Come back Gilberto – Buy a midfield Powerhouse to compete in June or nothing will change.

Simply out muscled and over run
Simply out muscled and over run

I have not written for some time on 1ND2OU mostly due to lack of time and partly due to lack of inspiration. It is sad therefore that my inspiration to write something relevant should come from our heaviest defeat in years. Yesterday was humiliating for our club, for our fans and one assumes for our players and staff.  Many are looking to blame players, coaching staff of both but the simple fact of the matter was we were tactically woeful and just not good enough to cope with a well drilled Chelsea machine.

Even those who unstintingly support Wenger cannot fail to have noticed the huge gulf in tactical awareness and game plan. However this is strange given how well we executed a defensive rear guard against Tottenham a week earlier. Perhaps this says more about our North London rivals lack of quality offensively than our organisation defensively, I am not certain. What is certain is that when we go to the tough away games we have to be compact and better organised in the first 20/30 minutes. The full backs should be close to the centre backs in this phase, and force the opposition wide and not surging forward leaving huge gaping holes for good players to exploit. If you listen to the likes of Dixon, Winterburn or Keown they say the same. This situation is worsened and it pains me to say this when the deepest lying midfielder is not mobile or swift enough to make up ground and cover.

However it was and is not only our lack of pace that against the better teams has seen us over run and out fought in midfield. I guess this has always been there in the back of my mind, and perhaps I have tried to ignore the nagging doubt out of loyalty or affection for some of our present players, but we simply are not big, strong enough and tough enough.  For the last 8 years or so Arsene has consistently bought small, technically gifted, creative players and  this has resulted in some very pretty on the eye football, but also in a period when on many occasions when playing top side we lose the battle in the engine room. You only have to look at Luiz and Matic yesterday, or Toure and Fernandinho each week and I am sure most Gunners mind automatically think of Vieira and Gilberto.

Midfield strength and athleticism required - Gilberto clone please
Midfield strength and athleticism required – Gilberto clone please

I am no different to many fans in that I am fiercely protective of our players and defend them, probably too much, but I thought I would have a look at just how different the modern Arsenal midfield is compared to our all conquering team. I am not particularly interested in the striker debate for today at least but more those that play between the defence and the main striker. The comparison not perfect but in reality it is the five players in the midfield area, albeit in a differing formation. That of course is another pet subject of mine to return to shortly.  What is of interest of the comparative size and therefore strength of the 2 sides in a battle versus a top rival? We all remember how teams looked at the Arsenal players in the tunnel in the 2001-2005 era and lost the game before a ball was kicked. The below table compares the relative statures of the key individuals assuming the fully fit squad and based on the most regular selection:

 

Player 2004 Height Weight Player 2014 Height Weight
Arteta 1.76m 64Kg Gilberto 1.85m 78kg
Ramsey 1.78m 68kg Vieira 1.92m 85kg
Ozil 1.83m 76kg Bergkamp 1.88m 78kg
Walcott 1.76m 68kg Ljungberg 1.76m 73kg
Cazorla 1.68m 66kg Pires 1.88m 80kg
Total 8.81m 342kg 9.29m 394kg

 

Now I don’t want to turn this into a conversation akin to a rugby commentary but you would have to say that the comparative size and weight of the 2 packs are unfavourable. Obviously I jest but not only were the 04 players superior, but we know that they were simply bigger, stronger athletes and in games against other technically gifted players in the big intense games this sued to count for something and it should again. Arteta and Flamini can tackle but there are occasions when in a midfield dual or 50/50 it is just about out muscling.

Not only were the 04 group physically more dominant but they were all quick when attacks broke down to get back and support the defence. Ramsey and Ox may have pace but Arteta, Cazorla and Wilshere simply do not.

We should also highlight the back up and squad strength as I do not wish to be accused of just using key examples to prove a point.

 

Player 2014 Height Weight Player 2004 Height Weight
Rosicky 1.73m 68kg Reyes 1.76m 73kg
Chamberlain 1.80m 69kg Parlour 1.83m 71kg
Flamini 1.78m 67kg Wiltord 1.74m 74kg
Wilshere 1.72m 68kg

 

So in 2004 we had 8 midfielders/support strikers who played a significant role in that historic season and not a single man with a fighting weight under 70kg. In 2014 we have 9 and only Ozil, who does not play in the engine room where games can be won or lost, with a weight over 70kg.

