The Coquelin and Cazorla combination just works sadly for Ramsey and Wilshere

Form to dance about from Santi!
Form to dance about from Santi!

After my last piece on the confusion between our desire for a defensive midfielder and/or midfield enforcer, my friend and occasional contributor to 1ND2OU Jane Cavendish, left an extremely insightful comment. She augmented what I had been discussing which was the confusion and perhaps the distinction between a DM and a midfield enforcer. I have written frequently that with so few teams playing and old style 442 with a Bergkamp style 10 that the old school DM would ‘knobble,’ the role is far more about game reading and interception. The last piece was suggesting we needed a new DM who combined the best of the midfield physicality and game intelligence and we all know my choice for the role. Jane however set me thinking and here is what she said: Continue reading

Schneiderlin is the perfect player so beware of cheap imitations – But being big does not make you a DM

Beware of cheap imitations
Beware of cheap imitations

So we are into the second week of the January transfer window and still no concrete evidence that Arsenal are moving to address their issues. That is not to say that the club is not working hard and I am sure one of the 100 or so players the media are linking us to may arrive in the coming weeks. The question is will we strengthen in the areas that the whole of football recognise we need to reinforce? There is no question surely that we require a new central defender but for me a least there is some confusion among the fan base on the midfield requirement.

Most of you will instantly think that there is no confusion as we all know what Arsenal need is a purpose built top level defensive midfielder. I would not disagree with this and regular readers or followers of me on twitter will know I have wanted Morgan Schneiderlin for a few years. However Many of the same supporters seem to get excited by any big strong central midfielder being linked and shoehorning them into the ‘DM’ bracket. This is happening now with Sissoko in the same way it happened 12 months ago with Mo Diame and Fellaini.

Needless to say the press seriously don’t help the situation and are the ultimate shoehorners describing every big lad we are linked to as the DM we have been looking for. That is not to say such players cannot play the role if required in the same way that I am sure a fit Diaby (put that in for a bet,) could adapt and play there. I just think Arsenal are at the stage that where the next 2 big signings have to be ‘first name on the team sheet’ players in their actual positions and buying a player to then move him out of his comfort zone, purely because he has some of the attributes is not appropriate right now. Continue reading

Is Aaron Ramsey the surprise new defensive midfielder Arsenal seek?

Could this man be our new DM? Surely not!
Could this man be our new DM? Surely not!

A few years back I wrote a blog suggesting that Mikel Arteta could be our new Claude Makelele and play deep pivot, holding midfielder, DM, call it what you will. At the time the piece was seen as a bit ‘out there’ and not taken too seriously. It was written in June 2012 and in pre season ahead of 12/13 Wenger gave him the role.

My argument at the time was that the DM role, given that most teams weren’t playing a conventional second striker/10 in the Bergkamp, Zola role that the position was no longer about disruption and breaking up play and more one of anticipation and beginning our own play. I would argue that this conversion has largely been a huge success and if we are honest we only have to look at our results without Mikel there and they are worse. However despite his experienced football mind and accurate passing game, his legs, never the swiftest are 2 years older. The ill-advised tactics, in my view at least, of outrageously attacking fullbacks has left this lack of pace from our current captain exposed. I should note we have curtailed the full backs better since November.

MA8 has been superb but...
MA8 has been superb but…

I have for some time advocated Morgan Schneiderlin as his long term successor; again last March this suggestion raised a few eye brows. Whilst most are now converted to the idea of the graceful Frenchman now, having not made a strong enough move in the summer it is hard to see him being allowed to leave this month as the Saints ride high and push for Europe. This being the case with Arteta out injured we are left with 2 fundamental choices – Buy in January a player who is almost definitely going to be our first choice or make do from within the existing squad. (Third choice Kim K Cup Winner!!) Continue reading

Should Benik Afobe leap frog Sanogo and Akpom – A real scouting report!

Yes we have a striker who can score v United
Yes we have a striker who can score v United

With all the talk being of the inadequacies or otherwise of our manager, coaching staff, medical staff and of course of Theirry Henry this week I am back with ‘something completely different.’ In reality it is a lazy article as someone else has done half the work and most of the research but I hope it is all the more relevant for that.

