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Could Andrei Arshavin Be Arsenal’s Defensive Midfielder?


Arsenal’s weaknesses have been prevalent in a season more perilous than any under the Wenger regime.  Arsenal have neither an experienced nor a competent holding midfielder.  Their central defense has been inconsistent.  Incompetent moments at the back have cost them points.  As of right now, they are the favorites to drop from the Champions League places.

The obvious, standard move would be to acquire a burly, possibly English midfielder to provide some steel or a veteran defender who can play with either Toure or Gallas.  Arsene Wenger, paradoxically, has spent the entire transfer window signing Russian attacker Andrei Arshavin.  Wenger seems to be intent to get the player Arsenal least need.  But, here is a possible explanation.

Arsenal did not beat West Ham, but after Vela entered the match they, for one of the few times all season, played Arsenal football, even if it amounted to nothing.

Two elements make Arsenal’s system successful.

When Arsenal play well, they dominate possession of the ball.  They shuffle it up and down and from side to side looking for an opening.  They keep the other team on the back foot.

To capitalize on the possession, Arsenal need penetration.  They get through the first line of defenders, with an incisive pass or a skillful run.  The defense panics.  The wall-passing and five-a-side skills come out, and Arsenal attack the goal.  Total football.  Lovely.

In most matches this season, Arsenal has reasonably held possession.  The problem has been in penetration.  Which is no coincidence, considering major injuries to players like Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas, Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky.  Arsenal have not penetrated all season, resorting to hoofing the ball up to Adebayor and hoping something happens.

Arshavin could replicate the role of these players, providing his own invention and creating additional space for players such as Nasri and Vela.  If he gets the system working, Arsenal’s game will hold opposing teams behind the ball, thus mitigating their need for a defensive midfielder and a defender.

Could this work or has the esteemed Arsene Wenger truly lost it?

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  1. duffer

    May 6, 2010 at 7:36 am


  2. ali

    September 4, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    arshavin is good player woord

  3. Myopian

    April 11, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I think that in order to play this system, Arsenal have been best when they play a lone striker and support Fabregas and the wingers with 2 DMF minded players in Song and Denilson. And it bore fruit on the weekend as well as against Villareal. The other beauty of this system of possession (and their fitness) is that you can see the toll it takes on the defense by the 60-70 minute mark. The gaps are wider, the passes are easier, and with a little bit of luck – the goals will come in bunches.

  4. lee

    April 10, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    and also there are talks of yaya toure or another defensive midfielder coming 2 the emirates in the summer where would you put him wen the arsenal midfield is already flooded???

  5. lee

    April 10, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    just 1 question wen nasri, arshavin, fabregas, rosicky, walcott, van persie, eduardo and adebayor are all fit hu will asene wenger play and which formation???

  6. patrick

    February 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    The main problem for the Gunners has been width. They try too hard to push the ball up the middle and never push out to the corners. Its all very predictible. You could see Upson and Collins bunch up in box. Parker would float back clear out and end the attack. It just keep happening over and over. toothless attack after toothless attack.

    Liverpool had the same problem today V 10 man Chelsea. They then finally had Gerrard push the ball out wide right as opposed to pushing through the middle and three defenders into the box, It got crossed in and Torres popped it in. result.

    I saw that all day, but then again following WHU I knew what would kill us.

  7. p@

    February 1, 2009 at 11:28 am

    what was the point of the holding midfielder talk…. when the rest of the write up was about penetration?

  8. Aguuner fan

    February 1, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Just flog him for any price… should have scored way more last season, ashavin in the hole and RvP up front. When vela come on we did play with penertration we were wose becose we have center ford that cant score gilt edge chances if his brain has to think like a true striker 9/10 times… hes too slow in the head…. waste of time playing the ball to his feet he his touch is bad or his head because he not that great there.

  9. jm

    February 1, 2009 at 8:16 am

    I think the point about incisiveness is correct, and I think a player like Arshavin is a good use of the transfer funds available. Had it not been for Cesc's injury, then I would think we needed the DM player more. Such a player would have freed Cesc to play a bit further forward, hopefully helping both the attack and defense.

    Of course, we don't have Cesc for the rest of the season. In the absence of his kind of creativity and passing skill, you get performances like yesterday's against West Ham. As much as they dominated the ball, they could not apply consistent danger to the West Ham goal. Hopefully we manage to get Arshavin (especially since it looks like he is the only option) and he is able to get up to speed quick enough to help up front.

