By 1970’s Gooner
We are all very excited to see that Arsene Wenger has taken the steps to strengthen the team's central defence (at last) and delighted that negotiations have began to bring Thomas Vermaelen to the Emirates.
Apparently the player is on holiday at Mauritius at the moment which has been delaying the negotiations for personal terms. A fee of £11.5 has already been agreed between Ajax and Arsenal.
So if we are to trust Arsene Wenger’s judgment we should be sleeping easy that Arsenal’s central defence roster has been “adequately” improved. However if you look at previous centre backs, Arsene’s choices have not been that successful.
Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Steve Bould were of course inherited. From then on his only two, of what I would call, major successes were Sol Campell and Kolo Toure.
So let’s hope that Vermaelen is as good.
However the question that needs to be answered is whether Wenger will now enter the transfer market to strengthen the defensive midfielder position.
I feel that it is this position that will make or break Arsenal’s next season. Not the central defensive one necessarily.
This is because the Arsenal style of play under Wenger is a very attacking one with all outfield players, bar the defensive midfielder and the central defenders, joining in on the attack. This is a hell of a risky tactic whose success depends crucially on three elements.
The first is to score the first goal which would force the opponent to become more adventurous and open up.
The second one is possession of the ball. If you keep the ball the opponent cannot hurt you especially on the counter attack where you are most vulnerable with all those players committed to the attack.
This is a tactic that Villa and other teams use a lot against Arsenal and this is why all Wenger’s teams keep passing the ball all the time, keeping possession trying to work an opening.
And the third one is to have a hell of a central defensive midfielder who will sit further back and mop up if possession becomes negotiable again.
This player will have to have the attributes of almost a complete footballer: Stamina, acceleration, effective tackling, heading ability, accurate short and long passing and even goal scoring ability. In other words when Arsenal attack he will have to be able to do the job of two men, not one.
This role was played to perfection by Vieira, Petit, Gilberto and Flamini. They all, bar Flamini, played in trophy winning teams and Flamini would have lifted a trophy if he had stayed.
Now does it look like Wenger will bring in such a midfielder?
It looks like he may not and there may be a combination of reasons for this.
He is after all stingy and restricted by a limited budget.
Also the right players possessing those characteristics described above are not that available these days are they? And you have to break the bank to get them if they do become available.
But more importantly Wenger may also feel that Song, Denilson and Diaby have improved so much that next season they will be able to provide that role.
Song, whom I rate highly, has shown tremendous improvement this season and now that a central defender has been recruited it looks that his main position will be in midfield.
Wenger will loath to sign an additional midfielder, who will, unless he is one of those supermen I have described above, unnecessarily put a halt to the development of the existing midfielders at Arsenal.
And Vermaelen’s pending arrival is an indication that this will be our lot this transfer window….