The Premier League season is winding down and with Arsenal’s chances at the top four slim at best, it might be a good time to assess what the team needs for success next season. A position that has been of concern for many years now is a natural centre defensive midfielder whose sole purpose will be to protect and shield the back four. Many have tried in the past but have been hybrid midfielders who get caught up in the attacking game and leave the defence high and dry. With a new transfer team working behind the scenes, this should be the highest priority for the upcoming season.
After this weekend, the Arsenal defence has conceded a ridiculous 43 goals and there are still six games left to play in the season. This season, it has appeared that Granit Xhaka has been expected to shoulder that burden but his natural instincts aren’t that of a defensive player and there have been many a time this season where his defensive lapses have lead to goals. A natural CDM can be invaluable to a team because they can sniff out danger before it even gets to the defence and initiate attacks quicker.
If we look at the Arsenal defence over the previous years, it has almost looked like four people defending and the other six attacking. This has inevitably lead to a simple game plan for the opposition where they stifle the Arsenal attack by loading men behind the ball and spring the counter with a pacey forward. This type of game has taken its toll on the defence as finding a continuous unit to play the majority of the game has been problematic. With an established CDM, the burden on the defence decreases and the availability of the defence will increase because they aren’t expected to shoulder the entire burden of keeping the opposition attack out.
Looking at the two best defences in the league (Tottenham & Man City), there is very much an emphasis on team defence with an established CDM in the middle. Guardiola has built a philosophy of the team holding everyone accountable and their defensive efforts are anchored by the ever impressive Fernandinho. The Brazilian is a key component to the success of the team and does the dirty work and allows the forward players to thrive. Likewise, Mauricio Pochettino has a similar philosophy utilising his defensive midfielders very well. Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama prove more than capable of disrupting the opposition attack and Dier is more than capable of initiating attacks from deep.
Of all the teams in the top six in the league, Arsenal have conceded the most goals by a large margin. In such an evolving game, the middle of the pitch is crucial for any teams success and those that get run over there are susceptible to failure. With a new man at the helm of transfer, this position needs immediate addressing if next season is to be any different from the current one.