Lack of midfield leaders a worry in Arsenal’s draw with Everton

Lack of midfield leaders a worry in Arsenal’s draw with Everton

Alex Song and Co struggled to win the midfield battle

Last night’s 1-1 draw with Everton was a perfect example of what Arsenal lack when they play without natural leaders in the midfield.

I don’t think anyone could argue against the fact that we had leaders at the back last night. William Gallas showed last night how to lead the defence. Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna tend to give off the aura of being experienced because of the reliable quality of their performances. They were all excellent last night and the strong sense of leadership at the back meant the inexperienced one in defence, Johan Djourou, again flourished.

But from where I sat there was no leadership in midfield. No player who could put their foot on the ball and control the pace of the game. No-one who could make the inexperienced yet talented players around them improve their performances to the quality that should be delivered by an Arsenal midfielder. Abou Diaby, Denilson and Alex Song ran around like chickens with their heads cut off last night because none of them have the experience to lead a midfield.

Before anyone gets on my back I must make it clear that I’m not blaming the midfield trio. No-one at the age of 21 should be expected to lead the Arsenal midfield. Cesc Fabregas can do it because he is an exceptionally gifted player and a natural-born leader, something that is perhaps rarer than people realise in professional football. But games last night are won by having leaders in the right positions with the ability to provide the stability for the creative players around them to flourish.

The biggest problem with last night’s performance was a lack of quality service for Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor. I’m sure there will be many people that criticise Adebayor for his performance, but I can’t see how a striker can be expected to shine when the ball is given to them so infrequently and with such inaccuracy as it was against Everton.

When the passes were going astray there was no-one with the balls to step up and say; “Come on fellas! We can do better than this!” either through word or deed. Again, I’m not blaming Denilson, Diaby and Song; they simply do not have the collective experience required to turn around a poor performance and change the balance of a football game. People will point to Stamford Bridge as evidence to the contrary but we won that contest via the same means we snatched a draw in this one; through an outstanding contribution by the Premier League’s in-form striker.

The big question is what can be done to fix things? With Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky injured the only fit midfielder I consider to be a leader is Nasri. The signing of Andrei Arshavin – if it goes through – might be enough to change things if he and Nasri can avoid injury until the return of Fabregas. If they can’t or the Russian does not sign then we will continue to struggle to perform up to standard in games like this one.

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom. At the end of the day a point away to Everton is a decent result and would certainly have been seen as one by the club at the start of the season. But the worrying lack of leadership in the midfield means that these sort of results will continue to occur and with Aston Villa creeping away it’s starting to feel like a very tense time for the Arsenal Football Club.

Thoughts? I’d certainly like to hear them.

Have your say on Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Everton by leaving a comment

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43 Responses to “Lack of midfield leaders a worry in Arsenal’s draw with Everton”

  1. Femi Jacobs
    January 29, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

    Arsenal should please sign Arshavin and sell some players from these group – Sylvester, Diaby, Eboue and or Bendtner. Adebayo should avoid hiding behind defender, he should stay in front and control ball. He seem to be afraid of injury, you can earn much money and give less. Nasri was just like passenger yesterday – He seem afraid to penetrate. He is a dangerous player and should play like Messi by penetrating defence once in a while unexpectedly. He is known to always pass his ball, so he should build up confidence and enter for goal.

  2. LB
    January 29, 2009 at 6:01 pm #

    This is the most rational assessment of the Arsenal midefield that I’ve seen on these blogs. The others go on and on about how our players are not good enough but that’s plain dumb. The problem is that no one can direct the players.

    Arsenal’s midfield suffered from a lack of application last night and it was the same against Cardiff. People should watch replays of those games to see that only one man in both games actually bothered to tackle and chase after attackers: Alex Song. Time after time, Nasri, Denilson and Diaby are ball-watching. Only Song works. You cannot win away like that but no one on the pitch has the stature or credibility to tell these players to move their asses.

  3. patrick
    January 29, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    i think vela can do a good job 4 arsenal pliz wenger give this man a chance.