At present Arsenal have 2 undoubted Premier League level central strikers in Giroud and Welbeck and I assume few Gunners would dispute that statement. Beneath this we have Walcott who would love the role but is unlikely to be given it on his own, Podolski an enigma who I am beyond fathoming and Sanogo who has the faith of the boss but few others. We also have Joel Campbell, who apart from for Costa Rica plays mainly on the right and Apkom who many have high hopes for but one suspects needs a loan for a season or from Jan to May at the very least.

In my view Wenger does not trust Podolski wholeheartedly and when he does play him would opt to do so wide where possible and he seems to have even less faith in Joel.  Theo is due back as early as this weekend and whilst I have seen some question his Arsenal future in the medium term, in the short term he jumps ahead both and arguably ahead of Danny Welbeck.

For me Sanogo also needs to go only loan and while he may be resistant, convinced he has a role for us now, he could well be in the minority of one. This is admirable self belief which is unfounded at this stage perhaps.  Lastly many fans are hanging their hopes on Apkom to leap frog Yaya and challenge sooner rather than later. I am not in this group and whilst I cannot claim to have watched him for hours as some have for the under 21s I do know Brentford season ticket holders whose opinion of him last season whilst on loan could hardly have been lower. Phrases such as ‘pampered schoolboy’ and ‘simply could not rough it with the big boys,’ would sum up the consensus.

So enough of me rambling on and to the point of this article. That is to revisit the progress of the player who along with Wilshere, was mapped out to be the next prodigal son.  The question is whether, barring his appalling luck with injuries, it would have been Benik Afobe we were discussing as pushing Podolski, Campbell and Sanago for the fourth striker berth? I have followed Afobe along with his compadre, Aneke’s careers closely since both were subject to an approach from Barecelona as teenagers and were described by Steve Bould as 2 of the best players he had ever worked with. With Chuks departed without the breakthrough, that leaves me with Afobe who I first wrote about as early as December 2011 and more recently in January 2013 when he was on loan at Bolton. It would be fair to say my conversations with Bolton bloggers did not make good reading for Afobe or Afobe fans.

However nearly 2 years on, Afobe is 21 and the decision on his future for Arsenal will be made between now and the end of this season. His contract I believe is due to expire in June 2015 and the next deal is huge for this young talent, whether it is at the Emirates or elsewhere. If it is the latter I am fairly certain there will be a very long list of suitors based on his exploits so far in 2014/15.

For those of you not following his progress he has been on loan at League 1 MK Dons and it would be fair to say he has been a success in a side that do try and play the right way. The statistics alone are enough to renew any Gunners Interest but they alone are not enough. Continue reading

Arsene’s Number 1 Transfer Target in January should be a Sol Campbell II

Not written one of these for a while but as the ‘Winter Window’ nears and media speculation will mount over Wenger’s war chest and where it should be spent I thought I would. Yes it’s one of my if I had the cash who would I buy to for Arsenal blogs. Where would I be betting my money this year? This one may be seem a bit off the wall but my track record of knowing Wenger’s mind is not so bad. I predicted Giroud 10 months early and Arteta in advance as well. Had it not been for Mourinho’s pettiness or Wenger’s indecisiveness I could have chalked Sahin or Schneiderlin as number 3.

Firstly I should highlight the 2 obvious problem areas to be addressed, namely at the centre of the defence and in the holding midfield area – but we all know that! Secondly it is worth pointing out that with Arteta, as our skipper and on the verge of a new contract extension, despite what we all believe has Wenger’s trust anchoring midfield. I am not totally opposed to that as we are a stronger side with Mikel in it and retain possession infinitely better. My concern lies more with the attacking disposition of our fullbacks and how it leaves our captain’s lack of pace exposed unnecessarily. I have already written on this subject and my views are here. In short with Ox, Theo and Alexis providing speed and width do we need our fullbacks pushing on and overlapping? Not in my view.

I think it is also worth considering, although again unpalatable to most fans, that it would be unusual for Wenger to go out and buy big or buy multiple in January. There are reasons for this, not least players being cup tied in the Champions League but also the elevated prices and we all know out manager’s reluctance to pay over the odds.

