I must admit I use to hold the opinion that it will be easier for someone to convert me to a religion than accept the notion of the need of a dedicated defensive midfielder in any attractive footballing side as such as Arsenal.
As a youngster my favourite team was the Ajax team of the mid- 80’s and mid-90’s. Ajax won the champions league title in 1995 with the set of players that included Litmanen, Davids, Overmars, Patrick Kluivert, the de Boer brothers, Blind and Rijkaard. Up against the team in that final were names such as Gullit, Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Donadoni, Boban and Savićević.
Amongst that line up was a young Edgar Davids who had been nicknamed ‘the pit-bull’ by Van Gaal. He moved to AC Milan at the start of the 1996–97 season. After an unsuccessful spell where he failed to establish himself in the first team he moved on to league rivals Juventus F.C. The reason behind that move was not because he was a bad player but because he was not similar to previous Dutch imports like Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit.
Fast forward a few years ahead and there was a 5 feet 5 inches tall player plying his trade for Real Madrid called Claude Makélelé. Amongst the Galácticos he would have been like comparing Igor Stepanovs to Tony Adams. For those not familiar with Stepanovs a better comparison will be like comparing Denilson to Patrick Vieira.
When he left Real Madrid for Chelsea in 2003, this was what Perez had to say of him:
We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average; he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.
That comment in my opinion was a very diplomatic version of what most of the Real Madrid fans would have said about Makélelé. Some fans even called Perez a genius for getting more than a million euro for him.
On the other hand this was what Zidane had to say when he was asked about that transfer and David Beckham’s arrival – “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?” Those familiar with Spanish football or football in particular know what unfolded in both camps between 2003 and 2007.
Just before Chelsea’s dominance in the EPL, Arsene Wenger bought Gilberto Silva from Atlético Mineiro after his unnoticeable performances in the 2002 World Cup. At that time the comments of most of the Sky pundits and commentators were ‘there are surely better Brazilian players than him’. One even said Alex Ferguson had bought the better Brazilian in Kléberson. We all know what happened afterwards after Gilberto’s impressive debut goal in the community shield.
Later on, when Arsene Wenger was asked why he sold Patrick Vieira in 2005, his response was ‘because I have Gilberto Silva’. Many laughed at him for that comment. Still to this day I hear so called experts on T.V call Patrick Vieira a defensive midfielder whilst he has never been one within his career.
When things started to go badly for us in 2007 and fans began to ask Wenger why he kept selecting Gilberto Silva when he could not pass a ball, Arsene Wenger said his reason was because Gilberto was like an invisible wall’. So this tells us that Arsene Wenger knows the importance of having an ‘invisible wall’ in midfield. I remember being at the Emirates one Saturday afternoon and whenever he gave the ball away the fans got on his back for it.
Was the treatment of Gilberto Silva in his last season with Arsenal the reason why Wenger has not bought a purely dedicated ‘anchor-man’ since?
Since then we have had players like Denilson, who was a Brazilian youth international by the way and courted by teams like Real Madrid previously, being disliked by all sections of our fans because his passing was not like Fabregas. The treatment was so bad that he went from a player whom in 2008 had one of the best stats to being barely able to pass a ball 2 metre backwards.
We now have Frimpong who in my opinion has the potential to be world-class however, some fans have never forgiven him for getting a second yellow card against Liverpool on his EPL debut last August even though up until his sending off he was everyone’s Man-Of- The –Match.
After the 2011 Emirates Cup match against Boca Juniors midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme said “Frimpong is the most important player for Arsenal… he is one of the strongest midfielders I have ever played against’’. For those who may not value the weight of that comment just do a quick search for him on YouTube. He was a dime of a playmaker who kept Santi Cazorla on the bench at Villarreal most times.
So why do Arsenal fans prefer Francis Coquelin to Emmanuel Frimpong as a defensive midfielder when he has never played in that position for Arsenal by himself ? Frimpong on the other hand has played in very important games for Arsenal last season when Song was suspended and not conceded a single goal. Those games included Udinese home and away in the champion’s league and our first win of last season against Swansea. In the champions league matches he kept Di Natale quiet playing as the anchor-man whilst Song played further forward.
Last summer most fans were calling for the signing of Yann M’Villa but what percentage of those fans had even seen him play a match? To me he was a carbon copy of Denilson in playing style but most will disagree. In my opinion there were 2 or 3 other players who would have come cheaper and with less baggage than him, but feel free to disagree with me.
Are Arsenal fans ready to accept the shortcomings of a true defensive midfielder for the positives he shall bring to the team or will we sulk because he is not as skilful as Jack Wilshere when his passes are not up to our standard?
So as a new convert to the importance of this undervalued role, I believe the success of our season will depend on how well who ever plays as a defensive midfielder performs and in the end, Arsene has to invest in a very capable one, to compliment what we have.
Written by TalkShiteGingerHater