If our attack and defence is okay, is Arsenal’s midfield the biggest problem?

Is Arsenal’s midfield our biggest problem?


Of course, for long periods we have been saying that the reason we cannot bridge the gap to Man City and Liverpool is simply because we let in far too many goals, but we are all hoping that the return of Bellerin, Holding, Tierney (and hopefully Chambers) will give us a massive boost in our defending abilities. Arsenal’s attacking players are excellent and will be even better when Pepe finds his feet, so what is our biggest problem area now?

According to the ESPN pundit and ex-player, Craig Burley, it is our midfield that is our biggest area of concern. ‘I’m not sold on Arsenal, no,’ Burley said on ESPN FC. ‘But, I’m not sold on anyone apart from Liverpool or Man City, and City at the moment are having a glitch by their standards.

‘They’ve got two excellent strikers, one who is out injured at the moment – [Alexandre] Lacazette – and [Pierre-Emerick] Aubameyang looks as if he’s going to have a good return of goals again.

‘They’ve got some good youngsters, and it looks like Unai Emery is going to give them some game time, he’s given them their head, and you saw it with young [Gabriel] Martinelli in midweek.

‘I don’t like the middle of the park, I just don’t like it.

‘And I agree, once [Kieran] Tierney and [Hector] Bellerin get up to full speed, he’ll get a better sense and we’ll get a better sense of what his back four is.

‘Having those two full-backs should help him, they should help him.’

So, is Arsenal’s midfield that bad? We have our new arrival Dani Ceballos who seems to be settling in quite well since arriving from Real Madrid, Lucas Torreira has perhaps gone off the boil a bit lately but is being used further forward now, We can’t realy complain about the progression of young Guendouzi at all. We also have Joe Willock and Smith-Rowe knocking on the door, and we have Mesut Ozil perennialy on the bench and of course our mighty captain Granit Xhaka!

Surely we must be able to put out a great midfield out of that lot. So which is likely to be our best three to gel in the middle of the park?



  1. I also feel that the center of the pitch is our biggest problem notbthst we lack quality personels but because the combination leaves them exposed no one is complimenting each others weekness the combination is where the problem lays

  2. For me it’s Torreira sitting in front of the defence and Guendouzi and Ceballos a bit further forward.

  3. When bellerin and Tierney are fully fit,that we give more balance to the minfield in terms of attacking and defending.also it we make saka and Pepe very dengerous when attacking.look at Liverpool without annold and Robertson, Sala and mane can be that dengerous when attacking.bellerin and tierny we improve Pepe interms of attacking.

  4. Our defence is okay? What kind of mushroom people eat nowadays 😂
    I think the new fullbacks won’t change our defensive predicament because the problem is in the center. Remember Liverpool before the arrival of VVD? They were still leaking goals even though Robertson and Trent Alexander Arnold were on the team (two acclaimed fullbacks) and they applied high pressing too. Holding may solve our problem but will Emery play him? In one interview Emery said Holding will be a backup to the current pairing.
    Also Xhaka ineptitude at defending will cost us games. Emery often talks about competition in the team, but I wonder who is the direct competitor of Xhaka?

    1. Don’t forget that Bellerin has never been good defensively either. That’s precisely why midfield will continue to be a problem.

      We need defensive midfield that’s good at covering. We have Torreira. Who doesn’t even play there regularly now or if he does it’s in the cups only.

      Guendouzi and Xhaka are both ball watchers. There’s still hope for Guendouzi, but for now his defensive work is not close to his attacking talent.

      Unfortunately with Xhaka and Guen as our DMs we will continue being exposed even when Tierney and Bellerin and Holding improve us.

      Emery should see that even if he is smaller, Torreira is much better defensively than Xhaka and that our starting 11 should have Torreira + Guen or Willock + Ceba or Ozil.
      Xhaka should be sold and a proper DM to compete with Torreira bought.
      DM is a position that is rarely found in the academies, instead has to be bought wherever the combination of skills is found (almost no top DM comes from the biggest 20 clubs academies).

      1. As back up for Torreira, Chambers would be a fine DM. No need to look elsewhere. The problem is getting Emery to realise this.

