Thierry Henry has told Sky Sports that Arsenal will struggle to fulfil their potential for as long as they lack a world-class talent in the holding role.
During his distinguished career with the Gunners, before returning for a short-term loan in 2012, Henry played alongside some of the finest midfielders in the business.
Patrick Vieira was a talismanic figure in the engine room for many years, along with Brazil international Gilberto Silva.
They offered the required support to those at opposing ends of the field, with the back four reassured by a dogged performer in front of them and those with attacking flair freed to go and express themselves.
Henry fears the Arsenal class of 2015 lacks someone to fill that important post, with Arsene Wenger having been pressed for some time now to try and plug the gap.
He told Sky Sports as part of their Super Sunday coverage: “They are missing a big piece. They are missing a Patrick Vieira, a Gilberto Silva. By saying that I’m not attacking anyone, but those guys would have done anything to allow us – the front four, or front two – to perform well, protect the back four and allow us to perform.
“Do Arsenal have that now? I don’t think so. It’s easy to have a go at (Per) Mertesacker, but you can ask if he has had the right protection. It is a team effort and I don’t think they have that now. That’s vital.
“That position is one of the most, if not the most important position in the team, especially when you have guys like (Alexis) Sanchez on the side and guys that are good on the ball. You need to have protection, guys that are going to stay there at all costs.”
Arsenal have tied up a deal for highly-rated Krystian Bielik, as reported by the Daily Mirror.
They are hoping that the 17-year-old can be a long-term solution to their problems in the middle of the park, but he is still learning his trade and will need time in which to settle in the Premier League.
Arsenal supporters may have wanted a more experienced option to have been brought in, but Wenger is at least attempting to provide answers to the questions being asked of his starting XI.