  4. RedandDread
    January 29, 2009 at 6:22 pm #

    Insightful assessment of a worrying situation. There is NO DOUBT that we are NOT challenging for the title and more alarmingly, slipping out of CL contention due to the paucity of quality in our midfield. You highlight a good point which will not be solved by the purchase of Arshavin (buy him we should though). Diaby needs a good run of games in central midfield if he ever is going to devlelop into a class CM, unfortunately he doesn’t seem to have the tools to provide what we were so desperately missing last night-someone to take control of midfield and make a few MORE telling passes for our strikers. It will be a tuff slog for a CL place this season. Not all doom & gloom though!

  5. Spanish Fry
    January 29, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

    @ LB / RedandDread – Thanks for the kind words guys. I try to be as ‘rational’ and ‘insightful’ as possible 🙂

  6. Fatboy
    January 29, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    Spot on SF. I agree with everything you say, and I concur with you LB about the fact that the players we have are quality players. The problem is that the balance of the team, especially in midfield, is wrong. You’re all absilutely right that there is no-one to take charge when Fab isn’t there. If you look at ANY great team, they are a mixture of experience and youth, leaders and followers. This is where we fall short. Whichever way you look at it, the buck must stop with the manager. AW is totally focused on developing young players, and moulding them into playing his unique style of football. This is laudible, and has seen us witness the thrilling, swashbuckling entertainment that’s been the Arsenal hallmark of the last decade. However, in the past he’s also been able to unearth experienced bargains in the transfer market to complement the youngsters. This is what has been missing for the last 3 years. The fact is he’s under-invested in the squad and we’re now paying the price. whether we can overcome the problem without a few years of Uefa Cup football and top 8 finishes is another question. If we manage to scrape into the top 4 this year (and I agree with you RedandDread it’s by no means a forgone conclusion), we’ll need to invest in 3 or 4 players to give ourselves a chance of staying there in the coming years. We’ve been lucky that in the last 3 years there’s been no-one seriously challenging us for that top 4 place. We’ve now got Villa up there, Everton hovering, and we’ll soon have to contend with Man City if the keep spending the way they’re doing at the moment.

  7. Chudi Illoh
    January 29, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    I feel it is high time the gaffer stops deluding himself that the present crop of mid fielders can take our gooners beyond the 6th or 7th position. When the going got so bad last night my small son rightly observed that there was no one of Arsenal’s bench that was capable of turning the game around.
    Wenger should please spare us all these agony and go for players who can pass the ball and counter attack like the gunners of yore years.

  8. Hans
    January 29, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    Why is AW so hesitant to dip into the kitty when it is clear for all to see that we lack a midfield. Question…why not leave Gallas where he played last night and use Tore as a midfielder, i think he will be a hit! We need the likes of the the Lampards and Essiens of this world. When one sells off the box that holds the paper money than the notes will be blown away, why the hell did h sell possibly the finest midfield of last years competition? do you know? was Arsenal in financial problems?

    One more quick observation Many of the the youngsters he buys are fine for the under 18 and nineteen sides, and will possibly mature into Premier leauge players, but right now they are too soft for the rough and tumble of the big league. Not all are build like a bulldozer like a sort of Rooney.
    When will the good times return?

  9. Neilo
    January 29, 2009 at 7:59 pm #

    Agree with all the posts this morning and Hans and Chudi hit the nail on the head. Unless Wenger is planning to surprise us all (which I don’t think he is), the world and his wife can see the holes we have in defence and midfield. The future is NOW! We really are in danger of coming in 5th or 6th this year which would be seen as a a disaster and rightly so. Performances like last night are increasingly common and defining our season. AW, if you’re reading this, PLEASE do something!

