"I believe the midfield was not a problem this year because we created so many chances from midfield and we dominated nearly all the games in midfield. I don’t think we had a big problem in there. I believe we had a problem of efficiency defensively."
One can't disagree that we have had a lot of possession and that we have dominated a lot of games if one sees possession in midfield as an end point. Unfortunately you do not win games as a result of possession, you need to score more goals with the ball that you do have and make sure that you stop the opponent from scoring at the other end.
Firstly I can't argue that our midfielders have developed well. Song has been a rock, Diaby has played much better on the whole despite still frustrating on occasions, Denilson has been good and terrible, Eastmond has shown early promise.
The problem with Arsene's words is that a big problem with our midfield is the fact that other than Song, they don't tend to help the defence out much. This means that when Song is out, our midfield is cut through a bit like a knife through butter.
Part of this problem with our defensively weak midfield is due to personnel, there is no experienced defensive cover for Song, Diaby is no defensive player and Denilson cannot defend. Part of it is related to our formation of 4-3-3 and if we have too many attacking players we are left rather exposed by our lack of defensive help from the midfield, we often play five attacking players in the starting eleven which can leave the balance of the side all wrong.
Part of it is due to our tactical naivety and the fact that we only have one way of playing. This is a bit of a double edged sword, I shall explain. We can only play pretty possession football, because of our defensive weakness we are unable to sit back, absorb pressure and play on the counter. This means that we are often stuffed by conceding a cheap early goal, then the opposition can sit back and kill us on the break, we have lost the ability to do precisely this to the opposition ourselves as our great double winning sides used to do so effectively and regularly.
Arsene's words worry me because midfield has been part of the problem, when we need to shut up shop and defend with men behind the ball, for example at two nil up against Wigan, we have been found wanting time and time again. We have only one way of playing and that is attacking with lots of possession. We need to be able to defend better, sometimes tactically it would be better to play a counter attacking game, sometimes when the passing is not going well you need to be able to grind out a clean sheet.
Fundamentally we need the whole team including the strikers to defend better as a unit when we need to grind out a result. The defensive weakness we have shown this season has been multi factorial, but there are clear weaknesses regarding the personnel in both the defense and the midfield. We clearly need new blood in at the back, this is obvious. However does anyone seriously believe that a squad with these midfielders has enough balance in terms of defensive grit: Diaby, Song, Denilson, Cesc, Nasri, Ramsey, Rosicky. For me the balance is wrong, it is not just about improving 'defensive efficiency', the squad as a whole needs reworking from a defensive point of view, if this is not done then we will simply be watching the same mistakes all over again next season.