilliant striker and, once injuries hit, we were very short of speed on the break. Often we were punishingly easy to defend against (Will we be a lot better this year? Hopefully. With everyone fit, surely. But the Monaco game did offer a frightening glimpse of what it’ll look like, and how it’ll go, if we haven’t). So that’s the first avenue to defending better and doing better in the big games. Attack better

    The second is, thanks to improved defence, not conceding and especially not conceding early. As it stands, I’m struggling to see any reason we’ll be better at this other than an improved attack getting us on the front foot and making it harder for teams to get comfortable thwarting us, before killing us on the break.

    Will we be structurally different, e.g will full backs stay back more or someone from midfield alter their positions (or cover the ground better!!) to make us less vulnerable to counters? Hard to see how that will be the case.

    The only other thing I can think of to make us better in the big games is for the team to show more aptitude in the event of conceding early. It needs to be ingrained in the team that should they do so, the only thing that matters immediately afterwards is stabilising and not conceding again.

    We were embarassingly, wretchedly poor on this front against Chelsea, Liverpool and Everton. The failure to understand what to do and why was nigh-on unexplainable to me last year and, against Chelsea, took me to my darkest place in the Wenger era and made me say for the first time ‘No, is it really over?’

    A very different thing to the Wenger outers and all those who have a criminal lack of respect for him, but that game took me there. How could there not be enough sense and ability in that team, his team, to ensure they didn’t do what they did- charge forward recklessly looking for an immediate equaliser, playing right into the hands of a team of fantastic defend and counterers?

    Sheesh. Anyway, I’m over it, and back to being prepared to defend Wenger to the utmost (I always was in the one sense; only in the other- is he still without doubt the man for the job?- did I waver for a few dark hours).

    But…I’m still unsure about where we are. With the squad exactly as it is, third probably beckons. With a couple more good signings -dm and cb- I’d put it at even between us Chelsea and City.

    Dreaming, and directly going against my supposed dislike of extreme spending, add a striker, a second dm (raw, with technical limitations maybe, but with size and power- someone to cover that other dm and very occasionaly-Stoke!- play alongside him) and a left winger who can get up and down, and tackle, and I’d have us as HUGE favourites. The proviso being that with all these incomings we could/should allow 3-5 – Podolski, Arteta, Flamini, Rosicky and, gulp, Cazorla leave within the next 0-18 months).

    Now is the time to go overboard, to have a squad which is clearly that little bit too big and which can then be, from a position of great strength and control, cut down.

    So yeah, we definitely need something different in midfield (let’s call it a DM even if that isn’t quite the real story) ,and while another striker would be hugely welcome ( a truly deadly one, who can get that precious first in the big games), of even greater help for me would be a first-rate cb.

    Everyone seems unanimous that Per and Koscielny have it locked down there, but I am totally unconvinced Per actually cuts it for the 5-10 biggest games per year. I think it’s the way Germany came to see it two years ago and never really stopped seeing it : great guy, does so much good work, but…scheize, the lack of pace and mobility…against the elite? No. Sad to say, but incredible how much the Germany defence improved when he dropped out.

  11. Rich August 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Woody, might be a bit premature here, but my post from earlier today isn’t showing and I’m hoping that’s not because you decided it was too long.

    Seems you welcome a good bit of debate, so I wouldn’t think it was cut for any other reason.

    Anyway, I like the blog and I’ll try in future to keep my posts shorter (but can’t promise anything…once I start talking about the team, find it damn hard to stop)

  12. jesu August 14, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    Agreed with this article, unfortunately most people/fans have very little understanding in tactical aspects of the modern game. The best teams often have a right balance between offensive and defensive players. Different players bring different sets of characteristics, the key is to find the right style of play between them. And all top managers do exactly that, and mind you, AW is certainly one of them. There’s a reason he’s sitting in that dugout week after week and we watch him from the television screens.

  13. CommonSense August 21, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    AW has been deliberately sabotaging the gunners for a while now. Allowing us develop and improve just enough to warrant that prestigious CL money but not quite enough to topple the cash-rich clubs of the world.
    Loic Remy, Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas.. All these players would have come to Arsenal if it were up to them. But it isn’t, its up to Mr. Wenger. Demba Ba from Newcastle for 8 mil, Hazard from Lille for a pittance. Remy issued a ‘come-and-get-me’ plea when he was at MARSEILLE!!! Two clubs later he’d still like to come to the carpet, but Wenger just disagrees. Remy is the kind of striker Sanogo could learn from and Giroud could form a partnership with. And don’t get me started and Fabregas..

    Now about DM’s.. We have to first establish a premise, AFC NEED A DM. One who is primarily DEFENSIVE (for the tactical dunces out there), who is not Arteta. We need a Flamini 2.0.. And if we don’t address this problem now, we’re not going to win anything.. So, Stephane M’Bia IS AVAILABLE ON A FREE!!! Alexander Song is begging for a way out of Barcelona, William Carvalho is worth the money and Vermaelen could have been converted to that position (regardless of what the writer of this blog thinks).. With all this in mind, Wenger is just going to disregard all of it as he does year after year. For Christ’s sake, if he brings in Manolas and deploys Chambers in that position it’d be beautiful, alas Le Professeur too ‘smart’ for that..

  14. John August 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    @CommonSense, You are aware that Hazard would have cost £30 million even back then, right? And that during the time that he went to Chelski we were still going through a transitional period where money was restricted, right? You must also be aware of the fact that Remy has a less than reputable past off the field and that we tried to sign Ba, right? And Strike partner?! Pfff, because that’s the formation we’ve used for the last 10 years…. right?

    I think you need to do a bit of research before you start making sarcastic and derisory statements about the club that you claim to support.

    Or, y’know, get a bit of common sense.

  15. ayo August 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm #

    Nice write up from woody but i disagree totally, if we truly want to challenge for trophies, a good DM is needed as soon as possible. Arteta is not jst capable, let say the truth and Flamini is too tough. I would have suggest cheik Tiote of Newcastle. He’s nt too ex expensive but he posses the Quality to be a good DM.

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