Defensive-midfield is a mysterious position. It’s a highly coveted position that requires a player who seeks no attention. It’s always an entertaining debate when discussing player roles for this specific player. If you’re playing two of them, you want a hungry, energetic box-man who’s fuelled by a tank of petrol, exerting confidence in defence and attack. This is no complication at Arsenal Football Club. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and even Oxlade-Chamberlain all possess the traits required, and step-up immensely when called upon. The player we crave however is the anchorman; under the radar, calm and composed distributing, intercepting-machine. The days of Gilberto Silva have passed, the stand-out player missed most by the supporting faithful. They do the dirty work and often win you games, surprisingly.
This player sits deep in enemy territory. Sat often between the two centre-backs, they intercept the killer balls, dispossess opposition and begin the all-important counter-attack. There’s no doubt that this is the player we miss at Arsenal; a spineless team who have failed to impress at all this season. The failure to capture William Carvalho, Sami Khedira or Adrien Rabiot, Arsene Wenger has turned his attention to Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta to aid his troubles and woes. These are not the calibre of player Arsenal should be attracting.
The tactless brute signed on a free from AC Milan last summer. Immediately making an impact upon arrival, his passion was exerted within his performances and his defensive abilities were gleaming. Wenger was impressed, his stubborn antics saw a cashless summer in terms of addressing this department, and his recruit was doing a fine job. His hunger to dive into tackles is a trait not many show when playing in the red and white, but this season it’s faulted his performances. Picking up booking after booking, the Frenchman looks reckless and dangerous, an asset proving unimpressive.
His performances this campaign have declined. Playing alone in the role, his inability to break-up play and poor tactical awareness is providing no protection to our defence. This is a defence that has conceded in almost every game this season. Something worth noting there. He’s not getting younger either, and the fans are so heavily on his back he slumps around and shows not a trace of the enthusiasm he did of last season. If it were down to me, I wouldn’t renew his contract. He’s a decent squad player, but not the defensive midfielder we crave so badly.
It’s been a roller-coaster career for poor Abou. The Frenchman has all the attributes to succeed in the elite level of football. Replicating Yaya Toure and Patrick Vieira-esque performances on a regular basis, Abou Diaby was struck down with injury after injury. Since then, he’s never returned. His power is sensational. He runs with great stride, barging players off the ball with ease and tiring his opponents. His interceptions are aided by his lengthy legs and his knowledge of the game is perfectly astute. Is he the player we need? Well his attributes contribute to a box-to-box midfielder, so add him to the list of three we already have.
His injuries don’t seem to be getting better either. Out for another two-weeks with a slight calf niggle, he hasn’t made a first team appearance since the Southampton defeat. He’s a saint, and a brave man to reject retirement with the crisis he’s been through. He deserves credit for his determination, and his performances have been stand-out when he’s played. Unfortunately, unlike the cliché Arsenal line, Diaby is not like a new signing, and his contract should not be renewed. Maybe a harsh way to leave, but Wenger’s decision to stand by Abou has been admirable. It’s time to call it a day however, and address the issues that are compulsory to challenging to the prestigious level expected.
The 32 year old Spaniard has all the credentials to be a top class coach or manager. Notice at Everton, his tactical genius is evident within his play, and his philosophy would be similar to his playing style. There is no player I have admired at Arsenal in the last three years as much as Arteta. Some come close, but the midfielder has been valiant when asked to play the role of defensive midfielder, despite being signed as a play-maker. Shown through his distribution, cool penalties and dictation of play he has some quality assets a player like this requires.
The downside, however, appears to be the players age and body. Often bullied physically or chasing round the opposition, his legs are weakening and showing more in each big game he plays. Playing as a starter each week, this season has seen the midfield-maestro pick up a few injuries and heavily criticised due to his inability to compete with the elite. Matic, Gustavo, Busquets are all players who excel in their role, and unfortunately Mikel is not at their level. Despite this, he performs exceedingly well against the lesser teams, and our win percentage is always higher with him in the squad. A much brighter alternative to Flamini, I would certainly renew this man’s contract. I do have a soft-spot for Arteta, who I believe will eventually get his worth with coaching badges.