Opinion – Arsenal’s midfield is not good enough for the top four

Arsenal’s midfield problems show they are not top-four quality.

The Gunners have had to fire Unai Emery because of poor form this season but things haven’t necessarily turned around under Freddie Ljungberg.

Much of the blame has been put on the club’s defence as they struggle to keep clean sheets, however, I want to make a case for them and ask more of the midfield.

While defenders are paid to stop opposing teams from scoring their team, a team’s midfield also plays an important role in how little the number of goals they concede would be.

The Manchester City teams who have won the last two Premier League has had the pleasure of Fernandinho protecting their back four while the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva open teams up.

Liverpool has also had Fabinho covering their defence and allowing the likes of Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum create the chances for the forwards.

Arsenal doesn’t have anyone that they can trust to either cover their defence or create as many chances as the team would want.

We all know that the best form of defending is attacking, Arsenal’s midfielders have to either step up to the plate and begin to dictate the games or the club has to invest in new midfielders.

If I was making that decision I’d sell Granit Xhaka who has been abysmal recently and Lucas Torreira who is unsettled, I would buy a new defensive midfielder and a central midfielder that can help protect the defence and turn over possession to Mesut Ozil who hopefully can be trusted to create openings for our forwards. If not, then he has to go as well.

28 Comments

  1. Francis says:

    Trying David Luiz in midfield might be a good idea…. At least he will be more mobile than Xhaka

    1. gotanidea says:

      Only if he plays as a CDM in 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 formation

    2. Neil Fitt says:

      I agree,he looked good briefly before getting injured in Emery’s last game.

  2. gotanidea says:

    World Cup midfielders like Ozil/ Xhaka/ Torreira cannot work as good as the likes of Fabinho/ Henderson/ Wijnaldum, because Ozil is not a ball winner. Ozil’s unwillingness to retrieve the ball makes Arsenal only play with two central midfielders, which are usually outnumbered by other teams

    Ozil/ Xhaka/ Torreira also cannot attack as good as De Bruyne/ Silva/ Fernandinho, because none of them play as crosser. De Bruyne/ Silva swap places with their wingers interchangeably and those movements are what Arsenal should imitate if they want to play with mezzalas

    Arsenal have to rebuid the midfield with those 4-3-3 types in mind

    1. Reggie says:

      Since the day xhaka came, i have thought him a weak link and not upto the rigors of the premier league. I think the likes of Gouendouzi and Torreira with a strong calming athletic midfielder would make us more solid. The fact that since xhaka came we have been weak in midfield says it all. Just one top right player will sort a lot of problems.

    2. beast mode says:

      Your fixation with Ozil is really annoying. we know he is bad as the rest of midfielders. we all know what Ozil is since Madrid days and Arsenals MID has been in shambles whether with or without Ozil in the lineup. we have tried different combinations/setup and non has worked properly. We have a bunch of misfits that are not good/or specialized at anything. we dont have good tacklers, good passers, or one with positional awareness. just bunch of square pegs

  3. Stewart Macintosh says:

    I am at the point where I think midfield might be weaker than back line – at least the midfield is causing us more grief than the back line as it is putting us under so much pressure. It cannot control the ball to move it up, and loses the ball too easily to expose the back. Had thought that it might be more about Emery’s tactics than the people, but now not so sure (not suggesting Emery’s tactics were good :-), just that the people are poor).

    1. Mike says:

      Tell me fellow gooners were the foxes in the top 4 last year what is the one big change in their team this year. I will tell u what I am not a Roger’s fan but one thing I have to admit he looked at the squad made the necessary tweaks and got them going getting his players to believe in his vision

  4. Mike says:

    Sometimes the best form of defending is to actually defend. It’s this idea that when we have x amount of possession we wouldn’t need to defend that much. That’s not true u get teams that can beat u with minimal possession they just need a couple of chances because they can defend a lead that well

    1. I agree. Good luck though trying to defend with someone like Ozil in the team who thinks he’s better than everyone and deserves to be exempted from defensive duties. If you have him in midfield, it shall always get overrun..eventually. 2 men cannot do a 3 man job effectively for 90 mins.

      1. Mike says:

        We have to accept Ozil for what he is. I believe any player can slot into any system maybe only play Ozil the last 20min when u need a goal and the opposition is tired. Maybe 90min is too much for him now

  5. Grandad says:

    The idea of playing David Luis as a DM when he clearly lacks pace, energy and an aptitude for hard work is a non starter.Our midfield is almost as bad as our defence and there is no doubt that we need a quality DM and a BTB asap.Xhaka and Torreria are not up to it I’m afraid and should be sold on preferably in the January window.

