Ramsey, Ozil and Wilshere lining up for Arsenal.

Arsenal’s Big Issue: Failing to Replace Attacking Midfielders

There are many fundamental problems at Arsenal Football Club right now. A lack of attacking impetus and underperformance from key individuals to name a few. However, looking at the bigger picture, there seems to be a bigger, underlying issue at stake.

This issue concerns those who are responsible for the transfers at Arsenal. Looking back at the last few transfer windows, there have not only been notable arrivals, but also notable exits. The issue, it seems, is that player profiles aren’t replaced like for like.

By example, let’s take a look at the midfield recruitment over the course of the last 3 years. In that period, we have welcomed Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi, Dani Ceballos and Thomas Partey into the club.

In terms of departures, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Henrikh Mkhitarayan, Alex Iwobi have all moved on to pastures new. Meanwhile, Mesut Özil has found himself surplus to requirements. Looking at it simply, we’ve replaced attacking-minded midfielders with defensively oriented middlemen. A little nonsensical, to put it nicely.

This is evidence of some abysmal recruitment from Arsenal. Considering we have removed every single semblance of a creative spark from our squad, it’s hardly surprising Mikel Arteta is struggling to construct a system which provides us with entertaining, attacking football.

It is indeed true that Arsenal had a surplus of players with a similar creative profile a few years ago. As a result, we often found ourselves with central midfielders deployed on the wing. All four of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey experienced sustained periods out wide at certain points in their Arsenal careers.

Another issue we faced with regard to these former Arsenal squad members was their preference for playing further forward. Realistically, if you asked all four of those aforementioned midfielders what their favourite role was in their prime, they would tell you it was No. 10. In behind the striker.

So, don’t get me wrong – Arsenal have addressed the issue raised by the overabundance of central-attacking-midfielders. Plenty of these players have been sold while defensive midfielders and wingers have been recruited.

Sounds good right? In fact, it really does. If we added the likes of Thomas Partey, Willian and Nico Pépé to our squad four years ago and sold one or two central midfielders, I can say with confidence that we would’ve been transformed into a league-winning side.

However, perplexingly, in the four years that have passed since our 15/16 second place finish, as many as seven players capable of playing as a no. 10 have left the club. None have been replaced.

The mass exodus of inventive midfielders at Arsenal since Arsène Wenger’s departure has meant that recent additions have been welcomed into a squad utterly void of creativity. In consequence, the quality of attacking football at the Emirates Stadium has decreased exponentially.

Frankly, right now, I’d welcome back Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan with open arms. Not because either of those players are any better than our current options, but because there are no senior players who are specialists in the number 10 role in our squad. Not a single one. By bringing those two back, we’d be replacing nothing with something.

Why are we so bad going forward? The answer now seems rather simple. We no longer have any midfield technicians. Why? Because we sold all of them. No single player will solve our creative crisis, we need several.

I’ve supported Arsenal for as long as I can remember. The Emirates is about an hour’s train ride from my house so I go to the games regularly. Especially lately, writing about Arsenal has become a passion of mine so I hope it’s something I can do professionally in the future.