Arsenal have been linked with a number of defensive midfielders this summer following their sale of Alex Song to Barcelona last year.
Injury to Mikel Arteta – converted by the manager Arsene Wenger from a midfield playmaker into a protective and more defensive midfielder last season – leaves the Gunners short on physicality in the centre of the team.
The North Londoners have been linked with the likes of Marouane Fellaini, Lars Bender and Luiz Gustavo but those deals now look unlikely to come to fruition. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s squad is threadbare and injuries in their last four competitive fixtures have left the boss with something of a selection headache.
Arteta’s injury is unlikely to keep him out for more than a few weeks and in his place, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey have come in to the team to good effect. Santi Cazorla operated, whenever possible, as the most attacking and creative force in Wenger’s central trio, with Wilshere and Ramsey deployed behind to protect the backline when necessary.
The young pair were exposed in the Gunners’ opening day defeat against Aston Villa on numerous occasions but seemed to work as a formidable unit together against Fenerbahce in their two-legged Champions League qualification plays-off since.
Against Fulham the two youngsters also impressed – Arsenal have conceded just one goal in the three games since their opening day disaster, despite constant rotation in their backline due to injuries and suspensions to Wenger’s defence.
There’s no doubt that Arsenal need to strengthen in several positions before the close of the window on September 2nd but with Aaron Ramsey’s sensational form of late, Wilshere’s leadership, organization and industry, Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky’s exceptional creativity and technique, how much of a priority is a defensive midfielder?
Arsenal still await the return to fitness of Arteta, along with perpetually injured Abou Diaby and, at present, they’re linked with attacking midfielder like Mesut Ozil and Yohan Cabaye – I wonder whether Arsene Wenger has dropped the idea of even buying a holding midfielder?
When Arteta returns, if all midfield options are fit and available, that would mean, across the course of the season, the Gunners would have six players competing for three positions, even without consideration of Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who will be out for at least three months this term.
Meanwhile, Arsenal are reportedly considering re-signing Mathieu Flamini who is out of contract and currently training with the first team – he is a defensive midfielder who can even fill in as a defender if need be and, given the wealth of options available to the manager (potentially 9 players who can play as central midfielders) I wouldn’t be surprised if Wenger opted not to prioritize a new signing in that position.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald