2010-11 Season Review: Midfield

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Here’s the fourth in wearethenorthbank’s mult-part review of those that wore the red and white of The Arsenal in 2010-11.

Midfielders

Alex Song

The early season verdict on Alex Song seemed to be that he’s just a defensive midfielder and as such he should just stay at home. Of course, Song is primarily in the side to screen the defence but, as I said when discussing the full backs, because so many of our games are against parked buses there is little value in leaving five players back. Song was encouraged by Wenger to press high and influence games. See Chelsea at home for a good reason why he should be allowed off the leash a little.

I would also argue that there were very few games this season where we lost goals because he’d been caught too far forward. Wenger found a solid destroyer and has set about expanding his game. It’s this ambition that turned Emmanuel Petit from a defender to a leading midfielder and Thierry Henry from an average winger to the best striker around.

All in all Song is a very important player for us. He adds the steel we’ve been missing for a few seasons. The only real criticism is that, as he recentlly confessed himself, he doesn’t perform as well against lesser opponents. This is a mental flaw and Song isn’t the only guilty player at this.

The way that he got caught up in the panic and air kicking that led to Liverpool’s equaliser in THAT game was also a concern. Song should know better. Next season is the time when Song will have to show he’s a leader as well as a quality defensive midfielder.

Jack Wilshere

We all knew he was special but I doubt many of us thought he’d be this good this quick. I distinctly remember people moaning about his inclusion in the season opener at Anfield because he misplaced a pass which led to their goal. I think that was pretty much the last mis-placed pass he made all season.

It was the Carling Cup game at White Hart Lane that really convinced me he was truly special. It was only against a second string Spurs but they did their best to kick him off the pitch. Wilshere rose above it and dictated play. It would’ve been impressive if he’d done it just that once but he did it again and again including in high profile matches against Chelsea and Barca.

He’s not a defensive midfielder and he’s not a direct replacement for Cesc. Simply put, Jack is an intelligent Footballer which means he could become as good an advanced midfielder as he could an Andrea Pirlo style conductor of play. The beauty is, he’s all that and more!

Fortunately, sense has prevailed and he’s been left out of the England U21 squad. Wilshere should be fit to lead another challenge next season. Arsenal Captain in waiting.

Cesc Fabregas

Our current Captain hasn’t had his best season for us but let’s put that into perspective. He’s only managed 25 league games this season and whilst his goal count is down to three, 14 assists is a pretty good return – only two players, Drogba and Nani, created more goals.

There is a belief that Cesc doesn’t want to play for us anymore, bought about by the long drawn out flirtation with Barcelona. Some say his heart’s not in it and that’s why he’s not played as well, or as often, as previously. To me, that’s far too simplistic as there are two other reasons why his season has been below his exceptional standard; his hamstrings.

Cesc has missed games and played when not fully fit. Anyone who thinks he doesn’t want to play for us anymore should look at the 3-3 draw at White Hart Lane. That was a true captain’s performance and, given the fact he has barely played since, it was clearly through the pain barrier.

We’re still far better with Cesc than without him and talk that we should get rid of him is premature. There is a significant difference between wanting to play for your boyhood team and desperately wanting out of Arsenal.

Denilson

Whilst Denilson is a decent midfielder who keeps the ball ticking over he’s neither creative nor dynamic enough to win us a game and doesn’t possess the appropriate grit to stop us losing games. None of our fringe players have done enough to try and steal a starting berth and it’s Denilson’s lack of commitment when given the chance that has all but ended his Arsenal career. That lack of competition has damaged us this season.

Denilson wants out. The reason he gives is a desire to go to a club where he feels he can win trophies. I doubt many European heavyweights will be knocking down Arsene’s door to sign a player who has failed to fulfil his early promise.want to take him of our hands. As we reported earlier in the season, Wenger was already open to offers for Denilson – one of many talented players he has shown faith to and not been repaid.

Abou Diaby

Infuriation made flesh. Diaby is written off by far too many Gooners, although I can understand why. I’ve sat in the North Bank and watched him waste pass after pass or take too many touches and have the ball stolen off his foot. I’ve also seen him twist and turn out of impossible situations, stride forward like the second coming of Vieira and deck Joey Barton.

Those who write him off should look at the first half away to Newcastle (although the red mist was a contributory factor in our second half implosion) or his contribution to the away win at Blackpool. It’s indicative of his talent that he’s a regular part of the resurgent French setup.

There is no doubt in my mind that he has a lot of talent, he is unfortunately just a bit too casual for his own good. He often thinks he can play out of a situation or that he’s got all day to make up his mind. In fairness, his strength affords him the opportunity to hold onto the ball longer than most but improved decision making would really benefit him.

Then we have his injury record. I have a suspicion that if he could play 10 or 15 games on the spin he’d be an important player for us, but as it stands you’re lucky to get 10 or 15 minutes out of him. Ultimately, it might be this lack of reliability that poses the biggest threat to his future at Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey

It’s great to have Rambo back. What a talent. Before his injury he was growing into a player that we really needed: Mobile, competitive, has a good range of passing and the ability to time his runs into the box to provide a goal threat. His performance in the 1-0 win over United was the only positive moment during a torrid run-in.

Hopefully a full pre-season and the promise of more appearances next season will see him raring to go next term. The combination of Rambo and Jack certainly looks like an exciting one for the future.

Tomas Rosicky

The Czech international has become a peripheral figure since his return from one of the longest and most baffling injuries we, the home of long and baffling injuries, have ever seen. When we first signed him he was an experienced performer; direct, tricky, with an eye for goal and a threat from long range. Since his injury he just doesn’t look the same player. In theory, he could still be a decent player to have in the squad. He’s got lots of experience and is clever enough to dictate play, whilst the younger, fitter players provide the energy.

Sadly, I can’t think of a single performance of note this season. Like so many others, he’s not had a decent run of games but equally he’s not provided the manager with a selection dilemma. Shorn of the exuberance he once had, Rosicky doesn’t have the required resolve to change his game and is now surplus to requirements.