So here we are at the end of another week. Friday has decided to grace us with its presence and I for one couldn’t be happier about that. After taking Monday off to travel back from the North East, I feel like the last few days have taken an eternity for the weekend to show it’s face. But now it’s here and we can look forward to a footballing weekend of….oh.
This is going to feel very strange. I’m going to have to re-remember how I did it last summer. Perhaps I’ll take up Bridge. Or maybe not.
There is still the matter of my analysis of our midfield and attack however, so I will happily regale you with my musings, if you’d be so kind as to read on…
The midfield this season was the one area that probably had the most disruptions to it through injury. We started the season knowing Jack would be out until October but the foolishly hopeful of us felt that, if Diaby could just get a run of games together, he might just be able to shake off his incessant injury problems since that Dan Smith tackle a few years ago. Sadly for us, ’twas a mere pipe dream. Diaby came, played a blinder against Liverpool, then hobbled off against Chelski and we haven’t really seen him since. With the news that the club announced only a few months ago – Diaby would be out until Christmas – it leaves too much time and too many games both from this season and next, for us to expect him to play any more part in writing the ongoing history of Arsenal Football Club. I share the disappointment of many inside and out of the club, but it’s time to cut the chord I’m afraid.
In his stead, the midfield that formed of Arteta, Cazorla and Ramsey looked in good shape at times, and a little bit shaky at others, as each player sussed out the strengths and weaknesses in one-another’s games. Arteta sitting in that holding role is not something we expected from the man when we signed him from Everton, but he has shown in the last two seasons at Arsenal why Wenger rates him so highly: consistency and versatility. Arsene loves a versatile player. If Championship Manager 97/98 was real life, he’d have snapped up Nicklas Alexandersson without hesitation (he played as a Defender/Midfielder/Forward Right/Left/Centre). That’s what Arteta can bring to the team. He’ll play anywhere you ask him too. not just that, he’ll also be darn good at it too, such is his ability. Now i’ve had a full second season to watch him in action I can’t speak highly enough of him. Thankfully, despite the injury record he came with, we’ve not seen him out of too many games and his perfect hair has graced the Emirates turf enough times for him to become a firm fans favourite.
At the beginning of the season we saw Coquelin a bit more than of late and, as a player I rate him and the role he plays as a combative ball winner, but his lack of first team opportunities will I think lead the player to seeking pastures new. He’s of an age now where he’ll just want to be playing football and I think he’ll get a bit of a Diarra going on and want to drop down to a lesser team in the hope he plays regularly and then steps up to some of the bigger clubs in a couple of moves time. Signing a new combative defensive midfielder will probably tell us all we need to know about his future, but somehow I hope he can find his way into the first team next season. I posed a question on Twitter a few days ago about whether or not Arsenal fans would take Flamini back on a free transfer this summer. Whilst some say ‘yes’, I think those that said ‘no’ might have had an eye on Le Coq, as I see the role they both fulfil as very similar. When I first heard Flamini was available on a free I wondered whether or not it would be a good move for us, but the more I think about it, the more I see how it could ‘kill’ Coquelin. I think we should be putting more faith in a younger player currently at the club than an ageing one that deserted us.
But where one midfielders game time dwindled, another one stepped up, doing so in a big way. Aaron Ramsey has experienced somewhat of a purple patch in the second half of the season and has really come of age. He has found a place in the side that is not only valuable, but essential, given our recent miserly approach to conceding goals. This time last year ‘Rambo’ was severely questioned by so many Arsenal fans that even on some match days the frustration was palpable at times. But he has shown exactly what type of man he is. A brave heart. His all-action style and ability to do what Alex Song clearly thought was beneath him has won him a place in the first 11 regularly and also in our hearts. His form has also afforded the luxury of Arsene being able to use Jack Wilshire sparingly, so as to not risk further long-term damage to the midfielders prospects of shaking his injury problems. This can only be a good thing and will hopefully bode well for next season.
Which leads me seamlessly on to the player we all hope will be our talisman for the next ten years – JW. We all know about Jack. We all know what he brings and for the middle part in the season we all saw how he can influence and dominate games. The Swansea FA Cup match at home is a perfect example. He took the game by the scruff of the neck and won it with a superb finish. His goal tally is the only thing he needs to work on but it is something that will come with games I think. Just before Cesc had his place in the team as the focal point people said the same thing about him, so for Jack I think we’ll see the same. The only thing he will have to beat will be the injury niggles that have already caused him problems. Fingers crossed this ankle surgery gives him a full run at the whole of next season.
There have been other cogs in our midfield that have played their part, such as Rosicky, whose appearance towards the end of the season has been vitally important when one or two players went missing. Tomas is a great squad player. Some players that don’t play regularly take a bit of time to find their form, but Tomas has been able to – both this season and last – slot straight into the team and have an impact. His drive and awareness are fantastic and he’s even managed to bag a few goals towards the end of this season.
But of course, I have to save the best until last. Santi Cazorla ladies and gentlemen. Quite simply a genius. You never know just how long a player is going to adapt to life in the Premier League, but this guy was an instant hit, showing class from the first game this season to the last. It’s the little things he did early on that made me realise what a gem of a player he is. I remember in the first half of the 6-1 win against Southampton when a high ball into the sky was hurtling down to ground right by him. He simple placed his foot in front of him and the ball just stuck. Not just that though, because he managed to turn a player within a second or two. It was majestic stuff. And it proved he could cut it in this league because you get no time at all to think in the English game and Santi didn’t seem to be phased by that. He’s contributed both goals and assists and, whilst last season David Silva faded away after Christmas, Santi has remained an integral part of the team, the pass to Walcott for the second goal against Wigan a week and a half ago being another example.
We’ve got a great group of midfielders with differing levels of ability, but do we need to make any additions to take us to the next level? If I had a crystal ball and I could see how Coquelin could potentially step up to fight Arteta for that holding role, then I’d probably have a better answer. The same could be said for both Eisfeld and Gnabry. But i don’t. So at this moment in time I would suggest that we probably do need one more addition creatively. If Santi were to be injured, could we really rely on Rosicky for a prolonged period of time? Would he get us the leek of goals and assists that Santi has? I would probably say ‘no’, so think that this might be an area that Arsene looks at. Would I take Cesc back given the rumours? Of course! But I am skeptical that Barcelona would let the heir apparent to an ageing Xavi walk back to The Arsenal. I believe it’s just media bluff to achieve their desired readership levels, so I’ll save any hope for a more realistic signing.
More from me on the striking options tomorrow. Have a good Friday.