Ever since Patrick Vieira left Arsenal for Juventus, in the summer of 2005, there has been a void in Arsenal’s midfield enforcer role.
Sure, Gilberto Silva helped clean things up for a few years, and the 2007-08 form of Matthieu Flamini was a revelation for Arsenal supporters. However, seeing both of those players depart in the same offseason, was a little too much for Arsenal to handle, and the results showed that.
Denilson isn’t strong enough, and Abou Diaby looks to get forward often, something that the role does not call for. While Diaby was hailed as the ‘next Vieira’, it’s quite clear that he his a different type of player altogether; with all of his best performances coming when he plays on the wing. The second-half form of Alex Song was quite an uplift to the very small midfield pairing of Cesc Fabregas and Denilson. However, anyone who watches Arsenal knows that this won’t prove to be enough.
The team needs a spine. Going all the way back to the central defenders, the team needs a face lift. Arsenal supporters will be happy to see that Wenger’s transfer policy so far this summer has been purely based on the center of the team; both midfield and defence. To combine with the imminent signing of Thomas Vermaelen, Wenger has also been rumored to be in contact with the likes of Christian Zapata, Yaya Youre, Momadou Sahko, Gohkan Inler and, most recently, Felipe Melo, from Fiorentina.
No one can accuse Arsenal of not having enough attacking creativity. And with a healthy Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna, they posess two of the best fullbacks in the league. Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia looks good enough to perform adequately for one or two more seasons, and the young strikeforce will only improve even if Emmanuel Adebayor’s exit looks certain.
It is quite evident that Arsenal, with a few additions to its central midfield and defence corps will fight for honours on every front next season. What worries me, as an Arsenal supporter, is the similarity that can be struck between Vermaelen, Gallas and Toure; all quick-footed, smaller defenders. Arsenal need size and strength, as they already have one of the fastest teams in the world. We reminisce about players like Ray Parlour, who weren’t notoriously fast but weren’t afraid to get stuck in when the game called for it.
If I had my wish of any two acquisitions of the previously mentioned lot, I would easily settle on Felipe Melo to team up with Cesc and Sahko to team up with Vermaelen, Gallas or Toure. Sahko will be sold by PSG within a year, and their £10m asking price is a real bargain considering the domineering central defender has yet to turn 20.
Felipe Melo, I like because he’s 25. He would immediately become one of the most experienced players in the squad. Having seen him play in person, I can also attest to the fact that he has no trouble starting the break either; something, Arsenal loves to do. While I will be happy with pretty much any of the names listed above, these are my picks.
Either way, Arsenal fans are happy because it appears as though, for the moment, the Arsene is finally looking to add some grit.
Stephen Fales writes on DownSwinging.com.