The State of our Club and it’s future prospects: Midfield and Attack.

The final instalment of my analysis of the club’s future prospects details the last elements of the Arsenal Playing squad. This section has had to be edited yet again as other contributors have commented upon many of the  key players. Today I shall deal with our midfield and strikers – post transfer window Summer 2009.
One recurring significant area of debate relates to the defensive midfield position vacated by Mathieu Flamini. His role was to sit in front of the back four and do the dirty work of interceptions and ball carrying into the central midfield areas. Why was this player so influential? Cesc Fabregas is an attacking midfield wizard. His intellect and sublime passing skills require for him to have a free role in the final third of the pitch. His orchestration of the attacking movements means that he cannot be confined to a static position. Flamini allowed him that free role.
With Arsenal’s tendency to play the ball on the ground through the middle, it means that when Fabregas links with wide players, there is a gaping hole behind the strikers which is vulnerable to counter attacks. The central defenders cannot approach this area as it is too high up the pitch. Flamini had the tactical sense and ability to plug that area, and despite often being outnumbered, his tackling ability meant that he could stifle any opponent break out, thus allowing time for the formations to be restored.
Denilson has utterly failed to appreciate the strategic nature of this role as he is an attacking midfielder. When Fabregas plays with Denilson, it is therefore our captain who is forced to assume the defensive midfield role, thus wasting his valuable coordinating talents. We have not had a solution until recently with Alexandre Song’s major improvement in his form and consistency. The recent knee injury to Johan Djourou means that if Song is placed in central defence, then we will lose his valuable contribution. Arsene Wenger will now be forced to experiment.
I see Abou Diaby as the most likely candidate to replace Song even though he will have to curb his attacking instincts if he is to play an effective role. AW would have been faced with this option come the African Cup of Nations tournament in the New Year anyway, so this sequence of events has brought forward the necessity. With Fabregas playing a free role, the Arsenal flanks of our midfield need creative players if we are not to lose our width.
This is why I believe Arsene Wenger has opted for the 4-3-3 formation. The wing backs Clichy and Sagna are naturally wide players, and they have linked well with Arshavin and Bendtner respectively. The short interplay of passes and the cutting inside onto the stronger foot of the wide players creates dilemmas for man marking strategies, however it the lack of the aerial attacking option that was provided by Adebayor that will hurt Arsenal this season. Playing creative players out wide will enable them to get behind defences and create openings and chances from tight siutations.
Robin van Persie is not a natural aerial striker, despite having good heading ability. He has a tendency to play too deep and retreat into midfield. This is why Eduardo is so important. His diminutive frame is deceptive as he is lethal in the air, and he could be our secret weapon, but employing 4-3-3 means that he is not the automatic number one choice. This is why I have argued that van Persie should not be played as lead striker, and should be played out wide or behind the lead striker.
Yes, unconventional maybe, but I cannot understand why AW prefers leaving out a striker as good as Eduardo in favour of van Persie whose value is more is assists than converted strikes on goal. Currently the free flowing play from central defence means that Vermaelen has added to our aerial threat, but I fear that in tight games, we shall not be able to afford that luxury of his forward advances, which is why the failure to sign another striker like Marouane Chamakh who is an aerial poacher of goals is so perplexing. I repeat, this was an opportunity missed.
In my opinion AW has gambled, and I fear that like the semi-final gamble of not playing Arshavin, it may turn out to be doomed to failure. I hope sincerely that I am proved wrong.  It pains me to have to predict that we shall not win the Premier league with weaknesses that remain in goal and up front, but we can win the FA Cup and if we get lucky perhaps also the Champions League. If we cannot, then we must try to prevent Chelsea from winning the Champions League, so that we can be the first london team to lift the European trophy.
Youth Players
Josh has dealt with Merida, Barazite, Emmanuel Thomas, Coquelin, and Sanchez Watt.
Mark Randall
A once fiercesome attacking midfielder, I have been disappointed with Mark’s progress of late. He seems to have become a petulant almost careless player with a tendency to lose the ball and not chase back to recover, whic is quite untypical of the player who got to the subs bench of the first team on two occasions. I hope that he is able to improve this season, or I can see his Arsenal career ending as others pass him in the pecking order.
Henri Lansbury
I hope that Henri Lansbury can establish some kind of form this season. He is undoubtedly gifted and his turn of pace can split defences, but when I watch him, I cannot help feeling that he is playing in a subdued manner. Perhaps it is the role that he is given. But this player has great potential, the challenge is to be able to turn the glimpses of brilliance into regular sustained performances.
Emmanuel Frimpong
Power to weight ratio in its most efficient guise is how I describe Frimpong. His terrier like assaults on the opposing midfield and defenders are a joy to see. He always gives 100 percent and can be relied upon to do the often boring and mundane ball retrieving and carrying. His “engine” is awesome and he seems as fit at the final whistle as when he started. Look out for some devastating performances in the Carling Cup which should propel him towards future first team appearances.
Conor Henderson
I have not seen enough of Conor to be able to describe his assets. He seems comfortable on the ball, but he has not stood out from the crowd. Competent and assured, but is the best yet to come I wonder?
Other players include Oguzhan Ozyakup our Dutch midfielder, Englishman and Hale End Academy graduate Sam Byles with Jernade Meade and playmaker Chukwuemeka Aneke
Gilles Sunu
A frightening prospect is what I will say about this young Frenchman. His electrifying pace combined with good positional awareness makes him one to watch. His link play is excellent and he is often the provider having done the running off the ball.