  10. davi
    January 29, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    great article
    they are so close individually i feel (the 3 midfielders)
    i think the problem as it stands is we are bringing through too many youngsters at once, although this is hindered by the loss of rosicky and the decline of eboue (who was decent enough at the start of this year and ok last)
    i think u certainly identified the problem tho, although i wouldnt give nasri so much credit as to call him a leader, at times he does take the bull by the horns and can be decisive as hes shown particularly in the big games but we need players to be consistent, and hes not quite reached that level yet
    id say he would have been a great signing to play in rosicky’s absence if we’d kept hold of hleb or found a more experienced replacement
    i would also say you should be putting walcott in the same category as the 3 CMs, hes great at times, but not ready to start on a regular basis

  11. Ianinja
    January 29, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    I agree with most of the post with the exception of Ade. He scored 30 goals last season because he was driven and chased every ball. In other words Ade was playing like another midfielder, dropping deep and giving presence to a 4-5-1 formation. Maybe it’s just me but he scores goals that are mostly scrappy with few exceptional ones.

    Although afc midfiled is pathetic, Ade seem to lack the drive he had a season ago. Most gooners would agree that he can’t play the traditional striker role like Berbatov, Raul, Hunterlaar etc; because of the fact that he has a very heavy touch. He seldoms scores with his first touch and gets offside easily, lesser nowadays. Inzaghi gets offside alot too but he scores even more. You can blame it on the midfield but if ade is the 30 goal a season striker we are paying him to be or he thinks he is, he should at least try to keep on improving.

    Rvp have never scored 30 goal a season due to injuries but he scored with any Arsenal midfield he played with, be it the Bergkamp days, post Henry and even this current midfield we have. He is even scoring with his right foot now.

    In sum Arsenal is having obvious problems on and off pitch and I am sure Wenger will solve it. Its just a pain for supporters to see Afc degrade so drastically when we know what the club is capable of achieving.

  12. jebo
    January 29, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

    i agree with u spanishfry….we need some one who can give some energy in the middle,who can tackle, drible and pass the ball perfectly….in such a league u will get nothing with out such player in teh midfield……and i think the purchase should be in addition to arshavin….and any one can uderstand that we can’t find this leader in our camp currently…..but the boss does not seem to learn from yesterdays much as he is claiming not to amke any purchase now….so allas gooners….

  13. ramon
    January 29, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    some very positive pitns can be found here: http://blog.emiratesstadium.info/

  14. jebo
    January 29, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    and one more thing i don’t understand why he used to say”we have what we need in the team”….rather he better say”we don’t afford to buy”…that way we can accept him….but everybody knows we lack something from the team…and we have been expecting the team to grow for the past 5 years…….

  15. Luxinbrasil
    January 29, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    Morning…
    I only managed to watch the highlights of yesterdays game and was extremely pleased with RVP’s perfermance however slightly annoyed/upset by the passion, attitude and commitment from others…i felt Sagna was at fault for their goal..mainly due to the fact he was off the pitch after missing a tackle and slowly wandered back on…why didnt he bust a gut to get back into position??….
    AW has now confirmed that the Arshavin deal is 90% complete so as ive previously stated this is being stretched right out until the end….he loves to make it tough for us supporters!!

  16. Gibbs
    January 29, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    Great analysis SF, thats a very positive look at the game. RvP’s goal was pure class, i loved it. Why couldnt Diaby produce brilliant passes throughout the game? He has the strength and the skill but lacks the brain power to put them to good use, he needs to develop it. Anyway, i hope we sign Arshavin, we really need the bloke at the moment.
    Arshavin-Deni-Nasri-Vela
    That would be a great midfield, we could beat anyone with it.

  17. Peter Dalison
    January 29, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

    Last night when it was still one-nill to Everton with the clock ticking away, I was thinking if we lose this game it might shake Arsene up, and he just might dip his hand in his pocket and find that extra couple of million that we need for AA. Don’t get me wrong I was definetly pleased when RvP scored and what a goal it was. Just watched the highlights on arsenal.com. I agree with peoples comments on a DM, we could play Toure there, he is quick, agile and good in the tackle and when he has the ball he can either run with it or he can make a telling pass. The only problem I see with this option is who would we have as a back up in the defence, I don’t think Sylvestre is the answer. Lets hope that Arsene does have something up his sleeve. On a final note can anyone explain to me why when you have the whole of January and in fact the months before as well, do we have to wait for the last minute before a signing is made, I must admit this is not just Arsenal but most teams seem to wait until the last day, it just doesn’t make sense to me!