Of course the balance would have been slightly in the favour of the modern era players/squad had we been able to call on Abou Diaby. Diaby does have the build and stature, standing 1.88m tall and weighing in at around 78kg, but if we are honest with ourselves he is less likely to be a factor going forwards.

Yes but no but....
Yes but no but….

Some of our current crop, despite their stature do have the combativeness to compensate for their lack of physical presence and I would include Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rosicky in that number. Looking to the future therefore if we are to compete with the best, some tricky decisions may have to be made that seem unpalatable to some supporters.

Despite the new contracts a decision will need to be made about Cazorla/Ozil as I cannot see us winning the big games with them both in the starting eleven. Santi is an enigma and a magician on occasion but he is physically overpowered and left on the ground complaining too often for me. The Spaniard is shrugged off the ball far too easily and far too often. Sadly at present the same can be said of Jack Wilshere which stuns me if I am honest. I thought he had the world at his feet and last season when he dominated Swansea in the cup replay. Similarly we all felt the same 2 years earlier against Barca. The reality is that against those teams the physical contest was more even and Jack dominated but he simply cannot do so against the Chelsea’s and City’s of this division. This may in fairness be due to his injury woes but right now he is not ready to play alongside Ramsey in the present system.

 

Light weight Santi goes to ground to easily
Light weight Santi goes to ground to easily

Now we do not know who will be our manager next season yet and therefore cannot tell if we will continue with the 42130 Wenger has favoured since Fabregas came to the fore. However I think whether we revert to a variation of a 442 or stay as we are we need to strengthen the midfield spine. Some one of the stature of a Vieira or a Gilberto Silva is essential to play alongside Ramsey in either formation.

I advocated Arteta as a deep lying midfielder in May 2012 and his presence and football brain have in many cases over compensated for his lack of strength, physical presence and speed over the ground. I am far from convinced even with Ramsey fit and alongside him he is the solution next season and Flamini despite his aggression is certainly not.  No the solution needs to have the attributes of a Gilberto/Vieira cross and he has to be able to slot in alongside Aaron Ramsey and hit the ground running in pre-season. That is why I favour Morgan Schneiderlin although I know many would prefer a Bender or a Pogba but I have not watched these guys as much as I have MS who has already demonstrated he has what it takes to compete with the best in this unforgiving league.

Schneiderlin led Europe in tackles and interceptions for most of last season and has continued his impressive form in a Saints side that had surprised many in 2013/14. He is 1.81 metres in height and around 75/76kg and has all the attributes missing in our current two options, or perhaps a better description would be he combined the best of Arteta and Flamini. He would provide the perfect and secure platform for Ramsey and Ozil to do their thing.

Strength, aggression and talent
Strength, aggression and talent

It is just over a year ago I first advocated him and I know that Wenger is an admirer of the player. Another advantage for Arsenal is that despite obviously being of international quality, having been in England since the age of 18 he seems to be ignored by Les Bleus. The likes of Gonalons, Pogba, Matuidi and Varrrane all seem to be ahead of Schneiderlin, which has led to hints of a switch to England by the player. However the fact that he is not an international would not put me off as he will be mighty fresh in July as despite the many world cup betting offers available the odds on Morgan going to Brazil are long. However, if playing regularly for Arsenal one might suspect that international recognition could follow. As it has for many Frenchmen coming to the Arsenal Clichy, Sagna, Flamini, Nasri and many more were uncapped or had only one or 2 when arriving in N5.

Whether it is Morgan or another we must all be agreed that we are looking a tall, strong, mobile deep lying midfielder with a good passing range and discipline – EASY!

Well that is enough for today and perhaps on another day I will consider the left wing position as it appears to me at least that neither Podolski nor Cazorla are the long term solution however much we have wanted them to be. We need a Pires style athlete with strength, pace and technique if we are to continue with 4231 and compete.

In case you think I am alone with this train of thought I will leave you with a headline and a quote from Wenger in the Guardian in June 2011 after our habitual Spring collapse:

Guardian Headline June 1st

Arsène Wenger targets tall players to boost Arsenal’s title challenge

We need to improve the size of the squad, says Wenger

 “It’s something that’s easy to correct. We need to improve the size of our squad. We need a bigger variety in the height of our players. We need to be more capable of fighting against some characteristics than we have been this season.”

Three years later I fear we are still waiting for Wenger to follow his own advice…..

