Finishing off the look at the midfield, we look at the link man within the midfield itself. Someone who is capable of supporting the attack and defence. Until Jack Wilshere comes back, at the moment I only really see two players who can perform this role.
First up, Mikel Arteta. Arguably the buy of last season. If not for the entire league, then definitely for us. The kind of display that makes him look almost like he has played with us his entire life. His footballing qualities matches ours to the minute details. Ball retention and making all the simple but correct pass. He functions almost as the gear inside of a clock, the one that connects to wheels and makes them spin continuously.
Arteta also wade in with his fair share of goals from midfield. Arriving late into the penalty or taking aim from distance, it’s all very calculated. You’ll be hard pressed to find him taking unnecessary shots when they are better options abound. Pace is not one of his better qualities but he more than makes it up with his reading of the game. One does not always need speed to win the ball back, excellent positioning also helps.
We’ve all seen his influence last season, none more so than when he was out injured for the last part of the season. The absence of his experience and leadership was felt. We looked like lost heads in the middle of the park. Without a link man, there was a huge gap between Song and the likes of Ramsey-Rosicky. Hopefully, this time around, we’ll be prepared by having another option. An option we could never really consider before.
Abou Diaby, a name that divides opinions. A name that is associated with injury and treatment table and operations, that started since that fateful day at the Stadium of Light. A name that was first heralded as the replacement for Patrick Vieira, when he joined the club. We would never have known that Matthieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas could form a good midfield partnership had Diaby not been injured in pre season of that season. So many things ride on the French player being fit and ready, unluckily he has finished on the wrong side of the coin each time.
As of now (touching wood as I write this), Diaby has been fit for the entire duration of the pre season. Furthermore, he’s not only doing training but has been able to participate in 4 full 45 minutes of pre season friendlies. Admittedly, the friendlies serves more as a fitness building exercise rather than a competitive one, it is still positive to see him emerge unscathed. There would still be a lot of work to be done on his fitness before we can confidently say that we have the Diaby of old, the one which sent pulses racing when we first saw him.
I don’t think I need to further elaborate on the qualities that Diaby brings. Nimble and agile for a player his height, with dribbling skills that allow him to get out of tight spots are some of his better qualities. At the moment though, I’m contented to have him sit on the bench with Arteta playing the starting role. Then, if and when required, Diaby could come in for 20 minutes here and 30 minutes there. Not only will that help ease him back into competitive football, it would also allow Arteta to get rested in preparation for a long season.
The midfield is another positive note of the team. However, any change now (like Song to Barcelona) would disrupt this. Song – Arteta – Cazorla looks the best starting trio to start the season, with plenty of talented players behind who can slot in when necessary.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that the saga is nearing the end. Robin van Persie will join Manchester United barring any unwanted result during his medical. I’m glad that this is finally over and we didn’t drag this on until the end of August. We don’t want another repeat of the Samir Nasri incident. Apparently, there was a change of heart but Arsene Wenger made his stand on the matter. I absolutely adore the fact that the manager called the shots rather than the player.
Will he improve Manchester United? Let’s not kid ourselves, he definitely would. How Alex Ferguson wants to fit him into the team is another matter. Something which I couldn’t really care too much about. However, as with any strikers, they do need someone to make the play for them to score. At the moment, this is what is lacking with the United side.
Doesn’t this contradict the desire to bridge the gap between us and them? Not really, no. Taking a look at the investments over the summer, I would have us come out on top. We’ve recruited in positions that we required. Yes, the loss of RvP is a big negative but 2 strikers came in. Man to man, I do believe we have a stronger overall squad than them. Next, is down to luck in terms of injuries and the manager’s tactics.
What this entire episode teaches us, is that players are no longer fans (in some cases, some are never fans from the start). They can say and do a lot of things to prove their love for the club they play for but immediately turn his back on the very club if money is thrown their way. We all thought he was different but ultimately wasn’t. I’m disappointed. It would team first, from now on. Until someone proves otherwise, the emotional attachment to any player in your club will never be the same again.
He (any player in the team) is not one of us. Maybe just Carl Jenkinson.