Can Arsenal Form A New Core?

Post by : KingHenrythefif

If there were any lingering doubts about the 3-4-3 system adopted since the final stretch of last season, it was all put to bed at the home of the Champions, thanks to the goalless deadlock and Conte’s 1st taste of barrenness in front of goal on home soil.

Following the positive, stalemate a vibe around the Arsenal team was born, after an embarrassing sequence of disappointments at Stamford Bridge. With the last assured performance against the coming five years ago in 2011/2012, it was about time to get a narrative worth holding on to, not least being the point gained to prove that building on the bridge’s foundations wasn’t a bridge too far after all.

Central to that solid foundation was the presence of Sead Kolasinac once again, but this time, with an even more solid understanding with Nacho Monreal and Skhodran Mustafi in particular, who looked like the tough German firebrand we’ve all been longing for, even before his arrival at the club.

During pre-season, we saw Elneny used as a centre back and I’m led to believe its not just his ability to build play from the back that got Arsene using him as a splitter for his two CB partners. The Egyptian’s intelligence in covering gaps especially on the left side of defence is a natural strength and Mustafi’s instincts in that regard was a huge reason why we looked overly secure at the left hand side of defence.

Considering its been labelled as a game to actually build on, the success last Sunday can always be over exaggerated but provided the steel of Sead and Shkodran can be trusted, it makes perfect sense to stick with the combination of the defensive graft we saw from both, perfectly complementing the strengths of a player in the mould of Nacho Monreal.

Aside Nacho, the technical qualities of another left sided technician in Granit Xhaka also looked more adept in his midfield role, against a team he now seems to always enjoy playing against. Like the FA Cup final and the Community Shield, the Swiss held his own centrally and was somewhat protected by the aforementioned stocky duo of Mustafi and Kolasinac.

Putting Xhaka’s game into perspective, it’s best he has that those tackling duo close to him, considering he’s not a natural ball winner, especially in tricky 50-50 duels, just like we saw after the introduction of a natural tough tackler Tiemoue Bakayoko at half time, to complement the already accomplished tackling ability of Ngolo Kante.

While we won’t come up against that kind of ball winning quality in central midfield every week, it is important to allow Arsenal’s deep lying playmaker to focus on his strengths and it’s quite apparent his battling qualities need complementing than extracting. Kolasinac and Mustafi provide just that. 

Now, despite the other midfield anchoring options of Francis Coquelin and Mo Elneny, Aaron Ramsey has been pretty much established as Xhaka’s preferred partner in the middle of the pack, especially since the change to three at the back.

The 27-year old is comfortably the longest serving player in Arsenal’s starting line up and has formed several central midfield partnerships in his nine years at the club, enjoying his best spell alongside Mikel Arteta. His second season alongside the Spaniard pretty much established him not only as a core part of the squad, but also labeled him as a significant part of the team’s spine.

Despite also having the battling qualities of a box to box midfielder in the mould of a Mikel Arteta in his prime, the Welshman still divides opinion with the defensive side of his game in particular. However, now partnered by an anchor largely seen as the replacement for Arteta, the Welshman needs to embrace the tools that made him arguably the most consistent performer in his best season till date (2013/2014) and would certainly benefit from a gritty, swashbuckling wall behind him; a wall that not only includes Must and his Sead, but also another long serving ace at the club – Laurent Koscielny, another who without doubt is also a core part of the spine.

In my personal opinion however, like Ramsey, the 32-year old could very well do with a firmly consistent campaign, having failed to replicate the kind of outstanding years he had  alongside another ageing skipper in Per Mertesacker. Unlike his largely successful stint partnering the BFG, his pairing with Mustafi only looked solid in patches, with one of those ironically coming against a Chelsea side that had Diego Costa at the top of his game. 

My belief has always been that the Frenchman’s partnership with the ex-Valencia defender still needed tweaking with the inclusion of a more commanding presence, due to the evident similarities in defensive qualities between both. This might also explain why Arsene couldn’t afford to keep Gabriel Paululista – another similar ilk of CB as a different defensive option, who pretty much triggered the same rush of blood with his excessive adrenaline defending traits.

The engine and calming presence of Arsenal’s latest defensive signing (Sead) may just have well taken the duo to a better understanding.

Likewise, Gabriel, Arsenal’s other defensive signing in 2015 – Peter Cech still has question marks over his head on if he truly has complemented Arsenal’s high-octane defence with the cool, calm and collected approach that department has always been crying out for. His impact on the pitch, especially when faced with (near-post) strikes has largely been questionable, which is clearly understandable when considering he’s the 1st choice given the mandate to protect as well as form the base of the spine in question.

Also adding to this cheeky rhetoric is his Chelsea history and it was quite reassuring to see the 35-year old cap a decent (second) return to Stamford Bridge with a clean sheet. Like Koscielny however, the Czech veteran certainly needs to lead from the back and ensure those clean sheets multiply into shutouts that actually translate to points won on the back of convincing shot-stopping in and around the box.

Whichever way you choose to view Arsenal’s last Premier League home game, a more significant match on the road has shed more light on the capabilities of a new look additional core of Mustafi, Kolasinac and Xhaka complement the established central spine of Cech, Koscielny and Ramsey. Ahead of the next two Premier League games against stubborn opposition on home soil, the task presented to the team against West Brom and Brighton & Hove Albion on Monday and Sunday respectively, has to be successfully executed to strengthen a veteran/long-serving spine that could do with the impetus of a fresh core added in the last two summers.

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