Until next time

Like what you read? Agree/disagree? Leave a comment below or follow me or comment on this blog on Twitter – http://twitter.com/goonerdave66

 

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29 comments

  1. spot-on. I was thinking back to the Man City match when Toure and then Fernandinho simply ran roughshod over us. Our elves just couldn’t contend with their size and pace. It’s one thing for a guy to be big, but to bring both qualities is something we lack and can’t make up for by buzzing around like gnats. Pogba, Schneiderlin, Bender, would be fantastic additions and could do a lot to address weaknesses in other areas.

  2. Excellent read,I have been saying this myself for well over a year.Arsenal have been ripped apart many times since Gilberto finally left although this does stop when Diaby is on but having a player who gives you 8 games a season if we get lucky is not good enough.I fear Wenger again has dilly dallied and will lose out on Schneiderlin who is as good as Matic,also he should have went for Remy to bring pace to the team.The biggest change the team needs is a new manager with tactical nous which Arsene has proved he has not got.3 away games against the teams above 17-4 says it all.(Conte,Simone or the Southampton coach to name but a few).

  3. I don’t understand why he hasn’t given tv5 a go in midfield. his stronge moble if not fast good on the ball and is up for the fright

    1. Especially sine the reason Vertonghen gave for turning AW down is that he wanted him to play DM and he did not want to

  4. Very well written and a great read. I’ve been saying for many years we need a solid spine to the team. I believe we now have the more matured Scezza standing tall in goal, our CBs are playing well together. Then we hit the midfield. We need a Marshall like Flamini and a General like Vieira. I would have loved Geoffrey Kondogbia to have come to Arsenal. Those who haven’t seen or heard of this guy should read up. 1.93m tall, 76kg, techinally gifted, strong and mobile. He moved to Monaco last season from Sevilla, I’m assuming for tax reasons, but I do believe he would have been the perfect fit. In my opinion, that would be the perfect missing piece for our jigsaw. We need a Vieira.

  5. True, we need more physical players, even Giroud gets on the ground far too often. We need a beast upfront, on the wings and in DM. We also lack physocological stability when playing big teams away. I think that needs to be sorted first because buying players isnkt just enough to solve the problem.

  6. The Nigerian Chucks Aneke,and Diaby fit your height&weight ideals,but they are attacking midfield players .It is disatrous just converting them when it is clear they lack enough defensive quality.We have seen this in Denilson, Diaby and of late Ateta and how we have ruined the carrieers of these players by converting them to defenders.Ateta has eye for goals and attacking flare more than defending not just his abilility to take penalties immagine his match winning goal against Man City 2 yrs ago and his goal exploits while in Everton.If played far in the defence he will. be out most of the times from shooting range.So also was Denilson who was a very quick player upfront and most useful there ,an intergral part of the sqad that dismissed Liverpool 6goals to 3 at Anntfield in the FA cup some years back.At the time he foud more rythm in goal scoring Wenger dragged him to a defensive role.We should look around Europe and the rest of the world for somebody more physically built than Alex Song Or Flamini who is a proven tackle winner.

  7. Brilliant article mate, I was saying the same thing to my brother. Our midfielders and strikers don’t show up in the big games, Arteta is too immobile to play in the makelele role and Giroud well the less said about him the better. Podolski is too stiff and slow out on the left. A midfielder I would love at Arsenal is khedira, the guy is a beast and tactically astute. The three area we need to strengthen in the summer = centre midfield, striker and a winger. Khedira, Cavani and pedro would be ideal.

  8. It not the midfield .it not the defence that needs fixing ….it the manager….wenger got us beaten in all the away games to the top four teams city 6.3 liverpool5.1…chelsea .6.0 ..even man utd who not having a good season won .1.0… Be cause wenger has no tactics but to pass the ball around ….we no pace up front no pace in midfield …the players are very poor passes of the ball …yesterday gibbs was out of defence for first two goals because wenger pushes the full backs to far forward …. Time for wenger to move up stairs … We need a boss who got tactical know how … Wenger had his day ……we need a manager xho will kick out injury plaqued players like diarby ..wilshere spends more time rolling around on floor then playing …why is it wengers top players always injured is it the training the medical staff …or the players happy to be ibjured and getting payed

