Before I begin ranting, let me first go on the record about my feelings in regards to Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere; they’re brilliant. It is hard to quantify what the pair of midfielders means to myself and any other Arsenal supporter you will come to find.
Never mind that we will never let down the fact that Ramsey chose us over United, his brilliant recovery from injury that now see’s him as one of the most feared and respected midfielders in the country, or the constant work-rate that Wilshere brings to the club which is seemingly routed in a lifelong love affair with the Gunners – we love them both, because they (at least from what they project) love the club and it’s support.
Now that we have cleared that up, let’s discuss the simple fact that neither Ramsey nor Wilshere is the answer to the true midfield problem. Not since the days of Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Gilberto Silva have the Gunners had a holding midfielder capable of anchoring the clubs spine. Not even Alex Song was a true holding player; his preference to develop his creative side saw him transform into more of a box to box midfielder rather than a true defensive minded stake in the ground.
Do Arsenal have other option in midfield that are not Ramsey or Wilshere? Yes, but there reliability is sketchy at best. Mikel Arteta, the current preferred deeper option, was a number ten for his entire career until recently. God bless him for putting in the effort to change his game to fit the role required, but he is only a serviceable option at best, rather than a true first choice option.
Mathieu Flamini played well in that same role since returning to the club on a free, but his play is bound to regress – after all, not even AC Milan deemed him quality enough, and no one else other than Arsenal were remotely interested in bringing him in once his contract at the San Siro expired.
Abou Diaby, the talented but forever crocked midfielder, can never be more than a player that provides depth given his complete lack of ability to stay healthy. When you boil it down, Arsenal really have no idea what the situation in midfield will be in the next few years; Arteta and Flamini will surely be washed up and Diaby on the injury table as per usual.
Given the above, it was rumored that Arsene Wenger would toy with the idea of turning Wilshere into a defensive midfielder - in true Wenger fashion, the French gaffer would rather find a cheap fix to plug a problem than to spend the money to fix it properly. While Wilshere’s work ethic and heart are second to none at the club, his tackling ability is sub par at best. Wilshere struggles with fitness in his own right as well, so the potential of having your holding midfielder get crocked every time he goes into a hard crunching tackle is not a recipe for success.
In addition, Wilshere has shown time and time again that his temperament has grown increasingly volatile, and, to be honest, is that something you really want in a player who needs to be aggressive in his style of play? You’re begging for copious amounts of bookings and red cards.
As for Ramsey, he is far too forward thinking (much like Wilshere is) to be an option in this role, and it is one that Wenger has not considered and shouldn’t. Ramsey has developed into a fine box to box midfielder, to the point where you have to include him in the discussion as the best in the business (other than Yaya Toure) in the Premier League. But despite these facts, and those that come with Wilshere, Arsenal still lack a proper holding player – so, what’s the delay, Arsene?
The whole Sami Khedira affair is getting tiresome at best. One minute the club are in for him, the next his wages are too much, after that the rumor is he dropped his demands, and now you have Stan Collymore claiming the move is still on, while Guilleme Balague reports that there was never even a bid lodged for his services.
Morgan Schneiderlin wants out of Southampton, and while he would be brilliant in an Arsenal shirt, he is dead-set on a move to Tottenham to reunite with Mauricio Pochettino at White Hart Lane. Shame really, but, I cannot fault his logic behind that.
Lars Bender will not be leaving Bayer Leverkusen any time soon. While the German club have not said he is untouchable, the player has, on multiple occasions, said he will not be swapping the Black Forest for the White Cliffs of Dover.
Paul Pogba would be a dream, but, come on, can you really see Wenger stumping up the 60million pounds needed to pry him out of northern Italy? Surely you jest if you think that…surely…
The last proper option available that seemingly would not come with a weeks worth of protracted transfer saga’s like some drawn out day-time soap opera, would be a move for the highly touted William Carvalho. Unlike the options listed above, Carvalho is a true holding player who rarely, if ever, rampages forward in the attack; he is as close to an anchor as you will get.
Further positives that come with him is the notion that Sporting Lisbon are very much a selling club, and would never turn down the right amount of money, no matter how highly valued he may be. Finally, Carvalho’s tender age would be the icing on the cake for Wenger, who would have the ability to sink his teeth into yet another young player to mold him the Wenger way.
While I am beyond thrilled with the moves the club have made thus far this summer, it does boggle my mind that a holding midfielder was not first on the docket; this has been a problem for years, one that everyone has seen, and one that, if not addressed, will still keep Arsenal on the outside looking in when it comes to the title race.
A player of Alexis Sanchez’s quality was needed, David Ospina is a brilliant option at keeper to push Wojciech Szczesny, Calum Chambers is a future world beater at right-back, and Mathieu Debuchy is an upgrade on the departed Bacary Sagna; it will all be for naught unless Wenger makes a move for a top tier holding player, and soon.
In the long run, we’ll be okay; this summer is a massive step in the right direction, but I do worry about the warning signs that have been the writing on the wall for years, and continue to be so. Despite our quality, we just cannot match City and Chelsea in midfield, and even Liverpool are just as strong as us in that department currently.
While the long term looks bright as always (at least on paper), I pray that our future does not involve the sabotage of Ramsey and Wilshere because our adored manager refused to stump up some cash in a timely fashion.