Pairing Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla Against Dinamo Zagreb Set Arsenal Back a Decade


Arsenal lost to Dinamo Zagreb. There is no way to write a sentence with that as the featured idea without it sounding horrible, yet somehow not surprising. Any time Arsenal manage to upset the world like this there are numerous lapses in judgment and in overall quality that have to be answered for.

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Perhaps the biggest lapse in judgment was the inclusion of Mikel Arteta in the starting XI. From the moment he appeared in the tunnels, it was obvious what was going on. Wenger had truly anointed Arteta as the back up to Francis Coquelin. The thought is frightening. In no footballing world does that inspire confidence.

What Francis Coquelin provides for this team can in no way be replicated by Mikel Arteta. I have the utmost respect for Arteta and what he has done for the team. But Wenger is off his rocker.

Arsenal absolutely needed to make a strong statement after a fairly dominant win against Stoke City. They had finally clicked and they had to build on that. Not only that, but it is the Champion’s League. The ghost that will haunt Arsene Wenger all the days of his life. Making a statement in the first game of group stages, when England was crumbling, would have inspired so much confidence in the club.

Instead, Arsene Wenger opted to set Arsenal back a decade by starting a defensive midfield pair that has as much shared physicality and aggression as a Furby. This Arsenal midfield was beat up just like the post-Vieira Arsenal midfield. Back when Wenger abandoned the physicality and aggression that had typified the Arsenal squad through their heyday in favor of a more technically sound club.

Since that time, Arsenal supporters had been crying out for an intense bruiser to hold down the space in front of the defense. They finally have him in Coquelin. But Wenger went with Arteta and Cazorla to defend the back line. All the progress that Arsenal had made toward building a stout midfield was undone in one fell swoop by that pairing.

It is not Arteta’s fault, really. Mikel Arteta is not a defensive midfielder. Maybe it was Arsene Wenger underestimating Zagreb. Maybe he felt like giving his captain some game time. But if he truly believes that Arteta is cover enough for Francis Coquelin then I am absolutely horrified of the day we lose Coquelin to injury.

Arteta has no pace and is simply not an aggressive player. Sure, he is composed on the ball and distributes passes well, but that is not what Arsenal need. Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla both provide those qualities with more upside.

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Arsenal’s midfield was beat up by the schoolyard bully in Croatia. Zagreb owned the middle of the pitch. It is unfair for Arsene Wenger to put Arteta in a situation where he has to control the midfield. That is not his game. If anything, let him start over Cazorla next to Coquelin. That would work fine.

All of this begs another question to be asked. Why leave Aaron Ramsey behind? He is the only other player on this team with the semblance of being a defensive midfielder. He is not one, obviously, but he is more so than Arteta. All of this is rather baffling. Whatever type of game Wenger was expecting, he was wrong.

The underlying message remains the same though. We do not have anything behind Coquelin. Not a thing. And everyone else that somehow did not know thisfact, is now aware of it as well.

Next: Arsenal v Zagreb Player Ratings

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