  18. Panda Bear
    January 29, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    As outlined, the problem was the pace at which the midfield worked. They had one patch in the first half where they chilled out on the ball and we had a semi-extended amount of possession. The midfield seemed to want to bypass themselves as quickly as possible. It was only when Diaby actually took time to assess the situation and feed van Persie with a beautiful ball did it result in a goal. Sagna got caught out a little bit when they scored. He moved in on Fellaini and that allowed ‘whatshisname’ to put the cross in to Cahill, that little bitch. If he wasn’t Australian… Not that I’m Australian, I’m Chinese. Yeah.

  19. KURUPT
    January 29, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    Hit the nail on the head there SF it wasnt the strikers FAULT at all the supply from the mid-field where SHIT. Our mid-field needs a BIG shake and pls stop defendin them cause THEY ARE PROFESSINALS and should step up and not hide behind they age, They get paid to play all 3 of them could even pass the ball 5 meters to a fellow player. SHIT HOUSE.
    Still think we can win it though a draw is better than A loss!!!!

  20. hartwick89
    January 29, 2009 at 10:41 pm #

    @SF,

    Can I just add a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the passion we all have is great but in some cases may cloud objectivity. For instance, Everton are on a great run both in fixtures and play. They have had three matches with top five teams consecutively. So it would make sense that their speed of play & decision making were sharper. Compare that to our past few fixtures. Especially playing at Cardiff.
    Another point…Has it ever been easy at Goodison? I thought the game were even…And, if I were to pick a weak point in the game was when Cahill broke through. OK who did we think was going to produce problem? That particular moment who was marking him? Cliche? Not really his mark should have been Djourou or Gallas? Don’t get me wrong with that type of game one mistake will cost you and it did. Last year at Goodison it took two back to back direct passes from back to front to score. Even with Cesc & Flamini are MF was neutralized.
    Final thought….Would anyone care to comment on Liverpool/Everton? It was a great fixture was it not. Liverpool up onto 1 week ago was top of PL. Everton is quality boys wether you want to admit it or not.
    Lastly,
    RVP thank you for that goal Arsenal deserved it…and speaks to the determination of this young side.

  21. jay-jay
    January 30, 2009 at 12:24 am #

    Outstanding goal by Van Persie, he is my favourite Arsenal player and January is the month that he has shown he why, he carried on the assisting/scoring every Arsenal January goal. Disappointing draw as Aston Villa won but with signings COME ON WENGER we should clinch 4th!

  22. JohnW
    January 30, 2009 at 12:40 am #

    SF you’re wrong. Poor team selection cost us the game. cahill’s goal is a cabon copy of the goal that we conceded some time back against Hull. Had Sagna closed down Baines fast enough, then the cross wouldn’t have come in.
    He did not do that because all night he was terrorised by Baines, the South African and Fellani.
    Had Eboue been on the pitch, then that side would have been secure. Therefore, may be our Eboue is not useless afterall.
    Denilson whould have played in midfield because he closes down the opposition faster that Song. Also at some stage, Vela should have come in to provide speed and take on people down the left.

  23. JohnCrok
    January 30, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    This is a great assessment of a terrible situation. There is quality in the technical ability of our team. Thats obvious. But what we lack is diversity. I dont think that adding Arshavin will do anything for us in that sense. We do not need another midfield playmaker when we have the likes of Nasri, Fabregas and Rosicky (even with these injuries when we have all fit if this happens we would have too much of the same). Missing Theo is a real plight because he is a player that can attack a defender and take people on we dont seem to have anyone willing to do this apart from Sagna, Clichy and Van Persie. I agree with JohnW that the goal was a defensive error he followed the ball rather than letting the midfielder close it down before passing it back to baines to cross from space. We need a big strong experienced player someone like DeJong or Yaya Toure who will win the ball and chase down.

