Sunday, 19 July 2009

Rosicky is back & Midfield Options

I didn't watch the 2-2 draw with Barnet on Saturday, mainly because there was plenty of meaningful sport being provided at Turnberry and Lords, so I will not comment on the game. I am also not going to dwell further on Adebayor.

However, the news that Rosicky has taken part in a competitive game is excellent, as for long parts of last season it looked a distinct possibility that Rosicky's knee problems were a terminal issue for his career.

Rosicky is a top drawer player and I was genuinely delighted when we signed him before the action got underway in the 2006 World Cup. He brings back a level of experience to the midfield that we simply do not otherwise have in those positions. He is also a player who, when fit, would be pushing as an automatic first choice in the starting XI, probably either wide right or left in midfield.

So, how would a first choice 4 across the middle of the park look if I was picking the team (imagine that)? Probably something like Arshavin left, Cesc and Song in the middle and Rosicky right. That formation gives Wenger his trio of small ball players in Cesc, Arshavin and Rosicky, which is apparently what he wants to achieve with his team. Plus I would stick Song into the mix to add some bite.

Nasri, Denilson and Theo are the ones from last season's starting XI who would miss out on the above basis, but I suspect Wenger will continue his policy of regular rotation so that they are playing a lot of game to keep everyone relatively fresh on their toes and to give a air of healthy competition for places.

Denilson started 49 games for Arsenal last year, more than any other player (Sagna and Nasri being the other two to start more than 40) and although he had a dip in form in the second half of the season, overall last year his contribution was quite good. His game is still developing, but he has a good engine, likes to pass, can sometimes tackle and generally maintains a quiet efficiency.

Yes, he sometimes gets his positioning wrong and can get turned too easily in midfield, finding himself chasing the opposing midfielder rather than taking the ball in the first place, but when you consider that he only turned 20 in February of this year, I think we have to recognise that this is a player who could, in fact should, develop over the next couple of seasons into an absolutely top drawer player. Yet most Arsenal fans don't rate Denilson and want Wenger to go out and sign a name midfielder - Alonso would be a popular bet, as would Melo.

Cesc, in contrast to Denilson, had an explosive start to his career and was an instant hit. At 22 years old has done more than many other 'good pros' will do in their entire careers. But a healthy debate can be had on how much more their is to come from Cesc. The contributors on this blog were almost unanimous in their verdicts last season that Cesc consistently underperformed, to the extent that Denilson and Song outshone him for large parts of the season. I also have little doubt that it was Cesc's indifferent form that persuaded Wenger to push Cesc forwards in the crunch games towards the end of last season, rather than any tactical re-formulation of our strategy. And by and large, Cesc in the Gerrard role behind a striker was a disaster. He is simply too slow. Yet most Arsenal fans put Cesc on a pedestal.

In my opinion, Wenger's main job at the moment is not to find someone new, big and strong to play alongside Cesc. Instead, he needs to get Cesc really ticking as a footballer again. He needs to rediscover that yard of pace, that desire to win the ball, to beat a man and to score the goals. I suspect that having Nasri, Arshavin and Rosicky breathing down his neck and saying "I could play centre midfield better than you" will have the desired result, but it might not. And if Wenger is not convinced that Cesc is playing well enough, then he should be rested from automatic selection.

The signing of Vermaelen should release Song into midfield, but the fact that the only physical midfield player we have is Song looks a weakness on paper, but is it really? I mean, if Song is good enough, which I think he is, then why do we need to go and sign someone else?

Plus, if the lessons of the last 11 Wenger summers are to be remembered again, then he will not go out and buy the player that everyone else thinks he should. The evidence of last season shows Wenger's faith in Denilson and Nasri. The amount of midfielders at the club suggests that we are not short of numbers (and I have not mentioned Abou Diaby yet).

So I would be amazed if Wenger went out and bought someone else during August.


1979gooner said...


spot on as regards Cesc, he need to be played in the centre of midfield and he needs to start performing again, i'm sure he will if he's deployed in the right role

if rosicky can stay fit it does give us a new player and lot more depth to our sqaud as he can play on either flank or in the centre,

i think song is good enough, he shone in some very big games last season against top notch opposition, against manu away and chelsea away in the league he was our best player not to mention several other outstanding games towards the end of the season,

the problem is that we still need another decent defensive midfielder, as other than song we only have kids (frimpong, coquelin) and they are clearly not ready for a run of first team games quite yet,

remember song is off to the ACN and if song gets injured then we are royally buggered in this regards, denilson is not comfortable playing a more defensive role in my eyes,

i'm not saying we need a finished product in their late twenties to come in, i just think we could do with a decent grafter in their early to mid twenties who has played 100 first team games at least,

we have the offensive midfielders by the bucket load, i just think we need more depth in the sqaud to cover the deeper defensive midfield role

marcus said...

Hm, your comments on Cesc gave me pause in my prioritizing the need for a partner for Cesc to the exclusion of dismissing Cesc's poor form. I too pointed out Cesc's poor form last season, but I also lambasted AW for trying him in the support striker role. I was too stuck on the need for an enforcer in midfield alongside Cesc to really focus more on AW's priority to get CESC performing again. So true. Song as DM candidate? Not really sure about him as a regular starter in that position. He put in some good displays there but to me he's so much better as a CB -- and right now we have a lot of those.

K man said...

Good stuff Ted but have to agree with 1979 that we do need back up / competition for Song. Denilson and Diaby are not good enough in that defensive role.

I think Song is going to be a really good player but if he gets injured we're buggered.

Not enjoying us being linked with lots of average strikers - Chamakh, Gignac and Martins. We have better strikers at the club. No need.

Also, are we really going to start the season with all those centre backs??

Anonymous said...

great post.

i think cesc missed his buddies Aleksander Hleb and Mr. Flamini.

maybe the injury gave him some good time off, come back from being burned out.

i have a feeling this is Cesc's last year unless we win the league or Europe.

i think its a strong squad that could pull it off. i just do.

if they don't, i'd agree with the general consensus that cesc can go as long as the deal is good. etc.


Ted said...

Several good points above. I am not saying that I agree completely with what Wenger is doing, but AW looked at Denilson and Diaby last summer and told Gilberto that he was free to leave the club.

Since last summer, Song has developed a great deal, Denilson has obtained a great deal of experience and Diaby, well, he is still Diaby the Mystery.

I just don't see anyway that Wenger will show Diaby or Denilson the door and bring in another centre midfielder. AW will almost certainly remain loyal to Denilson and Diaby and say "you guys will get your chance this season when Song goes to the ACN".

I am also not even sure I would like to be wrong about AW on this. For instance, if we went and splashed £25m on an arsehole like Alonso, then I would not be surprised if Song or Denilson said "I'm off" in January. In my book, that would be a sad day.

Its a tricky one. But as I said in the post, my bet is that AW will not sign another midfielder.

Rhinogooner said...

Bad news: Arsenal are reporting that Nasri has broken his leg in training.

Ted said...

we are cursed!!
And I still don't think AW will get the cheque book out. Aaron Ramsey to the rescue!