How often do you lose sight of something when it’s right in front of your face?
It happens fairly frequently to some people. And for Mikel Arteta – it seems a possible explanation for our current midfield quandary.
The riddle? Why we continue to give minutes to limited players and forge on with forcing players into positions that don’t suit them – when we have perfectly good players on our books that would fulfil those roles far better.
Arteta last season gave 19 Premier League games to Mohamed Elneny. The Egyptian is a defensive midfielder by trade so he fits the bill, but after more than a few seasons of seeing him in action, we can see his limitations.
He can’t carry the ball forward, he doesn’t have vision to split defences, he can’t rake a ball 50 yards to set up a break from deep. Elneny breaks play up and he then plays it to someone who CAN do that sort of thing.
And Elneny can be effective to a degree, but not as a starter.
Then there is Granit Xhaka.
We remember the player we signed from Borussia Moenchengladbach? An absolute dynamo, taking possession and capable of linking attacks, passing through the eye of a needle and not letting his opponents have a moments peace.
But Xhaka is NOT a defensive midfielder. He performs best when further forward. And bad things happen when we task Xhaka to track back and be a sentry of sorts. He can do the job now and then – last season he covered very well for Tierney when the Scot went roving forward.
But on a week by week basis – he’ll make costly errors.
And so our reliance on the two players above and the lengthy time it has taken Thomas Partey to acclimatise to the PL has seen Arsenal’s midfield mired in mediocrity.
But higher hopes remain this season.
Partey will be stronger. The addition of the energetic Sambi Lokonga looks astute and one that could reap dividends soon. But still, at the present, Elneny and Xhaka will be expected to partner Partey.
And what Arteta is missing – or choosing to ignore – is that both Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira are far better bets.
Both players can carry the ball forward and relieve pressure. Both are terriers who will put opposing attacks under pressure. Both will win the ball just as much if not more so than Elneny and Xhaka – and they will certainly be capable of doing more with possession than a safe pass to the side.
There are caveats to both players though. Guendouzi is known to have a disruptive attitude and could be the reason why he was shipped on loan yet again. And Torreira is homesick and has had personal problems since signing.
But the question remains –
Don’t both players warrant a place ahead of Elneny? And if Xhaka isn’t a DM, then why can’t we use a player who is far more adept there, such as Guendouzi and / or Torreira?
Arteta could even switch to a midfield three, with Torreira at the centre and Partey and Xhaka further forward. Or with Partey in the centre and Guendouzi and Xhaka further forward. Either represent a potentially action-packed midfield.
Or at least better than what we have been seeing.
We need players who are hungrier and can take the initiative when we have possession and in this current model, we don’t have it.
With a simple loan recall, or even for next season, we could have.
It’s all down to Arteta. Perhaps it’s because they both hail from a different managerial legacy, both being Emery signings?
But what do you think? Do you reckon either Torreira or Guendouzi is a better option than what we have? Comments below!