  5. I don’t see a problem anywhere really.
    The way I see it is the whole squad has been thrown off balance due to not having a stable CB and by having two FBs who left us exposed every time they went forward all at the same time.
    If we had had the stable CB we could have dealt with the FB issue better and if the FBs were better defensively then the CB wouldn’t have been such a problem.
    To try and fix this (wow adapting something people critisced le Prof for not doing 🤷‍♂️) Emery has gone for our most stable midfielder, Xhaka, and tried combinations of two workhorses alongside him to cover the gaps that keep being created.
    This in turn has robbed us of creativity, why? Because Laca has been injured, Ozil offers creativity but nothing else so would have been another liability in an already out of balance squad and Ceballos hasn’t cut it in the 10 role yet.
    We have been relying on our pace to counter but our front line has been Auba (who has been majestic), Pepe who hasn’t quite adjusted yet, and a youngster just cutting their teeth in the senior squad.
    Sure it’s been ugly at times but it’s been a bodge job as a temporary solution to conserve points in a league where every point counts. Soon all these problems will be over as Emery will have a full squad to pick from and can actually balance the team better.
    I honestly don’t think we have a single player who couldn’t fit into the starting eleven once we are balanced….. Just too many key problems at once to deal with.
    Anyway just my opinion, feel free to disagree if you like but I will always remain positive. COYG 🔴⚪

    1. Agree with the two workhorses covering the fullbacks. But Xhaka is the odd one, defensively two defensive minded players are enough, offensively Luiz is capable of delivering long passes, so what exactly does Xhaka bring to the team?

      1. Check his stats for clearances, aerial duels etc….. He is actually quite consistent helping out the back line like a 6 should, Torreira actually performs better as that ball winning DM which is probably why when the two are paired Xhaka doesn’t look so bad.
        Add in the fact that he keeps a cool head in the game and doesn’t do the headless chicken routine it adds a bit of an anchor point for the other two to work round.
        Most of his fouls come from when he’s being dragged round the field trying to cover gaps in our defence. His cock ups passing or in possession when pressed are part of his game, but I feel, as with most of our players it’s magnified by the squad being so unbalanced right now.

        1. Yes, I’ve never questioned Xhaka’s work rate and his decision making leaves a lot to be desired at times, as you said. But still I think three defensive players in the middle are a bit too much. If I were Emery, in a defensive crisis I would go with three at the back, that way the wingbacks could bomb forward and the two holding midfielders won’t have to cover them, and they wouldn’t have to be so deep. But yeah, all in all it’s caused by many injuries Emery faced (hence the imbalance), so good point there.

          1. Three at the back would have meant Mustafi, Luiz and Sokratis, which I would have had serious reservations about. Chambers has certainly made a claim for a starting spot but only recently, to Emery he was an unknown to be tested like any other new face. Plus if I’m honest after seeing what happened to Mustafi trying to cover all those gaps and what it did for his confidence I’m not sure I would have wanted to subject anyone else to it. Criticise Luiz and Sokratis as much as you like and it doesn’t phase them, they have developed a thick skin in their careers 🤷‍♂️

  6. Going forward, our biggest problem is the manager. it’s the manager’s cll for playing Xhaka every week, and making him captain to boot. he is not getting the best out of Torreiera either. if it is true he sees Sokratis and Luiz as first choice cetnre half then really he has no clue. the midfield shoould look like this: Chambers (DCM) – because that was where he played at fulham that made him their player of the season. Matteo (CM) – no arguments here. Then Ceballos CAM. Holding should immediately replace Sokratis in our match against Sheffield Utd. As you can see in this line up there is no space for Xhaka – he is as much a liability as Mustafi was last season.

    1. Torreira is positioned higher due to the modern belief that it’s risky to win ball just on the outside of the penalty box. Ball winning midfielders are encouraged to press opponents in their half and win possession there. Kante is positioned higher too, but his finishing is so much better than Toreira.

      1. Yeah, but Kante was at his best when playing as a classical DM. Sure, he’s excellent now, too, but as a proper DM he is the best in the world. I just love that little guy. Too bad he chose Chelsea.

        On topic: Luiz will only work out in the back 3. He ventures forward all too often. You can only do that when you have proper DMs to cover for you. Xhaka and Guen are not the guys who will do that consistently.