  10. RS

    February 1, 2009 at 5:55 am

    No YOUR DAD you sir r the fool !- eboue may be cover material but the sad fact is wenger has made him a first team regular and if you've actually bothered to watch him this season he is absolute garbage. In fact not only is he garbage but because wenger has entrusted this chute with the job of a creative winger he successfully manages to break down any build up the team does manage to put together occasionally. you'd thinka player who is a natural RB (and a good one at that too) would help out defensively but if uve watched the guy he not only manages to lose the ball he then either rolls around on the groud cryin foul or puts his head down and walks away in the opposite direction! YOU CALL THAT HEART !?! manure was on right right after and as much as i cringe writing this watchin their avg squad players like eboue i.e. fletcher o shea park ull see wat HEART and HUNGER is u silly man. Alright so its harsh that im celebratin a players injury but if thats wat its gonna take for Weng to realize 1) he is being played outta position and is garbage and 2) Vela, Wilshire and Ramsey can alll perform better in that position or even Arsharvin then I'll take that ! Eboue is simply not fit to wear the Arsenal jersey and with your ignorant and nonsensical arguments neither r u u muppet!

  11. TT

    February 1, 2009 at 5:02 am

    Not really mate (Toure deserving a chance) He is very poor. He has had chances and failed miserable.

  12. you know nothing

    February 1, 2009 at 2:50 am

    what a stupid article you are a mug that doesn't know anything about football how could Arshavin be a defencive midfielder

  13. Your Dad

    February 1, 2009 at 1:33 am

    ^ You're a fool.
    Great a player gets injured leaving us with no cover whatsoever and you're happy. Wow! I piss on your mom's grave. Regardless of Eboue's antics and the fact that he is played out of position, at least he has heart in that he'll try for the team unlike the others.

  14. RS

    January 31, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Positives from last nights game – EBOUE GOT INJURED ! I hope he is f#@ked and doesnt play for the rest of the season, Vela looked so much better on the right and I hope eboue is sold to Atletico or whoever is mental enough to want him – he is absolute garbage! The negatives besides the draw ofcourse was Diaby got injured as well and Ade pulled up with wat looked like a hamstring towards the end of the game – our squad is now paper thin and hopefully this will help Weng realize we need to cough up whatever the additional amount Zenit is askin to make this deal happen !!!

  15. Gooner MAC

    January 31, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I can't agree. We do create good scoring chances but 2 of our strikers have been very wasteful. Adebayor believes he's as good as Henry was and is the biggest culprit. If you look back at the brilliant chances that he's completely fluffed and tot up what those goals would have meant in points I it would have left us champions last season and we would be much higher up the league this year.

    Bendtner is another wasteful strker. I was at at Burnley for the Carling Cup game this year and he was one of the more senior players in the team but he was bad. He cost us that game, no doubt. I think in the last few games that he's pulled his socks up and he's still young so I'd persevere with him.

    I don't think Arshavin is the answer to anything and I don't quite see why we want him but if we do finally get him I'd hope we offload Adebayor in the summer.

    For my money I think Eduardo will be the answer when he comes back. It's no coincidence, to my mind, that we had a few problems last year after his injury.

  16. GoonerVance

    January 31, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    If we were losing in possession then I would say that defense should be our main worry because we'd have to do a lot of defending. Our problem is we have the ball so much of the time and we don't capitalize on those opportunities. The problem IS scoring. The problem is we don't open up the account early in the game and then when the other team gets desperate step on their throat with another goal. After all the final score of today's game was 0-0 and we've only conceded more than 2 goals twice this season.

  17. butterfingers

    January 31, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    we have replaced players like freddie, pires,petit, veira and henry with the likes of eboue, denilson, song, diaby and bendtner that's the problem no matter how you look at it theres nothing more or less about it as all the tossers saying we don't spend much we got all the above for bugger all and cesc, flamster, sagna, rvp,ade and clichy were all big money signings wasn't they?

  18. Kevin

    January 31, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Here you really have to look at both possible arguments. Indeed the beauty of the Arsenal system is that the opposing team gets limited time on the ball hence one can argue that there is no need for that holding midfielder. Though I think it's a valid point you cannot seriously avoid the fact that Arsenal don't always play the football we have come to expect of them. In those times the defensive midfielder would do a world of good.

    So le Boss really is left with two decesions here isn't he? 1) He buys a defensive midfielder and sures up our defense with a quick and strong player who would most likely play the role of a sweeper except in the back of the midfield. Sounds great doesn't it? But look at the consequences. As of late we lack that ability to penetrate that final line of defense and surely a defensive midfielder won't help in this aspect. 2) He gets Arshavin, a wide player who can play both as a winger and striker. This would provide him with the cutting edge we lack but won't help our defensive situation. After going through that you see that le Boss has the decesion to make between conceding less or scoring more. And he deemed that we need to score more as our defense is good enough to keep most teams at bay.

