Whilst hearing the news yesterday about Mattieu Flamini and his probable departure this summer (to Bastia or Galatasaray, depending on who you believe), I began to ponder Arsène’s next move in the fabled ‘DM’ position. It’s an interesting one because there is no simple hard and fast answer. There are so many different options open to Le Boss that a retort of “go buy another DM for £25million” seems a little bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, in my opinion.
I put the question out on Twitter as to what we should do: fast track Bielik, give Chambers some time to bed in or sign another player. The answers I got – including another intriguing alternative of moving Santi in as Arteta’s eventual replacement – all seemed sensible enough and I like the idea of Santi playing a bit deeper. But there was one point that I do find a little frustrating and mentioned it to a few guys online, which is that some people do tend to get bogged down in the idea of needing a perfect replacement for when a players time is up.
Perhaps I’m becoming a little bit old fashioned, delving into the recesses of my mind to when football was a far simpler sport, but I don’t seem to recall that the football of 25 years ago required exact players for exact positions, did it? Am I being too steeped in the halcyon days of when players played in a 4-4-2 and had to adapt to positions to get in to the team?
I don’t think so. I think that players who played in midfield were midfielders and could do a multitude of roles. A player who played in the centre of the park could be a good tackler, decent in possession and also distribution. Good players can have multiple attributes, surely? That’s what the piece I’ve highlighted above kind of gets at. Arteta has been intelligent over his career enough to be moved around from attacking midfielder, to left midfield and now he finds himself with more defensive duties, because he’s intelligent enough to play that role. He is a midfielder. He can do pretty much everything. Just like the blog mentions, so it seems, can Santi.
That’s what Arsène should be looking for if he’s going after another midfielder. Not a tough tackling ‘DM’, but a player adaptable and intelligent enough to play multiple positions if required. In short, a ‘midfielder’.
But I don’t think we need another midfielder. I think we have those players and I think if Jack and Rambo are intelligent enough like Santi, they should be able to adapt their games so that they can play in a multitude of different styles and shapes in the middle of the park. That’s what we should be looking at doing; cultivating our existing midfielders to play in more defensive positions, so that we have more options for cover. There’s no point spending £25million on a back up enforcer type. Not if we’re putting our faith in Coquelin, which it looks like the manager is doing.
I realise that’s probably not what a lot of people want to hear. People are looking for us to have the perfect mix of 25 players who play a certain way and are interchangeable in exact positions and until recently I’d have agreed with you, but you can’t keep players happy like that, I don’t think. If a player plays in a certain position and is not adaptable, his game time is likely to be limited, which means when he is called upon he will most likely take a few games to get up to speed with the ebb and flow of a Premier League match. We’re at the stage now where we can’t really afford to be bedding in players and affording them half a dozen games to play themselves into a bit of form, not if we want to compete for the league, so what you need is a core of players who could feasibly play in multiple positions so that their chances of game time and finding form are improved greatly. Just look at Monreal last season. I’m convinced that the reason he was able to win the left back spot from Gibbs was because he had played regularly in the team as a centre half. It was not a natural position for him and he readily admitted that, but he had the ‘feel’ of the games on a regular basis and as a result was able to take advantage of little injury niggles to Gibbs which saw the young Englishman become a bit-part player towards the end of the season.
I’m telling you folks, it’ll be a collective of adaptable players that can spot in when the injuries and suspensions come, who will play a massive role in determining whether we can win the league.
Even new boy Petr Cech has touched on that by talking about the players in a number of different positions all fighting to get in to the team. He’s asked about a number of differences between the two clubs he’s played at in England and whilst he talks about the team spirit, the ‘little details’, etc, it was the statement about having lots of players to play all positions that really stuck out to me – probably because it was whilst I was thinking about the need for us to have adaptable players all over the park. The days of the Arshavin’s only really being effective if he’s played in a certain position are over, my friends. We need a balance now and I think we’ve got it. Sure, there are one or two players who really only have one position – Giroud, Mertesacker, the ‘keepers, but they are not the majority of this squad and so I think we can cope with the odd player who has a fixed role in the team.
Yep, I’m excited about this upcoming season. For me it represents a balanced team with all of the boxes already ticked to compete for the league. I’m being serious when I say that I haven’t been this excited about a season since 06/07 When we signed Rosicky and we’re starting to build the team that should have won the league in 07/08. Let’s hope this current crop can get over the line.