Published in Arsenal Mania.
There are many uncertainties surrounding Arsenal Football Club at this present moment. For a club that prides itself on its stability in the shifting tides of the game, Arsenal normally stand as the last bastion of routine and conviction.
As of right now though, the ever-moving cogs of the rumour mill are geared toward the management at Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger’s long-standing tenure.
Over two decades of Wenger and his particular brand have led to respectability and an elevated expectation, but staleness seems to have set into the club. No one can honestly say for sure whether Wenger will choose to take the offer of an extension already extended to him – or whether he will decide enough is enough and cut the ties which hold him so tightly.
Underneath the broiling waters though, a threat just as alarming is developing – and it threatens to undermine any plans a new or existing manager may hatch.
Arsenal’s midfield has been bereft of the wonderfully talented Santi Cazorla for the majority of the season, and it has recently been announced the Spanish midfielder will miss the rest of the campaign through his long-standing injury. This is not the first time Cazorla has been on the treatment table, and each time he has been missing from the side – Arsenal have suffered greatly.
Santi Cazorla remains the only player in the Gunners ranks who can transform defensive pressure into positive possession. His low centre of gravity and tight turning circle means he is a nightmare to dispossess – and his true two-footedness is a trait incredibly rare to find and/or cultivate.
Arsene has had to cope with this huge gap in his teams repertoire since October, and with his squad being stronger than in recent memory, he has had the bodies needed to try and rectify the situation.
The trouble is, the remaining central midfielders do not fit the bill – or are simply not good enough.
Aaron Ramsey has a wealth of talent, but his own injury problems and a certain weakness on the defensive side of his game mean he is not well balanced to be the barometer of the side.
Francis Coquelin’s hunger for possession is greater than the rest, and his tackling ability is up there with the best of the defensive midfielders in the PL. His increasingly erratic positioning are starting to overshadow his strengths however, and his inability to pass effectively is a shortcoming that cannot sit well with Wenger’s passing ethics.
Then there is Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian has performed well when called upon, but he has cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines for the most part. Even when he has enjoyed a rare run in the team, Elneny has been solid – but unspectacular. He is clearly not the answer to the missing Spaniard. Elneny is a squad player.
What of new recruit Granit Xhaka? The Bundesliga-seasoned midfielder was supposed to be the all-round weapon and toughnut that soft-centred Arsenal needed. Instead, his tendency to lunge in with ill-timed tackles has cost his side dearly, and his mobility has been somewhat less than rapid.
With Jack Wilshere on loan and seeking assurances on his future – this means that Arsenal’s centre of their team is light in number – and deficient in the top quality needed to push the team forward.
The summer will need a complete focus on the Gunners midfield. If whoever takes charge next season goes into the new campaign with the current midfield ranks – then the Top 4 may be a distant dream.