Reviewing the Midfield

Cesc Fabregas – Our captain. He apparently wants out of Arsenal, and the last month of the season is probably the reason why. The 4-3-3 formation was installed to get the best out of our Catalan. That’s precisely what it did. Cesc delivered with goals and assists. His injury situation meant that he missed crucial stretches, but nobody can forget his thrilling cameo against Aston Villa and inspirational 2nd half against pompous Barcelona. I can understand why he wants out. In all of his years, he’s only won an FA Cup and a Community Shield. Meanwhile, everybody whispering in his ear are winning trophies. I think he should stay, but if he really wants out and Barcelona are willing to pay more than they’re willing to, then he’ll depart. He’ll be fondly remembered by me when he does, but his Arsenal career will remain slightly lacking (even if that’s not his fault).

Aaron Ramsey – It seemed as though whenever Ramsey was gifted an appearance with the first choice XI, he failed to impress. He was alright in patches, but he failed to impose himself in any way. He started to deliver on his promise in Carling Cup matches and international appearances with Wales. With Denilson regressing, he was given the opportunity to start alongside Cesc and started to come into his own. He remains very young and is one of the most promising prospects in British football. It’s a great tragedy that Shawcross broke his leg and derailed his career for six to eight months. If Cesc leaves, I could see Ramsey becoming an important player for Arsenal in the next two to three years.

Abou Diaby – This guy is an enigma to me. At times, he’s a dominating midfielder who has silky control of the ball. Other times, he’s injured, ineffective, or absent. He’s made the France World Cup squad though, so this season will be seen as a positive one by some. I would strongly suggest that he faded during the close of the season in a way that was extremely disconcerting. I thought that he could make a vital difference against Barcelona. I was dead wrong. We know all about Diaby’s strengths; I’m not sure we know anything about his heart. He should punish the opposition by dribbling forward with power and tackling with precision. I have the distinct feeling that he can only do that against weaker opposition. He has the talent; does he have the willpower?

Samir Nasri – He missed the early part of the season through injury and has just missed out on a spot in the France national team. Does he belong on the squad more than Diaby does? If you start from scratch, yes. If you look at the needs of the France team, maybe not. Regardless, if the decision was made before the Barcelona match, he would have made the squad. Again, another player who came up short in the period that mattered the most. Often shunted to the wing, his play there has often suggested that we may actually need to sign more offensive players, namely strikers and wingers. He plays better centrally (as every gifted player does due to a wider space to play in), but when he was handed the keys after Cesc’s injury, the machine did not run smoothly enough. He may be given that role permanently if Cesc departs, but he’s more of a foil player. To be fair, he hasn’t been played in a central midfield role alongside a player like Cesc, and that is where he might perform best. On the wing, I’m not certain he provides anything more than good link-up play.

Theo Walcott – On the plus side, it looks like he’ll make a nice living as a writer of children’s books. On the negative, he hasn’t improved at all. He’s brittle, doesn’t cross particularly well, and fades during matches. Despite all this, I still feel as though we could fetch 15 million pounds for him if we sold him. I might be delusional, but if he’s effective in the World Cup, somebody may take that chance. That would result in a 6 million pound profit. He still retains electric pace and can make decent enough runs. The problem is, there are large stretches where you don’t see him on the pitch at all. He’s not like Ivica Olic, where he doesn’t have to touch the ball as much to be effective. He needs to learn how to stay in games, be alert, distribute efficiently, and be spontaneous. A good World Cup can only help, but he has a long way to go before doing the number on his back any justice.

Alex Song – He’s a favorite of ours and a reminder that you should never completely write off a player that Wenger has faith in. Before the season, Wenger suggested he didn’t have the stamina to play in central midfield. Clearly, that was just a motivational jab at Song. Alex Song never backs down, either from Craig Bellamy or Adebayor. He is one of the few players, alongside Nasri, who will stand up for players on our team. He was just as good after the ACN as well. He’s one of the first names on Wenger’s starting XI. He’s two more consistent seasons away from being legitimately world class.

Denilson – Unlike Song, Denilson has regressed. He was one of the most underrated players two seasons ago; he never looked comfortable during this season. For one, he was playing in a 4-3-3 system in which his old self might have been better suited to. He should have had the opportunity to be creative and tidy. What it resulted in was goals from distance and a lot of sideways passing. For Denilson to play alongside Song and Cesc effectively, he needs to be more of an offensive threat. If he’s not doing that, he’ll just be embarrassed when trying to track back against Wayne Rooney. Like the others, he is still young, but his star no longer burns as bright. He can be an intelligent distributor, but with his back being a problem as well, he’s a question mark.

Tomas Rosicky – The fact that he played as much as he did should be considered a victory. That being said, he approached nowhere near his old form. When dribbling forward with the ball, Rosicky is a thing of beauty. His willingness to take shots from outside is a plus. Despite the fact that we don’t shoot from outside of the box too often, we’ve actually scored the most goals from distance. Does that mean we take an appropriate amount or that we should take more? Rosicky was earmarked as a No. 10 type player. Because of his frequent injuries, teams should not be built around him. He can pass, he has a decent shot, and he’s intelligent. But too often, he’s also a non-factor. To be fair, he’s just come off from a lengthy injury, so anything we get out of him is a bonus.

Jack Wilshere – He didn’t get many games for the Arsenal First Team. When playing with us, he still seemed a bit frail, but he has some bite to him. A loan move to Bolton under Owen Coyle was probably the best thing for his development. After a few games, Bolton bloggers wondered whether he was actually any good. Now, Coyle is begging us to let him stay. I’m not certain that he’ll be ready for the first team, so if a loan gives us a discount on Gary Cahill, then I think another year with Bolton might get him very close to earning a spot near the First Team.

Fran Merida – He’s officially off the Atletico Madrid. The new “Cesc” leaves just as the real Cesc looks to leave. He’s had flashes here and there, but we can’t make any definitive judgments about this guy. He has a good left foot and is a good signing for Atletico Madrid. Wenger wanted to tie him down to a five year contract. That means he rated him very highly.

Craig Eastmond – A surprise addition to our midfield this year. It’s interesting that he’s usurped Coquelin in the queue (Francis is being groomed at RB now), and he’s shown promise. For now though, he’s not strong enough and can’t really last a full 90. His hard work has resulted in Premier League and Champions League appearances. He’s being brought up in the right way.

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