  9. Even if we signed 6ft plus midfielder Wenger wouldn’t pick him! Look at yesterday’s team when you play a high line you need a midfield that presses hard and isn’t porous… What justifies Arteta’s selection ahead of Flamini? Not pace,defensive tempo,speed,agility,tenacity and most import defensive organization ! So even if we signed Lars Bender Wenger wouldn’t chose him… When any company has poor results its not the employees in the shop window that are responsible for its failure it’s the leadership!Firstly our captain and vice captain are squad players that is a huge problem and if every AFC fan can see how poor Arteta is and he is only getting selected because he is VCaptain shows you the state we are in.Secondly Wenger has never beaten Mourinho and if someone insulted me as bad as Mourinho did I would of ensured I got a result on my 1000th game.
    Sadly if you asked AW if this was your 1st game what would you change in sure he would say ( I need a secondary striker and another pacey Winger plus captaincy change) fresh eyes which we have no more … He is secure in his job and unless David Dein comes back to challenge him we can sign the best players but as your article points he knows about it but is too stuborn to take on the advise ..thanks Carlos
    @carlosdelima01 twitter

    1. According to Dein himself on a doc the other night, he still goes to every game, and with his wife has dinner with the Wengers every Saturday (if we win).

      They’re still close, in other words, and Dein would not be shy in expressing his thoughts

  10. am really happy to hear this from arsenal fans and legend all i have to say is arsenal need a solid midfielders like viera who are strong on the ground whit the ball , not a kid handling the ball like baby …….am highly disapionted by the score against Chelsea the 6_0 margin is a big one

    Hope how coach will change is way in the summer transfer windows when it open in June

  11. Wow. What an excellent commentary. I’ve been saying this constantly this year, and thinking it for what feels like forever.

    It truly is a mystery : all the successful years featured two powerful athletic guys in central midfield… the success fades away, within a hell of a lot of mitigating circumstances, and in most of the years of non-success/ qualified acceptability we regularly have NO big athletic players in central mid.

    It’s almost impossible to explain. If the successful years had been built on having a better class of little guy, it might make some sense to have tried to emulate that on a tighter budget. But it’s not the case. Any time he cared to review the team of those years he’d, surely, quickly arrive back at thoughts of how key the strength in centre midfield was.

    Diaby is probably the key to it all. For the last six or seven yeas he’s been thinking ‘ah, but when Diaby’s available’ and that has dissuaded him from apportioning almost any of the limited resources to that area. (Cazorla’s best games away from home at crack opposition? Liverpool and City in the earliest part of last season, when Diaby was playing- and they were almost certainly our own best away performances vs top4/5 in last two years, unless my memory’s playing up)

    It could well define the end of his career. I sure hope not.

  12. Vermaelen and Ramsey as the engines of the squad would have been enough to compensate this season but Wenger was too stubborn tactically to employ such a combo. Of course injuries didn’t do us any favours. i completely agree, we need to redefine our midfield. Toure/Fernandinho, Matic/Luiz, Shweinsteiger/Martinez, Alonso/Khedira all the top sides with the exception of Barcelona have a 2 physically imposing players in the DM role. This is necessary because when u play high possession attacking football you expose yourself to counter attacks by pushing wingers forward therefore you need strong, mobile, and tactically responsible DMs to compensate. In our case with Mertesacker even more so because he lacks pace and on counter gets exposed easily with players running in behind him. Arteta and Flamini simply aren’t capable to do the job for us. Vermaelen is faster, stronger, and also an offensive threat from set pieces and with his cannon of a left boot. Ramsey is faster, stronger and much more of a work horse and can play the box to box role.

    Now in terms of attack, the most successful clubs in the world all have wingers that can defend and strikers with pace. Unfortunately we lack in both categories. Cazorla, Podolski and even Ozil in the CAM position all lack in the defensive department. Ox, Rosicky, Walcott and even the up and coming Gnabry all are more suited to the defensive game because their pace allows them to make up for positional errors or simply getting beat 1v1. All one has to do is look at Robben/Ribery/Tiago/Mueller , Hazard/Willian/Oscar, Sanchez/Neymar/Messi, Navas/Nasri/Milner, Ronaldo/Bale/Modric/Isco all players with pace and despite the diminutive stature of some of the aforementioned players they still contribute defensively because of work rate. Now with respect to strikers, i won’t even bother dwelling on that. Its clear we need improvements in that category because we are nowhere on par with Mandzukic/Goetze, Eto/Torres, Aguero/Dzeko/Negredo/Jovetic, Jese/Benzema or even Henry/Ljunberg/Wiltord for that matter.