        1. Yes, what a shame we missed the chance to buy him and bought Xhaka instead. Back then he was hyped as an elite passer. His passes are good, but what about the rest lol.
          You’re absolutely correct on Luiz, in the second half of the last match, there was a moment he blindly followed his man, created a big space that was quickly exploited by two Bournemouth attackers. That’s just typical of him.

  7. Don’t forget to watch the interview with Dennis Bergkamp on Ian Wright’s YouTube channel (Thursday?)
    He apparently expresses a desire to return to the Arsenal to work with young players. Arsenal should grab him with gusto!

  8. We do need to improve but we had more urgent concerns so fans need to keep it all in mind, no point just jumping from one thing to the next coming down on them all when we were all aware of the needs in summer and we seemed happy with the efforts.

    We are third in the league. These midfielders aren’t the type to get bullied, and I agree with Nonny I think it’s a little more about combinations and the chemistry at times, also tactics of course.

    I believe we do need three in there at times but there’s games when two should be fine and we then go with an extra attacking player instead of CB.

    I like that you can’t push these guys around, but we want to see that drive even when teams aren’t trying to get stroppy with us, for me that is a sign of ambition.

    Another thing, some of the reason for this is actually the defence too, with how deep they are at times. It means Xhaka is that much deeper and further away from strikers, so to his partner when they look for each other to set the play. Keown highlighted it and I was instantly reminded of that gap from defensive players to the strikers, it’s big sometimes, we’ve all noticed it. So our defenders, the CB’s, they need to push up like they did in that first half v Bou. Otherwise it hampers our attacking game and it causes problems with teams getting too close to our area much too often and way too quickly.

    1. Spot on, the gap between them is big and there is a lack of service to attackers. In the first half of Man Utd game, they were so deep and only after the first goal they raised the line. The first half against Bornemouth was superb, we kept them at bay.

  9. Leno
    Belerin..Sokratis.. Luiz..Tierney
    Torreira… Xhaka/gwendouzi
    Pepe …… Laca…… Auba


    (Home gmaes) at the emirates
    Belerin… Luiz..Holding..Tierney
    Torreira… gwendouzi
    Pepe …… Laca…… Auba.

    Torreira has to be the mainstay in that midfield in front of the back four. xhaka is not that bad as people thought. get a defensive minded player beside him not a Gwendouzi type or put Gwuendouzi beside Torreira and put the captain on the bench, at least that should give us balance in midfield. he needs to change something from that midfield to see where the problem lie exactly. we need balance in the middle of the pitch and another thing is we defend too deep and that alone put much pressure on the defence regardless of defenders we set up with.
    It is the coach responsibility to figure out these simple errors and change something.

  10. I find it difficult to comprehend why anyone, including Emery would choose to play Socratis and Luis ahead of Chambers and Holding given that the latter is now fully fit.As for our midfield set up Emery’s apparent obsession with Xhaka is denying us the opportunity of playing a DM with two box to box midfielders as used by Liverpool and Man City.I feel frustrated for Torreria who is clearly not comfortable in a more attacking position, but as it is I doubt if he is the answer as DM in the EPL where physical strength is needed along with other skills.Rice at West Ham is a promising young DM but to me , Ndititi of Leicester is the guy I would like to see in an Arsenal shirt.

    1. Just like some fans here who only care about the results and the points and don’t care how we got it and that somehow we are in the third place and only one point behind City, I think that’s Emery’s philosophy. After 10 games, we could see that he’s already had his 9-10 regular starters. Doesn’t it mean that he has no problems with those players and the way we play? That means Holding or Willock will find it hard to challenge Sokratis/ Luiz and Xhaka. Thierney would be regular for sure. Bellerin..most likely, but Chambers shows that it would not be that easy. Lacazette..most likely. I’m not too sure about him being regular because just like Sokratis, Luiz, or Xhaka who are heavily criticized by the fans and pundits but in fact absolutely trusted by Emery, Pepe could be the same and still keeps his position as a starter. So, it means Saka would give way and Auba will move to the flank with Lacazette fills Auba’s position now as a center forward. However, it could come with a consequence that Auba will not be as sharp as now, while we know that basically we are in the third now mainly because of his productivity as a center forward.
      So, maybe unless those trusted regular got injured or unavailable, then comes the chance for the bench players,just like the case of Chambers with Maitland Niles.

