Arsenal need a new defensive midfielder

Arsenal need a new defensive midfielder

Francis Coquelin Arsenal

One of the finds of last season was unquestionable Francis Coquelin. The midfielder was plucked from his loan spell in the lower leagues and dropped into an Arsenal midfield desperate for a bit of steel.

He became Arsenal’s backbone at a time when the only thing stopping the Gunners from flopping into a pile in the floor was the starch in their shirts.

There was – and is – still criticism, though. Last summer came and went without Arsenal adding strength to their midfield, January then became a chance, but instead of going out and buying a proven midfielder Wenger plumped for Coquelin instead. It’s a call that seems to have been vindicated given the youngster’s performances, but that doesn’t mean the criticism was unfounded.

Wenger was clearly right to give Coquelin a chance, but that certain doesn’t mean he was right not to buy a defensive midfielder.

Even if Coquelin is the best defensive midfielder in the world – and let me spare you the suspense here, he isn’t – Arsenal would still need another good defensive midfielder to do the job alongside him.

Pundits have been asking since the start of the season, ‘what happens if Coquelin gets injured?’ But look what happens even when he’s fit.

You can’t ask a player to play a whole season. And by that I mean every game, in all competitions. Wenger seems to know the importance of Coquelin to his team, and so the young French midfielder is rested from time to time – Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League and this midweek in the Capital One Cup against Sheffield Wednesday, both defeats.

Of course you can’t blame the omission of one player for defeat, and especially not defeats like that, Arsenal should really have enough good players to beat both of those teams without Coquelin. But his absence is always obvious. He’s such a big player for Arsenal.

That’s a good reason to bring in another good defensive midfielder, but even if Coquelin was a complete force of nature and could play in every game, Arsenal would still need another one.

Mikel Arteta – the club captain no less – just doesn’t look up to filling in for the Frenchman this season. And Mathieu Flamini, the player Wenger used in that role before Coquelin shows an almost satirical lack of defensive discipline. His cameo appearance against Everton, when Wenger brought him on to shore up the defence for the last ten minutes whilst 2-1 up, was almost like a caricature. He was a parody of himself.

He was brought on as a defensive midfielder to keep things tight in front of the back four yet he had two chances to wrap up the game, he was overlapping on the left hand side, bombing forward at every opportunity and leaving Arsenal’s defence totally exposed to the counter attack in a way that they weren’t before his arrival.

Only Arsene Wenger, I thought, could make a defensive substitution and actually make his defence weaker. Only Mathieu Flamini could come onto the pitch with instructions to protect his defence and yet bomb forward like a team searching a last minute goal to win the title.

Wenger said that if he’d been signed for £40m, instead of being brought back from his loan spell at Charlton, he would be heralded as a fantastic signing. I think that’s fair enough – if a big new signing put in those performances we’d be lauding him. Yet Arsenal need another one. Even if Coquelin is worth £40m, even if he’s that good, Arsenal still need something better than Mathieu Flamini as an understudy.

Arsenal might be serious title contenders this season for the first time in years, but they really need to cover Coquelin long-term. It’s not a striker Arsenal need – I actually think Walcott, Giroud and a fit Welbeck could be enough for a title charge – what they need is a steely midfielder. Because it doesn’t matter how good Coquelin is, Arsenal just don’t have enough quality behind him.

 

Arsenal v Bayern Live Stream

Arsenal v Bayern Live Stream

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3 ways Arsenal can defeat Bayern Munich

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1.)

Intensity in our play and on the counter-attack

Setting an intense tone early on will be the key to putting Bayern on the back foot and winning the game. We showed against Manchester United that if we attack with intensity and aggression we can overwhelm top sides.

With our pacey attacking players we will cause Bayern problems but don’t expect the Germans to just sit back and let us attack them. It’s a strange fixture. We have to win and they don’t. They will look to soak up our pressure and get us on the counter-attack and although they don’t have to win, they will want to send a message by getting a result at the Emirates.

They have shown this season that they are incredibly difficult to break down if you attack them, particularly Dortmund who started the game all guns blazing and were slaughtered 5-1. We will need to be careful to keep the balance of play and not throw too much into attacking early on and leaving us exposed to a goal. When our chances come we will need to take them and if we can take the lead, we have a good chance of hitting them again on the counter.

