THE DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER – Is there more to it than meets the eye?

Yesterday when commenting on Chas’ report on the game against Southampton, I made the comment that I would have liked to have seen how Francis Coquelin would have performed in the holding midfield role.

My reasoning for this comment is that I feel the holding midfield role is a highly important cog in our wheel with regard to our current squad and best formation, or at least what I consider, and reading between the lines, maybe what Arsene considers to be our best formation. It is also an area where I feel we are currently lacking in top level quality and would need an upgrade in if we want to compete for the top prizes with the best in England and Europe.

RA in response to my comment said the following :-

Forgot to mention, GB, that we or that is to say you – should as a group, or you as an individual should define what you mean by a ‘holding midfielder’.
To me a HMF is not the same as a ‘beast’ of a DMF (defensive), much as I like dislike the term ‘beast’, and should be someone who links the central defense and the forwards, and to do that should break up play, and pull the strings when we are attacking.
The trouble is many will see that as a No.10s role, or the guy who ‘sits in the hole’ behind the forwards, and maybe it is all of those things, so how you can say that Diaby, in particular, or Jack, or Rambo could not be such a player in that role, mystifies me.

So indeed I think firstly an examination and definition of what one considers to be a holding midfielder and what one considers is a defensive midfielder, and whether they are different or one and the same, is warranted.


To my mind the great PV4 has undoubtedly been our best player in the heart of midfield in recent times but how would you define him?

I would also like to also ask which players in our current squad do you see best fitting the above definitions and why? In addition do you feel we have adequate strength and quality in these defined roles or do you feel we need to bring in a player of greater quality? If so who would you prefer and how would you view them in terms of the definitions of holding or defensive midfielder.

Over to you A.A’ers.

Written by GoonerB

85 Responses to THE DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER – Is there more to it than meets the eye?

  1. chas says:

    From last post…….
    Do they have electricity in the middle of a field in a tent? 🙂

  2. belay abagero says:

    I like Arsenal !

  3. chas says:

    I like Arsenal, too !

  4. chas says:

    Smashing post, GoonerB.

    I’m not sure if PV4 was a defensive midfielder in the sense most Arsenal fans think we need.
    If he was, then what was Gilberto?

    Anyway, it gives me a chance to post one of my favourite Arsenal vids. 🙂

  5. Big Raddy says:

    There are a plethora (been looking for an opportunity to that word!) of types of DM.

    I go back to the Peter Storey days when the player was essentially a destroyer.

    In the ’89 side we had Kevin Richardson alongside the energy of Mickey Thomas

    The second double side had Vieira and Petit in tandem. The 3rd double team Vieira and Grimaldi (he played 40 times that season!)

    The Invincibles …. Vieira and Gilberto Silva.

    Of these players I would say that only PV4 contributed to the attack and in later years he rarely ventured 10 yards from the centre circle.

    It seems as though our title winning teams have two defensive midfielders working together.

    Do we have the same today?

  6. stevepalmer1 says:

    Morning all, nice one Rasp.

    Many say we are players short, many feel that the amount of games we have to play in a seasn is too many. Whoever we seem to buy are often classed as the wrong positon, and what if we have injuries, let’s face it fans will never never be happy with who we have.

    Your question holding midfielder will be different whoever you ask , and of course what the manager wants from them. It’s my opinion that Arsene wants Diaby in that roll, and has waited for him to return.

    I believe Wenger will play him in front of the CB and not ask him to be box to box 28 years old and numerous injuries makes me feel he will play like a centre half rarely going to far forward .

    We have many players who go forward but not that many who can defend.

    We lost in the cup the other night, Wenger uses that to plan the teams future and players showed they are ready.

    I feel Wenger will try Diaby for this season if he holds out fine if not maybe Hayden or chambers

  7. Rasp says:

    Hi steve, GoonerB deserves the praise as he wrote today’s post, I only published it 🙂

  8. RA says:

    GoonerB DamnedGood,

    I think that Steve confirms my own view that the terms ‘holding midfielder’ and ‘defensive midfielder’ can be all things to all men.

    There are many players who have held the title of ‘best’ DFM in the world, and on occasions have also been called the ‘best’ holding midfielder in the world.

    Their names, Makelele and Mascherano. Both were/are small guys and therefore very different from the very tall, strong and athletic Patrick Vieira — so I think size can be excluded as a necessary requirement for the position(s).

