Arsenal are having a midfield crisis. Granit Xhaka testing positive for COVID coupled with Partey representing Ghana in the AFCON Cup has left Mikel Arteta with few options to pick from. Maitland-Niles has been loaned out, while Elneny too has been linked with an exit.
Albert Sambi Lokonga is currently Arsenal’s only natural 6 option. With a series of important fixtures coming up, none more so than the North London Derby, Arteta will be pondering solutions. Let us first understand what a deep midfielder does in Arteta’s system. Then we will look at certain long-term signing options, as well as short term fixes for Mikel Arteta to implement.
Arsenal have largely used a 4-2-3-1 formation this season.
The role of each midfielder in the double pivot is slightly different. This is partly forced by another salient feature in Mikel Arteta’s side – asymmetric full-backs.
Due to the varied attacking positions taken by the full-backs, there is a shift in formation for Arsenal in possession. Generally, the Gunners look to defend in a 4-4-2. In possession, it becomes a 3-4-3 shape.
One of Arsenal’s biggest problems in possession becomes the isolation of the wingers. The wingers maintain a position constantly in the wider areas. Martinelli and Odegaard are generally the most accessible passing points.
On the right-flank, Tomiyasu’s overlapping movements help the Gunners create space and progress the ball. On the left, Martinelli’s inward movement leaves the Gunners with a man short. Xhaka makes up for this by stepping into the left half-space. So from a 3-4-3, Arsenal shape up in a 2-3-5 to create chances.
The left pivot in Arsenal midfield plays in a b2b role of sorts. This includes covering the spaces left behind by the advancing left-back and providing an additional passing option higher up the field.
The right pivot plays more centrally. His movement is directly related to Tomiyasu at right-back. When Tomiyasu drops into the defensive line, Partey provides a passing option between the opposition’s lines of the press. As Tomiyasu advances, Partey drops in between the two centre-backs. Partey’s positioning helps to cover the space ahead of the two centre-backs in possession.
Potential Signing Options:
1. Bruno Guimares: The Brazilian has been strongly linked with a move to North London. Currently playing at Lyon, Guimares could reportedly cost Arsenal around 35 million. The 24-year-old is Lyon’s best progressive outlet. He functions alongside Maxence Caqueret, another player the Gunners could consider.
2. Boubacar Kamara: Marseille’s anchor will be out of a contract in 2022. Kamara initially began as a centre-back. The 22-year-old has evolved into an effective ball-winning midfielder.
3. Aurelien Tchouameni: Another midfield option for Arsenal from the Ligue 1. Tchouameni has been a crucial cog in AS Monaco’s system. The 21-year-old has been linked with a move away to Manchester United and Juventus in the past.
Short Term Fix:
It seems unlikely that Arsenal could finalize a midfield signing for the club before their game on the 16th. From the current squad, Arteta could consider giving minutes to a youngster like Salah Ouhad M’hand.
Elneny has been linked with a move away from Arsenal. AS Roma have been mentioned as interested candidates. However, it is most likely that he will start alongside Lokonga in the game against Tottenham. The duo has not worked too well together in the past, and Arteta could be interested in switching things up.
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An option for Arsenal could be to play Ben White in the holding midfield role alongside Lokonga. The Englishman has been composed in possession and crucial at starting attacks from the back. Playing White in a CDM role could help the Gunners transition between a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 easily.
Another option would be to play a 4-3-3 as Arteta did against Nottingham Forest. This could give a chance to Charlie Patino, while even Smith-Rowe is well suited to play as an interior.
Who should Arsenal target in the market? How can the Gunners lineup in the absence of Xhaka and Partey? Let us know in the comments section below.
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