Arsenal: The one player they didn’t sign that could wreck their season

LONDON - NOVEMBER 13: A Spurs fan throws a carton of drinks at Patrick Vieira of Arsenal as he celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premiership match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on November 13, 2004 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
LONDON - NOVEMBER 13: A Spurs fan throws a carton of drinks at Patrick Vieira of Arsenal as he celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premiership match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on November 13, 2004 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images) /

This summer Arsenal’s transfers were not good enough, as they did not purchase a player they have been missing since 2005.

This summer transfer window has been a controversial one for Arsenal. Sead Kolašinac and Alexandre Lacazette were brought in early this summer. Gooners everywhere were rejoicing as it looked to be an exciting window.

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Thomas Lemar seemed to be a top target, which delighted the fans even more. However, after Lacazette signed on July 5th, no other players came to the Emirates. Most pundits and fans would tell you that the Gunners still need other players to compete for the Premier League.

People were screaming for players like Thomas Lemar, Riyad Mahrez, and Virgil van Dijk. However, the main position where they needed to address was, and still is, in central midfield.

Although they host an abundance of midfielders, they have missed their former French captain who has been impossible to replace.

Patrick Vieira

In 2005 Arsenal lost one of their most valuable and distinguished players in Patrick Vieira. Vieira won three Premier League titles and four F.A. Cups during his time at Highbury. He was a leader and general as he was the club captain for the Gunners from 2002 until 2005.

Vieira had a colossal presence in midfield and was a true box to box midfielder. He was known for his bombing runs through the midfield and his imposing presence on defense.

Ever since Vieira left, they have struggled to replace their former captain. Wenger has brought in players like Abou Diaby, Alex Song, Mikel Arteta, and Francis Coquelin. None of these players have been able to replicate Vieira.

Similar players to Vieria

Replacing Vieira is no easy feat, as there is few true box to box midfielders who are like Vieira. The only players who are somewhat similar to Vieira are Arturo Vidal, Mateo Kovacic, Blaise Matuidi, and Nemanja Matić.

Kovacic and Matuidi were linked with a move to the Emirates this summer, but those rumors faded. Matuidi moved to Juventus and Kovacic stayed at Real Madrid.

Although Matuidi moved for only £18m, other box to box midfielders will go for extreme prices due to the scarce amount of them. Arsenal are stingy during transfer windows and may feel that the price for a box to box midfielder is overpriced.

Arsenal’s old/current solution in midfield

In recent years the Gunners have tried to have two players in midfield that could complete Vieira’s duties. They like to pair a creative midfielder with a defensive midfielder.

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For example, Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin had a brief spell where their partnership was successful. However, injuries to Cazorla and Coquelin’s poor technical ability proved the partnership would not have longevity.

The current midfield partnership with Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey proves to be too attacking and lacks defensive responsibilities. Not saying these players are individually poor, but when paired together they aren’t the most successful.

Aaron Ramsey is a tremendous player who has great ability going forward. Granit Xhaka can pick out any pass and directs the tempo well.

Unsuccessful partnership

These two players together in a 3-4-3 does not equate to a strong partnership though. No game displays the negatives of the two together more than the loss to Liverpool this season. In a 4-0 scoreline, Ramsey and Xhaka played a big role in the defeat.

Ramsey was caught too high up the pitch throughout the game. This caused Xhaka to be isolated against Liverpool’s incredible attack. Xhaka does not have the speed and defensive abilities to stop a Liverpool counter attack.

Wenger needs to figure out a successful duo in midfield. Ramsey and Xhaka will struggle this season if they continue to play together.

If Wenger wants to continue with a 3-4-3 and this midfield combo, then he may consider telling the right and left wing backs to not push as high up. However, this will reduce the effect Héctor Bellerín and Sead Kolašinac have on the game when attacking.

Copying Conte

Wenger has already copied Antonio Conte’s tactics and formation with the 3-4-3. Wenger should take another page out of the Italian’s notebook by replicating a similar partnership in midfield.

Last season Chelsea had one of the most feared midfield’s, featuring Nemanja Matić and N’Golo Kanté. Both players are great defensively with Matić being slightly more creative.

Arsenal could have targeted a defensive midfielder this summer to pair up with Granit Xhaka. Steven N’Zonzi, William Carvalho, Danilo Pereira, and Grzegorz Krychowiak are all realistic targets who fit the quota of defensive midfielders.

Now that the transfer window has passed, they may want to consider paring Xhaka and Coquelin together. This may give them more defensive assurance, and give Bellerín, Kolašinac, and Özil more freedom.


Arsenal need to get past their awful start to the season and the fact that they did not sign enough players this summer. Thomas Lemar, Virgil van Dijk, and Steven N’Zonzi would have been great signings.

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They don’t have time to dwell on that though, as they have a long and grueling season ahead. Wenger needs to find a formation, tactics, and a partnership in midfield that can give Arsenal a successful season.