Luke Freeman
Since his arrival from the Gills, Luke has not failed to live up to his reputation. He is a natural goal scorer with a very bright future ahead of him. I predict that he will break into the first team in very much the same way that Jack Wilshere has done. Again the Carling Cup will be the stage that will announce him to the wider faithful.
Jay Simpson (on loan)
Jay is an enthusiastic player who has been unlucky. He has not had the breaks that would enable him to be seen as a striker in waiting in pecking order terms. He is unselfish, hardworking and yet often gets overlooked. I want him to do well, and if he could improve his composure in front of goal, he might be able to turn some heads in the Premiership, but I fear he will not be first team material.
Other players include Roarie Deacon and Benik Afobe.
First team players
Jack Wilshere
Destined for greatness, Jack Wilshere is already world class in my opinion. His dribbling skills are outshone by his mature footballing intellect. The challenge is to surround him with like minded players who will understand his runs and feints and passes. If you need me to say more, you are obviously living on another planet…
Aaron Ramsey
A stuttering start against his old club Cardiff in the FA Cup detracted from the real player that Aaron has the potential to be. So impressed with him am I that I am going to be controverisal and go so far as to say that in due course he will be Cesc Fabregas’s successor. What he needs is to do is make his pass completion more accurate and develop a turn of pace to take him past players. He is technically excellent and possesses deft attacking skills.
This player has yet to be the finished article in my opinion and his tendency to ball watch has caused me not to be his greatest fan. He has excellent passing ability with pass completion stats to match, but it is his inconsistency under pressure that worries me. Denilson is a player who you either love to bits or like me, feel that the best is yet to come in two seasons time.
Abou Diaby
I rate Diaby, and his Vieira like form suggests that soon he will be a great asset to our team. He has the potential to be world class. His tendency to hold onto the ball too long has not endeared him to some fans, but his excellent skills allow him to turn in tight situations. I believe that themore games he is given, the greater the opportunity for him to become an indispensable member of the first team. I have mentioned above that he could be an ideal candidate to stand in for Song if he improves his defensive awareness.
Cesc Fabregas
The greatest player in this Arsenal team, the midfield general can control the game and his passing ability is sublime. One day he will move on to his beloved Barcelona, but until then, our captain and icon will do his best to ensure that silverware will again return to the Club.
Andrey Arshavin
World class, cheeky but sometimes lazy is how I would describe Arshavin. The failure to play him against Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup last season was AW’s biggest mistake. He has a devastating thunderbolt of a shot, with very little back lift. He very rarely makes a poor pass, and is AW best buy in at least four seasons.
Tomas Rosicky
If the injury jinx that saw him sit on the sidelines for 20 months can be removed, then at last out midfield “Little Mozart” can again bring his midfield skills to bear on opposing defences. We saw glimpses of his greatness in pre-season and The Emirates Tournament. I hope that he proves me wrong and puts in the performances that would make him in effect a new signing this season.
Samir Nasri
I do believe that we have yet to see the best of Samir Nasri, which is saying something, given the impact that his loss has had since the start of this campaign. He would have made the difference in the ManU game, and his close ball control whilst performing jinxing runs and dramatic turns of pace make him more than a suitable successor to Hleb. His goal scoring ability will be needed in the latter stages of the Champions League, and it is his contribution that could bring silverware to the Emirates.
Emmanuel Eboue
A mercurial individual, you either dislike him or love him, but since the departure of Adebayor, I do believe that he has concentrated on his game and now works even harder. His dive against Man U was very disappointing and if he can remove these flaws, then we will truly have “only come to see EBOUE!” He is the best crosser of the ball in the club and Sagna should learn from him.
Carlos Vela
This Mexican superstar is world class. I rate him as the best finisher in the club which coming alongside Eduardo is praise indeed. He will get his opportunity and I was pleased to see that he was given a vote of confidence and not placed on loan. AW has to find a way of bringing him into our formation, I suspect that he will again have to prove his worth in Carling Cup performances. He is the complete player, and just needs to develop phsyically.
Theo Walcott
An Englishman at Arsenal who is being groomed for a central striking role. His pace is frightening but his end product has been lacking of late which has meant that his critics have increased in number. Theo Walcott is a class act and in due course he will prove it. He has work to do to improve his close ball skills, but if Theo Walcott can become more consistent then he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Niklas Bendtner
I am not this Dane’s greatest admirer, as I feel that he needs to improve his first touch and composure in front of goal. He has become our “Mr Arsenal” with his recent unselfish hard working performances. If he can add finishing to his excellent aerial skills, then at last he will be able to convince me that we do not need another striker.
This Croatian striker has nothing to prove, yet he is not the number one choice as Arsenal striker. A world class finisher, Eduardo rarely disappoints. He is excellent in the air and after suffering such a horrific injury against Birmingham City, I am asking myself what more has he to do to warrant a regular place in the team?
Robin van Persie
Favoured number one striker of AW, who appears to have shaken off his injury curse. His set pieces are improving and if he can control his temperament he will provide the assists that should give us a good goal difference this season. He has added scoring with his right foot to his list of excellent skills and he can hold up the ball as well as Adebayor. He is not my idea of the out and out “Fox in the Box” but he has an ability to score goals from amazing angles which adds to his vast repertoire.
I hope that you have enjoyed this extensive and often protracted series of blogs on the future prospects of our great club. I have given my opinions as honestly as possible and what has impressed me, is the how the youth have improved in maturity terms. Arsenal Football Club deserves silverware this season. The challenge is to be able to play all of these highly talented players at the right time and in the right position. AW knows these players very well, if he can motivate them to another level then as I have suggested, we will win something this season. Keep the Faith Gooners!

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