    1. jon fox says:

      Exactly Grandad! David Luiz does not belong in the DM position but in the rubbish bin position. The rag and bone man might pay fourpence for his hair to make into wigs perhaps! His tranfer fee of approx £7 million might just as well have been stuffed down the nearest drain. This is what has happened , metaphorically speaking! I WOULD RATHER HAVE GUS CAESAR BACK; as he is NOW!

      1. Allanball08 says:

        Good evening jon
        The question I ask you is who is responsible for bringing him to our club
        If it was UE then he paid the price for it
        If it is someone still upstairs then he is waiting in the wings ready to make another major mistake.
        What really annoys me is that someone actually sanctioned this move.
        The only people laughing are chelski who got dead wood off there books.

  6. I agree with the author. We need a clearout of the whole midfield. In my opinion Torreira, Xhaka and Ozil are average. I doubt we can make top 4 with them.

    1. Mike says:

      Are they looking average cause they play in a system that doesn’t suit them or don’t they agree with the coach vision Torreira and Xhaka are actually good for their respective countries and so was Ozil when he represented Germany we need to ask this question why do we play Xhaka who is a 10 for his country in a defensive midfield position when that is clearly not what he is good at and we play Torreira who is a defensive midfielder for his country as an attacking midfielder and Ozil sometimes as a winger blows my mind

      1. @Mike
        Modric plays as CAM for Croatia and shines and at Madrid he plays in CM and still shines. I agree it is not ideal to play them out of position, but what coach in his right mind can play a dwarf as a DM? Why on earth was it decided Torreira is a suitable DM especially for a league as physical as the epl? He cannot play DM and that is why they keep trying to convert him to a CM or CAM. As for Ozil he used to play as a winger for Germany back when they didn’t hate him and he’d put in decent performances.

        1. Mike says:

          Some players can play well in numerous roles ours cannot why is that are they average as you say or are they just badly coached at this point we don’t know cause we haven’t had a coach who focused on our defensive side of the game for so long

        2. Mike says:

          Kante is a dwarf and he is doing fine

          1. Kante is an anomaly. Tiny players can succeed in attacking positions but in defensive positions it’s a big no.

  7. beast mode says:

    We have bunch of midfielders and CB’s that are not good at their position. Normally, you have players that are really good at certain aspect of the game and bad at other things, but we have so many jack of all trades but master at non. we dont have mid/CB that are good in tackling, passing or one that can screen the back four. They need to revamp the whole defense and the midfield

  8. Grandad says:

    With respect Mike ,Xhaka does not play as a no 10 for Switzerland.

  9. jon fox says:

    So “Ozil hopefully can be trusted to make openings for our forwards”! And may I ask when is this fantasy is supposed to start happening? It happened 6 years ago and has reduced from a raging river of assists to a totally dried up stream, barren of any assists. He takes corners and some free kicks and does a bit of short side passing and his one time magic has long ago vanished into the ether. Some claim to still see it. Hilarious! I’d love some of those magic fantasy specs myself but they don’t work on REALISTS!

  10. Gunner since 71 says:

    What you are seeing on the field is happening on the training ground. All comes down to coaching

    1. Mike says:

      Exactly and the coaching staff is not correcting or eliminating the flaws bad habits laziness ect

  11. OxInTheBox says:

    that’s what I was saying. we have a sheet squad. Emry managed to get the maximum of it -last season, but 7-8 finish is our true quality. Emery was experimenting because he had no choice. every other coach will have the same problems unless we get 2 top CB and 2-3 top midfielders. you can’t play good football and compete for trophies with Ozil, Xhaka, Socratis and the lot.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      OxinTheBox, a sound summation of the situation faced by Emery; a lot of the criticism he received (and paying the ultimate sacrifice of being sacked) was unfair given the free pass given to the Arsenal players with respect to the poor performances and results this season and the run in last season.

  12. Bily Mills says:

    The players are good enough, it’s the tactics, coaching and system that has been poor

    We need a manager to decide what they want from the midfield and from each role. Whether its press, creativity, ball winners, box to box. Then they need to select the best players for each role.

    3 defined roles and 3 players with clear instructions. Have a plan a stick too it

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