So what do I think we are looking for based on the above introduction?  Personally and not without logic, given who is to return from injury, I think buying a player who can be equally accomplished at centre back or in defensive midfield would make perfect sense. When Debuchy returns Chambers will be in need of a rest and I am certain he will be given time to recharge. From here on he is cover centre back where I am certain is future lies. When Koscielny returns, I for one would like to see him as the lynch pin on his right foot, not spending his time continually worried about a colleague’s positioning and pace. Whether you agree with me or not about Per not being a guaranteed starter it is logical with Chambers as cover CB and right footed that we have a left footed defender is the new addition.

Our future but needs a rest
Our future but needs a rest

So to recap in my opinion we need a top class left footed central defender, who can play alongside Koscileny who is comfortable on the ball and good enough to go straight into the starting eleven, even when all fit. We should be looking for starters to improve us not squad additions. I would personally add to that for January additions Premier League experience if not vital is certainly preferred. I guess the list is narrowing and many are thinking Nastasic but if we add on the final requirement it narrows further. Because whilst I would love us to return with the proper offer for Morgan Scheiderlin that seems unlikely, so I want the new signing to be able to play when required at the base of our midfield in the big game and the tough away fixtures.

Mbiwa - Missed Opportunity perhaps?
Mbiwa – Missed Opportunity perhaps?

To narrow the list further and based on 18 years experience of Wenger, he does go back for players he has openly admired or courted in the past.  I am very surprised he did not take a second look at Yanga Mbiwa, who whilst not flourishing at Newcastle was superb at CB and DM for Montpelier and now on firm again on loan at Roma. However I assume it was because he has 3 right footed central defenders and saw a fourth, even one who could play DM as too many. So we are left with one outstanding target to my way of thinking.

The only real question I have remaining about the player I think ticks all the boxes, both for our needs and Wenger’s foibles is whether his existing club would sell to a rival. Particularly when that rival is a few miles down the road!!

Yes the obvious player for us to go all out for in January is currently unhappy, out of favour, inexplicably and has broken contract extension talks with Tottenham. Jan Vertonghen is accomplished, proven, aggressive, fast and crucially left footed.  His is 27 and at the peak of his ability and still has many good years ahead of him and we know that Wenger admires him.

Come on Wenger do a Sol!
Come on Wenger do a Sol!

I think the only thing that prevented Arsenal signing the Belgian when he left Ajax was the fact that then Wenger wanted him solely as a defensive midfielder, already having Vermaelen, Koscielny and Mertesacker in 2012. This information came incidentally not from me but from the player himself. However now his compatriot has departed for the Camp Nou and Mertesacker is 2 years older and two years slower. You would have to assume that if Arsenal returned now offering a chance at the Champions league, mainly a central defensive role alongside one of the best defenders in the world, with occasional defensive midfield duties, Vetonghen might have an altered perspective.

There are other factors we can add to this. He sees a Tottenham side who are struggling under a new manager who does not, for some absurd reason see him as the first name on the team sheet. There is speculation about the future of the club and its ownership and Younnis Kaboul is his captain??? I could go on and I will….. Thursday night football, a disjointed squad bought by a previous manager and disharmony in the camp, with players out of favour and turning on the fans.

So from this simple fans view here is a summary. Vertonghen is a top flight left footed centre back and we have none of those. He can also play defensive midfield and has done for his country and Ajax and we know Wenger admires that. He has his best years ahead of him so a 3 or 4 year contact on a far superior salary could be offered to secure his future.  He would improve our defence and make for a far more solid, balanced and mobile partnership as well as given is an easy option in the anchor midfield role when required. Of course having 2 swifter defenders behind our midfield would also assist Arteta. The player this summer is into the last year of his contract so the pressure will be on Spurs to sell at a lower price than is they accepted a good offer now from Arsenal.

The question is not really whether it is a good deal for Arsenal but more whether our fierce rivals would ever accept selling to us?  In the modern world money talks and I suspect £15 million plus would solve a fair few on our issues if and under pressure Levy could be convinced. Were we to make a open overture I suspect player power might kick in and we could have the next Sol Campbell on our hands!

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