  24. Gibbs
    January 30, 2009 at 4:18 am #

    “Newcastle join Bolton in the race for Veloso” (bbc).
    Wenger, please snatch the bloke, he is too good for Bolton and Newcastle and he is the box to box player we need. Cesc and Veloso in CM would be great, a dream come true!

  25. kikin daoh
    January 30, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    i think wenger makes any1 sick..
    he says after last night,we needed to show how to come back from one down well i think we need to show how to go 3 up..insensible..
    mr wenger should be aware the best teams have a consistent defence,the current midfield without cesc is about the worst in the EPL..even muamba performs better thn song..arsenal mst sign..zarate,silva,veloso,gourcuff,lescott and sell rosicky,diaby,song,bentder and the likes..i predict a uefa spot,honestly..

  26. John
    January 30, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    Anyone think we could swoop in for a want-away N’Zogbia?? It would be another body in the midfield to allow Song to be permanently relegated to the reserves/Carling squad.

  27. John
    January 30, 2009 at 8:41 am #

    Plus better to us than Villa

  28. Gibbs
    January 30, 2009 at 8:52 am #

    John, N’zogbia is not that good, not loyal and he’s arrogant. We really dont need him.

  29. jay-jay
    January 30, 2009 at 8:52 am #

    I agree with kikin doah im afraid I cannot see us getting into top 4. AW has to buy 2-4 players including CM, VELESO!! Arshavin aswel. Then a CB and a GK.

  30. Spanish Fry
    January 30, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    @ John – A little harsh on Song I feel. He’s not a bad player mate, as I’ve tried to express.

  31. John
    January 30, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    @ Gibbs – I’ll surrender to your view of N’Zogbia. I don’t really know too much about him other than he’s not happy where he is and he’s possibly wanted by Villa. If he’s a cancer to the team, I’d rather not have him.

    @SF – I’m not trying to be unnecessarily harsh. I just don’t think his play is up to Arsenal standards (of course not much of the squad have been in recent times). He seems to have some ability but he plays like a kid desperately in need of Ritalin. Maybe more game time in reserves or on loan will help but right now I can’t for the life of me see him making any sort of positive impact in the squad. His best performances always use the phrase, ‘He was serviceable.’ That’s good enough for a back up or to add extra depth but we can’t afford to give him consistent minutes any more.

    I am really looking forward to Walcott’s return. I don’t want to be overly confident in a very young player’s comeback from injury but I am very hopefully. His ability and desire to run at people and his speed should stretch the field deep and wide, opening up more space for Nasri/Vela out left and hopefully giving us more opportunities on goal.

    You can dream and be hopeful, right?

    “YES YOU CAN!”

  32. Spanish Fry
    January 30, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    @ John – I see your point about the ‘Arsenal standard’ and having more time to develop. I guess my view is that if Fabregas or another ‘experienced head’ was beside him it would take a lot of the pressure off and his performances would increase as a result.

    The example I’d point to is Djourou. If he’d played this season alongside Senderos I don’t think he would have done anywhere near as well as he has. But with Toure, Gallas and even Silvestre beside him he has blossomed into – in my opinion – the most important central defender at the club as a result.

    I think guys like Song, Diaby and even Denilson (who personally I’m not the biggest fan of) would all have developed better without the pressure of having to lead the midfield together. Young players need to be able to focus on themselves to improve and at the moment those players are being forced to think too much about the other players around them and simple things like touch, passing and the general flow of our side are suffering as a result.

    What do you think?

  33. cmoney_guns
    January 30, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    Ive heard that Vela isn’t playing for us because Erikson doesn’t want him hurt. Mexico are already running low because of a few key injuries. Can anyone verify this?

  34. New-Arse-Hole
    January 30, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    @ SF: That’s the reason we need signings. Fabregas is still 2 months away from coming back from injury while Rosiscky doesn’t count as a squad player. ‘m waiting on Walcott to come back who will bring more pace in our attack. A midfield of Diaby, Song, Denilson have been outplayed by Hull, Stoke and Everton midfield. Why is Wenger still depending on those mediocre players with no quality, no experience? We need Arshavin and a Defensive midfielder at the very least. Ask any football experts, they will tell you the same thing. Arshavin will be just the replacement for Cesc for right now. We can sell Bayor and play Arshavin in the front line OR buy a good striker. The most important signing in those two days should be someone like Flamini. What about Veloso? He is a wonderful footballer.

