I’m short on time at the moment, so a guest post today from Dyllan Munro.
Exactly who has the best midfield in London? For many years now Arsenal fans have salivated over the attractive, possession-oriented football on display. However, while we have been forced to watch many of our talented stars leave, the likes of Chelsea have grown stronger due to their owner’s investments.
Despite losing vital members of the midfield, Arsenal have maintained the free-flowing football we associate with the Gunners. The shrewd acquisition of the attack-minded Santi Cazorla from Malaga provided the highly talented link between midfield and strikers, something we had lacked since Cesc’s departure. In his first season he scored 12 goals and contributed 11 assists in the Premier League, figures that look set to rise as he grows more assured in his role. Aside our diminutive Spaniard we have Jack Wilshere. When injury-free he has the ability to seize the game and provide the leadership needed to transfer Arsenal from perennial top four finishers to genuine title contenders. Able to deal with not only the expectation of his club but also his country, Jack possesses the vision and confidence that men many years his senior lack.
Also included as attack-minded midfielders is the fantastically talented yet perennially injured Tomas Rosicky. Probably the reason that Arsenal have pipped Tottenham to the Champions League spot the last two years, the Czech maestro finds fitness and form around February, when the team needs him most. This offers Gunners a tantalising glimpse of what we could achieve if his extraordinary technique and experience were available all year round.
Switching now to the more defensive-minded players in our midfield: one such player is Mikel Arteta. Initially regarded by many as one of the infamous panic buys, Mikel has shown such determination and commitment that he has risen to the position of vice-captain in only two years. As many info-graphics have shown, Arteta made more passes, has greater passing accuracy and more touches every 90 minutes than Michael Carrick, who was nominated for the PFA player of the year award. With comparisons to Xavi and Pirlo, Arteta will continue to show his class for Arsenal.
His partner in the double pivot pairing that proved so successful towards the end of the season was the often divisive Aaron Ramsey. It’s forgotten by many Gooners that before Ryan Shawcross’s awful tackle, Aaron was regarded as a more promising prospect than Wilshere by many within the Arsenal set-up. This season, especially during the run-in, Ramsay once again showed that promise with his tireless effort making him one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers. His touch has improved and he once again tackles without fear, as he did before his horrific injury. The total transfer cost for all these players comes to around £40m. Both the present and future are bright with such a batch of players.
How does our midfield compare to our London rivals though? I will focus on 5 players as I did for Arsenal. Chelsea have spared no expense in trying to acquire the type of player able to display Roman Abramovich’s notion of perfect football on the pitch. Juan Mata is such a player. He is possessed with exemplary technique fit for Arsenal, making our failed pursuit of him all the more exasperating. An excellent passer who is capable of scoring, Mata has been Chelsea’s standout performer the last two years.
Another who has excelled is Oscar. The young Brazilian possesses the flair typically associated with his country whilst also displaying a certain amount of grit making him suited to the Premier League. Accompanying them is Eden Hazard. Well founded accusations of diving and the nonsense with the ball boy cannot distract from the fact that Hazard is an extremely talented, if slightly over-hyped footballer. A return of nine goals and 14 assists in his first season was less than many had come to expect, no doubt including Hazard himself.
Chelsea also possess a powerful midfield enforcer in the form of another Brazilian, Ramires. Committed to his defensive duties yet also skilful in attack, Ramires has flourished under each of the many Chelsea managers he has served under. Tireless displays demonstrating his athleticism and a good attitude have won the Brazilian many admirers.
Alongside Ramires I’m choosing yet another member of Chelsea’s Samba Contingent, David Luiz. Since no one seems to know whether he’s a midfielder or defender, I’ve selected him in midfield as that is where he has impressed most. Ridiculed in his first season at Chelsea for his wayward defending, he always demonstrated fabulous technique, prompting many to say he would be better suited to midfield where his defensive faults wouldn’t be as costly. Rafa Benitez agreed, and Luiz went on to make the position his own for a time last season. Combining skilful moves with delicate passing he has become a cult hero at Chelsea. This midfield was assembled for around £132m. This amount includes the player swap of Nemanja Matic, now valued at around £20m, to Benfica as part of the David Luiz deal.
The question posed is how does Arsenal’s midfield, costing only £40m, compare to that of Chelsea, costing around £152m if the loss of Matic is taking into consideration. Since the fee is almost four times as large, does that mean that Chelsea’s midfield is four times superior to Arsenal’s? No, not at all. Not by a long way. There will be few Gooners out there who would disagree that currently, Chelsea do have a better midfield. They also have a squad depth we are sadly lacking at present. However the slight advantage they hold over us is reflected in the substantial investment they have made. Hazard alone almost cost as much as our five players. However, if Arsenal make the required purchases, players like Cesc and the unsettled, underrated Luis Gustavo, then perhaps the scales will slide back into their rightful place, in our favour.
To prevent anyone complaining I limited my analysis to these two clubs, not only in a failed attempt to keep the word count down but because they are the only two genuine contenders. For Tottenham, Bale is no longer classed as a midfielder so that leaves Sandro the standout performer. With perhaps Sigurdsson, Huddlestone, Holtby and Parker. Comparing them to Arsenal and Chelsea’s squads would have been a waste of not only my time but also yours.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share and comment.
Dyllan Munro (@goonerdyllan)