The DM conundrum
From early on when Arsene Wenger, arrived at Arsenal until 2008 – when we allowed Lassana Diarra and Gilberto to leave and lost Mathieu Flamini to Milan – we consistently had some of the best defensive midfielders in the game. Admittedly Vieira and Petit weren’t necessarily pure defensive midfielders but when both were used in a 4-4-2, one of them usually held if the other was further up the field and as such fulfilled the role effectively. Gilberto, was a pure defensive midfielder and arguably one of the most underrated of the premier league era.
Since we lost Diarra, Gilberto and Flamini (version 1.0 not version 2.0) it has felt very much as though it’s a role that Wenger doesn’t take as seriously as more attacking ones. Our newfound financial might in the transfer market has translated into the signing of some highly sought after talents but for a holding midfielder we have tried to convert a wide midfielder, Arteta, hoping his high technicality will mean fewer turnovers from our own possession but he has ultimately been exposed physically and for pace.
We have a player in Flamini, who was on trial at the club for weeks before Wenger, was convinced enough to re-sign him and has looked increasingly flaky and unreliable in the last six months culminating with him being muscled off the ball by Christian Eriksen on Saturday. Now, following a summer in which nearly every fan of the club could agree that we desperately needed a DM, Wenger, is talking about converting Abou Diaby who for all his ability is sadly the most injury prone player in the league as a consequence of the horror tackle he suffered at Sunderland back in 2006. Putting aside tactics and squad imbalances for a second, our first XI is as strong as it’s been arguably since 2006.
The obvious exception however is a holding player to provide presence and stem the flow of goals we ship to counter attacks. Like the ones that saw us obliterated away to the other top sides last season and have so far seen us win only two league games this season. The truth is that top sides fancy themselves to score against us if they really need to and this will continue until we have a defensive midfielder who matches the quality of those around him.
Until quite recently I was under the illusion that 99.9% of Arsenal fans were happy with Szczesny. However in the wake of our draw with Manchester City, two members of SWAYR were quite critical of him, one called for him to be dropped and Ospina to be given a chance.
Central to the criticism was that his distribution can be patchy and as a team that’s particularly susceptible to counter attacks this presents a constant threat. I take that on board and agree his distribution still needs work but I think when compared to every keeper we’ve had since Seaman he’s the best.
He doesn’t get rattled the way Lehman did, he’s safer under high balls than Almunia was and his decision making when coming off his line is a lot better than Fabianski’s. I challenged the two individuals in question to name five better keepers in the world, based on the last season or so. I said Neuer, Courtois and Lloris (bias aside for one minute). They offered Cech and Begovic, the latter I don’t think has been as good in the last year as he was two years ago. As for Cech, I haven’t seen anything of him in the last year to suggest he’s any better than Szczesny.
Football hipsters, feel free to point out the glaring omissions we’ve made with obscure names from less watched leagues than “The Greatest League in the World™”.
Last week eyebrows were raised at the news that one of Stan Kroenke’s companies has been paid three million pounds for services rendered to the club. One of the quotes attributed to our majority shareholder – from a 2011 interview – that has been doing the rounds since, relates to his disbelief that Manchester United fans get upset about money being taken out of their club by the Glazer family.
To this end he cited LA Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, as an American example of an owner who takes money out of his club and a big deal isn’t made of it. One of the things that Stan, failed to point out is that unlike the Premier League the NBA and NFL have a much stronger collectivism, protection of their brand and protection of their clubs. We’ve had a prime example recently when the NBA voted to force LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling, to sell his club in the wake of a racism scandal.
Can anyone really envisage a situation where the premier league would take such a strong stance? Comparatively football has far looser regulation than American sports, which means that it’s less likely that we’ll ever see situations similar those of Leeds and Portsmouth in any of the major sports in the USA. Hopefully the issue will be addressed properly at the club’s AGM and shareholders won’t just be stonewalled by Silent Stan.