    2. Grandad I find it difficult to understand why you find it hard to accept Torreira as a good DM when he was earning rave reviews in that position since we bought him – until this season when Emery in his infinite wisdom decided he should play further forward.

      If you simply want a bigger guy then just move Chambers into that position. Either of them would be fine for me. In fact right now we have all the players we need – we just need the manager to first pick them and then to play them in their correct positions.

  11. I thought for a moment you had finally grabbed the nettle. You’re getting there but you need to isolate the problem and shout it out: Granit Xhaka! Get rid of him and our potential will unfold.

    1. … and while we’re getting rid of Xhaka why not get rid of the idiot who keeps picking him – and then made him the freakin’ captain.

  12. We have an abundance of huge talent in midfield and we also have Granny Xhagger !

    People can rave all they like about The Prince of Darkness has improved the team, is better than Arsene, will play all permutations of tactics to suit any opponent, watches video of the opposition to assess their strengths and weaknesses in his coffin at night, can turn into a bat in an instant to hang on the away teams dressing room ceiling to listen in on tactics, but untill he sees what every man and hs dogging session can see that Xhaka is shit, then he is an imposter of a manager !…………………call for Van Helsing !

  13. I was the first to point out that our defence and striking are world-class… And our midfield is the WORST in the league….

    Now people are beginning to realize this after 1 full year.

    Arsenal’s midfield is the weakest it has ever been. Coquelin alone was more talented than Xhaka, Guendouzi and Torreira combined. Torreira who people crave about cannot even hold the ball for 5 seconds without falling over….. this is really disappointing. Guendouzi and Xhaka are too slow to handle the fast midfields of the premier league and most importantly they cannot even beat a single man.

    That’s why from the beginning I’ve said this manager is clearly a gambler.

    How to solve this conundrum:
    1. Play an extra defender in place of midfielder since arsenal has an abundance of defenders.
    2. Use a tall defender as a No. 5:::::: most ideal is Mavropanos because of height and comfort on ball
    Until we utilize an extra defender who is tall as a No.5 we’re still conceding goals… I can guarantee that.

    Ideal lineup (3-5-3)

  14. Chambers should be used in his best position (where he played when he was voted Fulham POTY).

    The best team Arsenal can put out imho (note:Arsenal, not UE) is in






    Bench: Leno, Guendouzi, AMN, Willock, Saka, Martinelli

  15. I’m a big fan of Torreira but he has been pretty awful recently. I don’t think you can either put it down to him being played out of position as he played CDM against Liege midweek and was still bad (how some corners rated him an 8 in that game I will never know).

    I think the issue with our midfield is that no one has predetermined roles. Xhaka offers no mobility but then he doesn’t sit back well either. The youngsters are still finding their feet in the middle. We forget Guendouzi is still young and a malleable prospect. Ozil hasn’t offered anything for a while and Ceballos normally acts as our engine but wants to shine in a creative role as well.

    There’s a lot of change in the middle of the park and the players aren’t quite comfortable playing with each other yet.

    1. Serge – I think Ozil, or anyone else, would always find it difficult to “offer anything for a while” when he’s not on the freakin’ pitch, he’s not on the freakin’ bench and he’s not even in the freakin’ squad!!! Very difficult to play well when watching the game on TV from your sofa at home don’t you think?

      Maybe, as some believe, Emery has been ordered by the powers that be at Arsenal to freeze Ozil out so that he chooses to leave. If not it is pure maliciousness on the part of Emery for the way he has treated Ozil from the minute he got here.

      If this is the case I blame the PSG players who more or less kicked Emery out. Maybe he decided that he wouldn’t let that happen at Arsenal so picked on our most highly paid player as being a potential trouble causer? I just can’t see Ozil as a rabble rouser in the dressing room myself but maybe Emery did. Bearing in mind that Emery also thinks Xhaka is a good footballer who knows how his mind works?

  16. Personally, if we talk about problems and look at specific areas, I think we should score much more than we do. This might also be a result of not enough creative impulses from our midfield. Which some times are the result of fielding an entirely defensive midfield. This means you waste your attacking players.

    It was rumoured we bought Pepe to become better on the road. If you put 3 DMs behind him on the road he is unlikely to thrive.

    If we don’t play Ozil we should at least play Ceballos more often IMO.

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