Guest post: What do Arsenal really need in midfield?

Posted: May 9, 2013 in Arsenal, Premier League

What do Arsenal really need in midfield?

Arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe.

Arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe.

As the 2012/2013 Premier League season draws to a close, many Arsenal fans have speculated over potential signings that we require during the summer transfer window. A notable thing that fans and the media alike have bemoaned about this Arsenal side is the lack of a ‘real’ defensive midfielder. While that is true, I am against the view that a defensive midfielder is the midfield signing that we need to make.  I am more in favour of the more dynamic box-to-box midfielder. Here are a few reasons why:

The current system Arsenal play in is the 4-2-3-1 formation. If you look at all the top clubs in Europe, most of them also play this formation, and none of them use players that you could classify as a real defensive midfielder. They play a double pivot with  deep-lying playmaker and a box to box midfielder. Here are some examples; Real Madrid: Alonso – Khedira, Borussia Dortmund: Gundogan – Bender Juventus: Pirlo – Vidal Bayern Munich: Schweinsteiger – Martinez. Some of you may be thinking “but Javi Martinez and Sven Bender are defensive midfielders” but if you watch them in a match you will notice that they press and win the ball higher up the pitch rather than sit deep in their own half. You will also notice that they even get into goal-scoring positions in matches and start of many of their teams attacks.

Another reason why I prefer the box-to-box midfielder to the defensive midfielder is the difference in dynamism and energy that a box-to-box midfielder would bring, unlike a defensive midfielder. Now I am not a big fan of stats but they are useful and important so I did a stat comparison with  Maxime Gonalons, who has recently been linked with a move to Arsenal, and Arturo Vidal, who is arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe right now.

Maxime Gonalons: Appearances – 33 Goals – 3 Assists – 0 Chances Created – 8 Passing Accuracy – 88% Average amount of passes per game – 64.5 Tackles made – 125 Tackle success – 81% Interceptions – 102 Who Scored Rating – 7.25 Squawka Performance Score – 1,633

Arturo Vidal: Appearances – 28 Goals – 10  Assists – 7 Chances Created – 60 Passing Accuracy – 87% Average amount of passes per game – 54.3 Tackles made – 146 Tackle success – 71% Interceptions – 40 Who Scored Rating – 7.77 Squawka Performance Score – 1,601

As you can see the stats show that Vidal is the more active of the two players, bringing  a far superior offensive contribution to his team whilst still being very active defensively. Also, one thing these stats don’t show is that Vidal is winning these tackles higher up the pitch. Where would you rather win the ball back? In your own half or in the oppositions half? However, as I said previously Vidal is arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in Europe  so you could say it’s an unfair comparison. So let’s compare him to Arsenal’s current box-to-box, Aaron Ramsey.

Aaron Ramsey: Appearances 19(starts) Goals – 0 Assists – 2 Chances Created – 42  Passing Accuracy – 88% Average amount of passes per game – 52.2 Tackles made – 64 Tackle success – 91% Interceptions – 42 Who Scored Rating – 6.88 Squawka Performance Score – 1,059

Bearing in mind that Ramsey has only played regularly in this role for the past two months or so, I think those stats are pretty impressive. Which leads into another reason that I don’t want a defensive midfielder. Throughout the season we have not played with a defensive midfielder. Instead we have used pivot consisting of Arteta and Diaby, Wilshere or Ramsey. With this we currently have the 3rd best defensive record in the league with two games left and the best defensive record in away games. Also since facing Bayern Munich at the Allianz arena, we have conceded 4 goals in 8 games, with only one of those being from open play.  Are those the stats of a team lacking a defensive midfielder? In this period of defensive solidarity, Ramsey has been excellent in  the box-to-box role. Infact the only thing you could fault in his latest performances is his final ball and finishing(which I hope he’ll work on in the summer). He has been a crucial part to our recent defensive record, but you wouldn’t say that he is a defensive midfielder.

So, if we are to buy a midfielder this summer, I do hope that it is a box-to-box midfielder rather than a defensive midfielder. As I have said, they bring more to the table than a sitter would and can still provide defensive ability.

Thanks for reading and if you enjoyed you can follow me on twitter for more if you would like – @_Josh97_

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