Ever since the demise of Francis Coquelin and the failure of Granit Xhaka to become the top defensive midfielder that Arsenal needed to protect our ageing defence, Gooners everywhere have been saying that the club desperately needed to bring in a new strong DM. And of course our glaring defensive errors this season have shown that Laurent Koscielny is now past his best years and Shkrodan Mustafi is certainly not good enough to be our new defensive leader. Even Arsene wenger admitted in January that his most pressing neccessity was a top central defender.
But again the club brought in another striker, while selling Giroud and Walcott, and we still faced the second half of the season with exactly the same defensive problems that we had in the first half. Until yesterday that is, when we saw Maitland-Niles played in his natural central midfield position, and our new young January signing Mavropanos was introduced as a centre-back.
They both excelled against a seasoned Man United side at Old Trafford, and received plaudits from all and sundry. Wenger said after yesterday’s game: “Ainsley Maitland-Niles is slowly becoming the player I think he can be in defensive midfield. He can create as well.
“Mavropanos, in training he has shown top quality but then you always have a question mark as long as you don’t see that under pressure in a big game. Until that, you don’t know. The big players do better in the competition than in training. They make a career, the others… we have many players at our level who do less well in competition than in training. That was the question mark and I think he did well. He surprised everybody by his quality today.”
But it wasn’t just Mavropanos, he linked up extremely well with Calum Chambers, who is another that is expected to step up next season and become a regular first team starter. Chambers has been with arsenal for a long time now and he was asked about Mavroanos after the game. He said: “He did really well. He’s a good player, he was strong out there and he held his own. I thought he was composed on the ball and had a good game. I thought all the young players had a good game and you know, it’s just one of those. We feel we deserve more than we got.”
Both Wenger and Gazidis have previously stated that the new boss will be expected to promote youngsters from the academy to reinforce the team, and the performances of both AM-N and Mavropalos, and the improvement of Chambers, will have given him food for thought about whether the Gunners still need to invest in new players in those two vitally important positions in the summer…
Are those three vital to Arsenal’s future search for success, or do we still need to go into the transfer market?