  35. MoMONEY
    January 30, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    http://tribalfootball.com/man-city-make-new-£12m-bid-arsenals-toure-225242

    If we do sign someone else after Arshavin I feel like it will be a small name player of Wenger’s choice and I dont mind that. I young DMF to compete with song for the spot would be nice because I dont see Wenger benching Denilson this year anyways…

  36. Ronaldo7
    January 30, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

    arsenal need to make some quality signings quick smart…anyone..arshavin.

    Cause Villa look like they have lady luck on their side and at the same time they play good football.

    Id be worried cause i dont think guys like Fabregas and RVP will be wanting to play Uefa Cup. Expect Fab to leave if arsenal dont get CL qualification.

  37. Mexican Gunner
    January 30, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    After all its not so bad to play the Europa Cup (new Eufa cup) next season, because we could be the FIRST ones to WIN it.

  38. Kin
    January 30, 2009 at 5:16 pm #

    Hey guys just wanna throw this out there…Have we won any game where we were captained by Almunia?? Not saying its his fault or anything, just wondering!

  39. MoMONEY
    January 30, 2009 at 5:26 pm #

    Im all for Rp being captain in Cescs absence… Leads by spirit, ability, and determination. No1 was working as hard out there vs Everton…

  40. Kin
    January 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    I concur with that MoMONEY!!

  41. New-Arse-Hole
    January 30, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    Kin, we won 5-3 away against Fenerbahche, one of the toughest place to play in Europe with Almunia-Clown as Captain. No matter what, Almunia is a ass-hole clown. He can’t be anywhere near a glory hunting club. Good keepers can win upto 15 points for their team while keeper like Almunia lose points for the team. Even Burnley wouldn’t sign Almunia for free. He needs to be transported to Indonesian League.

    If we don’t see two new faces by Feb 2 morning, we will certainly play 2nd tier European League. Oh Wait! If Big Club like Milan can play 2nd tier, why not an average team like Arsenal. I would take it. Actually, I am ready to face teams like: Grasshooper, Partizan, NEC, Wolfburg. It would be fun.

  42. gomugomuno
    February 2, 2009 at 7:04 am #

    wenger’s strategy isnt working anymore, while he waits for our young players to blossom into world class players that will never finish their careers at the emirates, we’ve gone further behind. Aston villa have overtaken us, we seem to be able to score in the last 15 min only, we cant seem to keep a clean sheet. The other members of the top 4 all have world class goalkeepers while we decided to stick with jens lehman’s number 2 because it was a cheaper option. I am a massive fan of KOLO TOURE but he’s lost it since the last AFRICAN cup of nations, I thought when GALLAS came in we would have one of the premier league’s strongest partnerships, WRONG. Wenger hasnt replaced flamini or hleb even if he keeps on praising NASRI and DENILSON, who are nowhere near as good as the previous 2 at least not yet. U cannot just get rid of players just because they r approching their 30s. how much we could use GILBERTO SILVA right now, stripped of the captaincy for no apparent reason which was given to a player who came from a rival club. As if he didnt have any leaders in his team!!! that is the message his players must have received. bringing up young talent is the way forward, however spending is a necessity if you want to strengthen and add depth to your squad, We do not need arshavin, we’ve got no problems scoring goals, its at the back. Go for Michah RIchards, he’s ENglish and he would put pressure on all the other centre backs to perform otherwise they’d be on the bench. The defence needs to be protected, we need a ball winner, someone who breaks up the oppositions play, a REAL DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER. U had at it all last season wenger, all u had to do was keep ure squad together and strengthen.

  43. Bill Bartmann
    September 4, 2009 at 1:38 am #

    Cool site, love the info.

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