Should Arsenal be looking at Tiote instead of Cabaye?

Arsenal V Newcastle

Newcastle boss slammed Arsenal for making a £10 million bid for Yohan Cabaye on the eve of the Magpies 4-0 defeat at Manchester City on Monday.

Both Arsenal and Newcastle endured dismal opening games in the new Premier League season as Alan Pardew described the Gunners’ offer for their French playmaker as ‘unacceptable’.

The 27-year-old’s head had been turned, according to his manager and, subsequently, the Magpies’ favourite was withdrawn from the team that faced City this week.

Whilst Cabaye is a fantastic footballer, Arsenal already have a number of first-team players capable of occupying his preferred position as an attacking central midfielder.

Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and the perpetually injured Abou Diaby make up Arsene Wenger’s rotational midfield trio and Cabaye would likely be in competition with some of the club’s best players should he arrive at the Emirates this summer.

Where Arsenal are undoubtedly light is in the defensive midfield position where Mikel Arteta, after having spent his entire career functioning as a playmaker himself, was converted into a holding player to protect the defence last term following the sale of Alex Song.

Arteta is now injured, however, and Wenger doesn’t have an obvious replacement after farming out Francis Coquelin on loan this summer. Interest in Marouane Fellaini, Lars Bender and Luiz Gustavo failed to come to fruition but Newcastle happen to have a quality and experienced defensive midfielder of their own.

Rather than bringing in Cabaye – who would neither represent an improvement on the first-choice attacking midfielders Arsenal already have nor an addition to cover positions where they lack depth – the Gunners ought to be considering his Ivorian teammate Cheik Tiote.

The 27-year-old is not the tallest at 5ft11” but he is a real powerhouse in the middle of the park for Newcastle and could add genuine protection to the Gunners' backline with his strength and physicality.

A seasoned and experienced international, Tiote is dominant in the air, his passing is intelligent, he can dribble and he even has a decent long shot in him. He has the technical quality to function in a similar role to Song and his tackling is far superior to the departed Cameroonian.

Last term alone Tiote made 54 clearances compared to Arteta’s 46, 8 blocks to Arteta’s 7, committed 58 fouls to Arteta’s 74, and even in attack he put in 31 crosses compared to Arteta’s 16, and took 13 shots on goal which was just one less than the Spaniard’s 14.

Statistically Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote would be an improvement on what Arsenal have already got and, crucially, what’s more is that Arsenal could move Arteta – their vice-captain and one of their most influential and important players – back into a role than suits him best in central or attacking midfield.

Arteta had the highest passing accuracy percentage in the Premier League last term with 92% success rate, Santi Cazorla was fourth in the league with 87% and Aaron Ramsey was eighth with 88%. Yohan Cabaye was nowhere in sight with just 79% accuracy.

If Arsenal added Tiote’s defensive protection to their midfield and rotated between the likes of Cazorla, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Rosicky and even Diaby as the other two in central midfield they would be in a much better position both offensively and defensively than if they bring in Cabaye and rely on just Arteta whenever he returns from injury.

Santi Cazorla would also likely benefit from some rest and rotation and his compatriot Arteta could alternate with him to great effect if necessary. Arsenal do not have a single genuinely defensive midfielder yet their interested in adding a sixth attacking midfielder. Arsenal should be making Cheik Tiote (or at least a player vaguely like him) a top priority this summer.

image: © rich_w

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