    We will just have to see how everything plays out. Just remember that Arsene Wenger knows what he's doing, and after all he's done for the club it would be wrong of us to doubt him.

  19. tyduffy

    January 31, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Norm, I think you're a little harsh on him. The man did score 30 goals last season.

    I think selling Adebayor should depend on how much the bid is for him and who they could get to replace him. If it's a part exchange for Eto'o. I see it. If it's selling him for 18m and replacing him with Roque Santa Cruz, I think it's absurd.

  20. tyduffy

    January 31, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I think Gallas is fine as a defender, don't want him anywhere near the armband.

    Toure has been treated unfairly. He's just now getting back into shape. He deserves a chance. I mean the guy had freaking malaria last summer.

  21. Norm

    January 31, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    If we had all the best creative players in the World, it wouldn't matter when we dont have a striker that can put the ball in the net. Adebayer up front is what is stifling our attack. It is time to sell Ade. He doesn't have the ability to penatrate.

  22. Gaz

    January 31, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    You make some good points, I think what your saying is the best form of defence is to attack, right? Perhaps so. One thing is for sure, anyone saying we don't need players such as Arshavin need their heads testing!

    We must strengthen in order to improve the competition of places within our first 11. Avg players like Eboue are playing week in week out because there is little else to push him out the team.

  23. Burt Reynolds

    January 31, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    nice picture.

  24. Maynard

    January 31, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    i complety agree with you we are struggling 2 penetrate with all out injuries 2 rosicky walcott n fabregas wen dere all aback i believe you will see a different arsenal but i believe the signing of arshavin could take arsenal to another level hes an indivual whos got pace can beat people create things for other score goals and he is veratile can play of the front or wide right and left with him i believe we could alter our formation for example wen every1 is fit we can play nasri fabregas denilonor song as a midfield 3 and have arshavin walcott an ade in a front 3, 433 formation or we can play van p in d hole behind ade or eduardo wit arshavin one side and rosicky nari or walcott on d other al of a sudden we our attacking and creative option wil be huge

  25. TT

    January 31, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Gallas is not the problem alex, Gallas is our best defender. Toure has played like a sack of shit for three years whereas Gallas has just made a fool of himself in public. That does not make you a bad player.

    Agree with the post, and a few comments.

  26. Tom14

    January 31, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    My post was a copy and paste from another I made on the Setanta site. I did read your post and I agree with it (apart from you thinking that the introduction of Vela actually made us play football, we got worse)

    Sorry for sounding like I was disagreeing, I just couldn't be bothered editing my post.

  27. -dean

    January 31, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    You've hit the nail on the head. We badly need penetration otherwise good teams are not scared to attack us. We nearly have it with Nasri and van Persie but we need a bit more.

    The people crying it for a “DM” don't know what they are talking about.

  28. alex

    January 31, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I think Wenger is right no prioritise a creative and skilled attacking player instead of a DM. The problem lately is no penetration, and since most teams spend most of the game against Arsenal with 10 men behind the ball it is little use to have a strong tackeler in midfield. It could of cource help since most of the goals against Arsenal are either a long shot, or a cross from Clichy's side, and of cource set pieces(but here is Gallas the problem most of the times, replace him with Senderos). Arshavin would be the new Hleb, finding room easily and taking on people, disrupting the defence and finding either the net or a teammate in a good position. Arsenals best defence has allways been attacking.

  29. tyduffy

    January 31, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    The brilliance of this post is that it captures the people who only skim the first two paragraphs.

  30. Gunner Dude

    January 31, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I grow wary of this transfer, its boring now zzzzZZZ. It is be clear for a while that we need the player.

  31. Tom14

    January 31, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    If we had so many of these creative midfielders our problems would be conceding too many goals. But guess what, we do not score enough goals and we fail time and time again when trying to break teams down. Do you think that a holding midfielder and a center back would solve that? Do you think Eboue would suddenly turn into Ronaldo if we had Vidic at the back? Would Diaby begin to thread pass after pass through the oppositiion's back line alongside De Rossi? I don't think so. Our problem is the one problem that we have never had. We have average players trying to do the things that Pires, Hleb and Fabregas have done for us over the years. Denilson has performed very very well in the holding midfield role, there is no need at all to sign a defensive midfielder. Try thinking logically rather than repeating media cliches and myths just because you do not understand the fundamental problems with our lack of quality. Its too easy to say we need the stereotypical Arsenal weakness.

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