    The solution is a combination of spending to rejuvenate the squad but also having the tactical awareness to play the right players in the right matches which unfortunately seems to escape Wenger far too often for my liking. Maybe a managerial change isn’t the worst thing that could happen but that remains to be seen.

  13. Hi,I totally agreed.i as an arsenal fan I am fed up each week to see the team I love since I am a kid to get beaten each time we play agaisnt big team.each season the same thing is happening,we kids from nowhere form them into international superstar and sell them to other teams to make those team won trophies and arsenal is winning nothing.it is time mr wenger for the respect I have for you it is time arsenal preserve their stars and buy some new superstar that are use to be winnning status with their Club and not always buying second best otherwise we will be second best.all other team arebuying stars so reinforcing what we doing always second best,uefa final agaisnt galatassaray,champions league agaisnt barcelone’league cup a agaisnt birmingham and always second behind man utd,chealsea and now man city and maybe behind liverpool this year……..I am fed up to be a always second best.so please mr wenger ,schederlin remy,reus,khedira,dimaria,suarez,lewandarsky,menez,cabaye,cavani,sanchez are among some names of ready stars that if join arsenal willl the team won titls and trophies not the raw kids that are not ready like draxler….nows it is time for arsenal to compete and buy ready stars.throw out some outcast players like bendner,park,dbjouro etc otherwise we will be always second best as usual.inject some new pleade of stars who will win something and will be able to compete agaisnt barcelone a team not barcelona b team.arse nal football level is the same as barcelona b team or. Everton.

  14. Saw the header of the post and the first name in my head was MS. Read about him last window when the transfer window was heated with the Flamini signing. Surprised we hadn’t gone in him for him especially as it seemed Wenger had shown some interest. Didn’t we buy some software from an American company that monitors a lot if players and their stats. I think I heard something like that at the last board thingy. How players like this pass under our radar is something the manager must correct. Hasn’t MS recently signed an extension though?

    1. Signed an extension last Feb a month before I wrote my first piece on him. Would not be an issue merely increased price.

  15. Actually I would get a super obese goal keeper and 2 fat full backs who could stand beside him on the goal line. With no goal left for the ball to go through we would never concede another goal, lol.

    Seriously there was no passion yesterday against Chelsea and our defence looked non exsistant until we went down to ten men.

    Alex chamberlain showed more compassion than anyone and put himself in trouble to stop a goal. Yes it cause us to go a man down and I feared a 10-0 defeat. To my surprise we played better and defended better when down to 10 men because we didn’t try and attack so much. Alex proved he is probably our best goalie.

    Our full backs need to learn to defend more and if one ventures forward the other stays back to help the two center backs.

    Flamini should have been on the field from the start with arteta and poldolski should play more because he is more dangerous than our other strikers.

    Full credit to Chelsea they got their tactics right and made us look poor. Hopefully next season we will have our best players back and some new quality additions with a bit more back bone and fight. That’s what we lack!

  16. Spot on dave. We are so easily bullied in the middle. Immobile and rarely utilize opportunities to counter.

    You may also want to look at our effectiveness from throwings. We always loose the balls from throwings.

  17. This is spot on. It’s seems obvious that we have lost the strength of the old arsenal teams, but we have still to address it. Does Wenger really feel there is no-one with the quality and size required out there?, because he seems to find it hard finding he right ‘quality’. I find that hard to believe, and now with the financial muscle we are supposed to have, its time to go and strengthen to kick this team on to better things.

  18. I miss this spot on article on time.There is nothing to add except the fault is on Wenger as other times he can say dont have money but this season he has no where to hide in my opinion.

    Remember January window was there to rectify things but he choose to bring an injured player.

    So i am in the opinion the man will go by himself.Only conclusion that i can come is that he already knew that the team is not capable of winning therefore preferred the buy`s to be done by someone.The other intriguing thing is why the club let extend the contracts of the likes of Cazorla ?
    You give a good analysis of the midfield but the attacking department is definitely that needs to be look at. Giroud lack pace and other skills to break the lock.This season all I saw he is physically capable to hold the ball.Other than that there is no frightening scoring capabilities .

  19. Wouldnt Draxler be the perfect fit for that left wing? You should consider that for your next article 😉

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