Arteta’s Arsenal: A promising team in need of a tweak in the middle
Our midfield needs surgery, but our defence and attack can be left alone in the summer transfer window. We can survey the wreckage left by former manager Unai Emery for Arteta to rescue Arsenal and save the team from a relegation battle this season. Even the news of a 6-0 thrashing of Charlton Athletic in a friendly before the Premier League kicks off again on 17 June isn’t enough to convince me that next season Arsenal will assemble a midfield worthy enough to challenge for the title.
I found some interesting opinions on Arsenal’s midfield reality and caught up with Gooner sports journalist, James Bayliss (@jaybayliss_sport), who recently launched the comic themed Arsenal website: “The Goonerverse,”. I also spoke to Massimiliano Lolo (@Maxi_Gooner), another fan based in Italy for a foreign perspective on Arsenal’s midfield dilemma.
James Baylis said:
If there was one area in which you never used to criticise Arsenal, it was in the midfield. Even during the ‘trophy drought’ of 05-14, we enjoyed some of the most wonderful football thanks to our technicians in the centre of the pitch. At the moment, our side gravely lacks the talent needed to rediscover these heights.
Lucas Torreira, a gritty but also technically underrated player, is the defensive-minded midfielder of a calibre that we’ve lacked for many years. Quite why doubts surround the Uruguayan are beyond me, but his place should be a guaranteed one. Elsewhere, the likes of Granit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi & Joe Willock all possess quality of their own, but none can match the elegance and intelligence of a Cesc Fabregas or a Santi Cazorla.
Even Aaron Ramsey, who fans long for now, was never that type of player. We need a deep-lying creator who can string it all together. And sure, sometimes a Xhaka or Guendouzi is needed in a trio. But what we’re really craving is an upgraded, permanently settled Dani Ceballos-type. Our attacking fluidity is patchy at best, and the goals have dried up in recent years, and it’s no surprise why. Until we give Arteta that player in midfield to dictate our tempo, to help us control a game for more than one half, or more than one hour, someone who can actually guide us through games, then unfortunately we won’t ever reach that top level we aspire to.
Massimiliano Lolo says:
The departure of Dani Ceballos will leave Arsenal with three players in midfield: Granit Xhaka [crucial player on and off the pitch], Mattèo Guendouzi [lack of professionalism looks a serious problem who is stopping the growth process] and Torreira.
During the first season in London everyone saw what Torreira brought to the team: energy, fighting spirit, balance, defensive discipline. All the qualities missed by Arsenal since Francis Coquelin left during the winter of 2017.This season has been different. The confusion created by Unai Emery has affected Torreira so much. After Ozil, the Uruguayan has been one of the players clearly destroyed by the shocking management which we have seen with the former PSG and Sevilla coach.
Dani Ceballos was regulary playing alongside Xhaka because this is what Arsenal missed since Santi Cazorla: A player capable to have a connection with Mesut Ozil, capable to dribble and receive the ball from the Centre Backs, a player capable to change directions, capable to make rapid movements on and off the ball. A Spanish-minded midfield. Could Lucas Torreira replace Dani when he will return to Madrid? Perhaps not. That is why we should let him go to another club to have an important role and this should be the best deal for Arsenal and for him.”
The middle of the park is sacrosanct for any team to score goals, shield the defence and build up assists. Picture the current Arsenal squad, in its current guise for next season, buying fewer expensive players and selling two or three defenders to “balance the books,” like Arsene Wenger always did to his credit. Wenger was aided by a strong midfield with a creator like Cesc Fabregas, or Santi Cazorla and regular Champions League qualification until his last season in charge.
Another option in midfield might be buying Thomas Partey and selling Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the price he’s worth rather than a switch for Kluivert as tantalising as it may sound, we have enough attacking resolve in my opinion at the moment, certainly looking at Eddie Nketiah’s sparkling form against Charlton, where he scored a hat trick.
Passionate and loyal Arsenal Fan since 1994, hoping for European Glory once more.