More than anything it will be a night where our players will have to give everything to chase the ball down and not let Bayern control the game.

2.)

A solid defensive display

The Gunners defence will have a huge challenge on their hands tonight. Being realistic, Bayern are one of favourites to lift the Champions League trophy this season and are on a 9 game winning run in the Bundesliga. They are a dangerous team, not only with their talented individuals but with their form as a collective outfit.

Our defence will have to be at their best to deal with the threat of Lewandowski and Muller, who pose huge threats up front, and to stop the pace from the wings from the likes of Costa, Lahm and Alaba who will try to feed them.

Peter Cech will also be crucial tonight. His experience in the Champions League to win these big games will calm the back line in the knowledge that there is a rock behind them.

If the defence performs together as a unit to lock out Bayern’s stars by stifling their creativite players and isolating their forwards, it will give us a platform to win the game.

3.)

Win the midfield possession battle

Winning the midfield possession battle will be key to stopping the flow of their play, and nullifying their threat.

Bayern love to dictate play and usually play with 3 midfielder’s in the shape of Thiago, Vidal and Alonso. They are all naturally defensive players but are hugely creative and excellent passers of the ball. Alonso’s passing ability is magical and is always a danger.

Thiago is a combative and classy player and a favourite of Pep. Vidal is more of a box to box player and will often push forward to support the forward players. They will look to keep Pep’s philosophy of possession based football and Cazorla and Coquelin will have their work cut out to match them on the night.

With the Gunners at home and the stakes high, if our midfield wins the battle in the middle, we have an excellent chance of creating chances for our forwards and winning the game. I have faith in them that they can compete at this level.

Arsenal v Man.Utd 2015 preview&LIVE stream

Arsenal v Man.Utd 2015 preview&LIVE stream

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At the beginning of the season the title race was described as a one with four horses. Early season struggles find champions Chelsea way adrift of the top. Pacesetters Manchester City succumbed their lead at the top after two straight losses. Now with the race wide open, the two teams with outside chances are meeting. It is Super Sunday. It is Arsenal vs Manchester United.

Fate for the season will not be decided by the outcome as it is only week 8. However it will be a huge test for Manchester United’s championship credentials. Home wins against Tottenham and Liverpool have been a huge morale boost for the Devils, but sometimes it’s the away games against the top teams, which are a make or break for any team.

Unconvincing, too boring, not the United way, too pragmatic. We heard it all. Louis Van Gaal’s men however could return to the top with a win against Arsenal. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

The Dutchmen mentioned Arsenal’s team as the most technically and tactically gifted team in the League, which has not won much. Struggles both domestically and in the Champions League has put pressure once again on Wenger and his team. The Frenchmam will be optimistic after star man Alexis Sanchez returned to scoring ways with a hat trick against Leicester City. They looked solid and disciplined in their approach, and played some nice football all-round.

Team News:

Arsenal’s team was dealt a blow, when revealed that they will be without Laurent Koscielny for the next three weeks. The Gunners will be also without midfielders Arteta and Flamini. The good news is that there is a timely comeback of Francis Coquelin. Rosicky, Welbeck and Wilshere are all out long term.

Van Gaal’s only real problem to deal with is the injury of Luke Shaw’s deputy Rojo. The Argentinian will be out at least until after international break. McNair and Herrera are doubtful due to match fitness and will not be risked.

Starting Elevens:

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott

Man Utd( 4-2-3-1):De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Blind, Darmian, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Mata, Rooney, Memphis, Martial

Last Meeting: Manchester United – Arsenal 1:1 17th May 2015

Herrea’s early goal was cancelled by an own goal by Tyler Blackett in a game without much to be played for. United could not be beaten to the fourth place and could not reach the Gunners at the third.

This time around, albeit early in the season, both teams have much to prove. The pressure is on for different reasons. Van Gaal’s men will definitely have revenge in mind as well, after being thrown out of the FA Cup last season by the Gunners. Wenger will look to avenge last seasons home loss to United. Revenge, Pressure and tested Championship Credentials. Do you need anything more? Derby day. Super Sunday. Arsenal-Manchester United.