Arsenal

Arsenal Still Need a Holding Midfielder to Complete Their Transfer Puzzle

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 26:  About Diaby #24 of Arsenal fights for the ball with Tim Cahill #17 of New York Red Bulls during their friendly match at Red Bull Arena on July 26, 2014 in Harrison, NJ. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2014

Calum Chambers has become the fourth major signing of Arsenal's transfer window, joining Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina on Arsene Wenger's ever-expanding list of purchases. This is now the biggest-spending transfer window in the club's history.

However, they're not done yet. For Arsenal to complete the jigsaw of their squad, they require one piece rather urgently: A combative holding midfielder.

When Chambers was unveiled, he told Arsenal.com that Wenger intends to occasionally use him at the base of the Arsenal midfield. Speaking about his conversations with his new boss, Chambers said: 

He said that he sees me at right back, centre back, holding centre midfield. He sees me in a variety of different positions, which I like, because then I can find out where I am best at and push myself as far as I can go in that position. I am just excited to get started really.

Chambers played regularly as a central midfielder in his mid-teens, but having played his senior football exclusively as a right-back it seems unlikely he’ll be asked to revert to midfield on a regular basis at Arsenal. That readjustment will take time.

Arsenal’s existing options in the position do not necessarily convince. Last season, there were signs that age was beginning to catch up with Mikel Arteta. That process is not likely to slow any time soon. Arteta will turn 33 during 2014/15. Time waits for no midfielder. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Mikel Arteta of Arsenal in action during the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

In the early months of his second spell at Arsenal, Mathieu Flamini impressed as an alternative. However, his impact faded in the second half of the season. Even at his best, Flamini looks little more than a stop-gap.

There had been some suggestion that Arsene Wenger was considering deploying Jack Wilshere in the holding role. Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail reported:

Jack Wilshere is set to be handed the chance to play as Arsenal’s new midfield anchor next season.

Manager Arsene Wenger believes the 22-year-old has the football brain to play as his side’s holding central midfielder — a move that could save the club millions in the transfer market.

The club had identified a new defensive midfielder as one of their transfer priorities, with the Gunners looking at moves for Sami Khedira, Lars Bender and Morgan Schneiderlin.

But Wenger and his backroom staff believe they may already have the answer to the problem position.

Although Wilshere has the requisite passing ability and tenacity to function at the base of the Arsenal midfield, he lacks positional discipline. He can also be somewhat cavalier in possession. During Arsenal’s 5-1 thrashing at Anfield in 2013/14, Wilshere’s unsuitability for a defensive role was horribly exposed by a rampant Liverpool. 

Then there’s Abou Diaby. The Frenchman is perennially hailed as the solution to Arsenal’s midfield problems, only for injuries to inevitably scupper those plans. Arsenal must learn their lesson: Sadly, Diaby can’t be relied upon. 

If Thomas Vermaelen is sold, Arsenal may need another new centre-back. Should Arsene Wenger elect to let Joel Campbell go, there could even be an argument for pursuing a centre-forward. However, no position is a greater priority than holding midfield. Arsenal need someone with power, intelligence and discipline. They need someone who can provide a solid base on which the creative talents of Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil can flourish. 

The puzzle is almost complete. Wenger must spend the remaining month of the window scouring world football for that final missing piece.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.

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