    In fact, I think in your Post you have hit on something that somewhat answers the question as to what makes an HMF or DMF when you refer to Vieira and Gilberto, or Vieira or Petit and explains why fans sometimes get hot under the collar when arguing who we need for the team in midfield.

    The best midfielders complement each other, and as you said someone like Vieira could not be said to be exclusively defensive as he was capable of servicing the attack too. The same could be said for Gilberto and Petit, in that they were primarily defensive but could produce a killer pass to set a forward free.

    It is the combination that makes that role work, and as such I do not think it can be restrictively defined.

    The other factor that can change how a midfielder works is the strategy employed at any give time. Currently we seem to operate a 4 1 4 1 system, and I suppose the 1 in front of the back four needs to be both a defensive cover and an attacking support player for the forwards.

    Is that a Mesut type player? I would suggest no – he cannot defend for the life of him.

    Is that Jack type player? Again I would say no – he can attack with the best of them, but he is a red card rushing to the tackle as a defender.

    The nearest we have to the multi-purpose player need for that role is Rambo, but ………

    The role is pretty clear in my opinion and if we play 4 2 3 1 I think we have the right players to play in the 2 — but if we stick with 4 1 4 1 we will need to find someone from outside the club.

    As to the No.10 role Mesut would play that brilliantly as one of the 4, in the current setup, or as one of the 3 in my suggested 4 2 3 1.

    [I will be in and out (no double-entendre intended) 🙂 quite a bit today, but will be interested in other points of view). 🙂

  9. chas says:

    As we have more possession than not in most games, we tend to play with the full backs even further up the field than Arteta (or at least as far).
    I’d also say the front 5 are interchangeable.

    Therefore I’d argue we play 2-3-5 and even Superman would struggle to play in the middle of the 3 and be able to snuff out opposition counter attacks. 🙂

  10. GoonerB says:

    Thanks guys.

    I also think there can be different types of DM’s, but generally split them into 2, those being the holding (defensive) midfielder, and the box to box (defensive) midfielder. I actually quite like LB’s term “defence minded” midfielder more when talking about a box to box midfielder.

    My view is that the holding (defensive) midfielder primarily sits in a disciplined position patrolling in front of the back 4, for arguments sake lets say a zone of 5m to 25m in front of the back 4. almost like longitudinal lines on a map. They can move across the pitch within that zone to wherever they feel danger needs to be snuffed out but have to stay within a disciplined distance of the back 4. If the whole team is playing higher then so are they and vice versa if the whole team is playing deeper. I also feel the holding midfielder has a lot of centre back qualities about them and can often play both positions.

    The box to box (defence minded) midfielder I still class as a DM because they will spend significant periods doing defensive duties alongside the holding midfielder but they also have qualities that allow them to drive upfield with the ball and even contribute at times in and around the oppositions box. If they are splitting their time between our box and the oppositions box and anywhere in-between then they are a box to box midfielder.

    IMO Vieira was a box to box defence minded midfielder while Gilberto was the holding midfielder. The reason I feel the holding midfielder is so important is because they can release their midfield (box to box) partner so that they can drive forwards when the moment is right. That box to box player becomes the heartbeat of the side. Without them we don’t bring the ball out from defence properly and don’t link with the attacking players so well, who can then in turn look isolated and ineffective. BUT the box to box player can’t be effective if they don’t have the right midfield partner to cover them when they go further upfield.

    I agree with those that say that size is not always the primary requirement, but I think size to a degree is more important in the holding role than box to box role. I also think that reasonable pace is important in the holding role (at the highest level) because this player is more reactionary, and so pace and mobility at a moments notice can snuff out danger before it occurs.

    I personally feel that Jack is our world class box to box (defence minded) midfielder and in reality is our new Vieira. So I ask who is our Gilberto? It struck me against Dortmund that Jack (and often others) had to help out Arteta too much defensively because Arteta is not a world class exponent of the holding role and doesn’t have the pace for it. I always feel Jack plays better with Flamini alongside him who is a more natural HM, but even then I feel we need an upgrade on the Flamster if we want to permanently move into the top tier of the best teams in Europe.

    Interesting that today there is much talk on converting Diaby into the role. I don’t mind this as a back up but I don’t see it as a permanent top level solution because :

    1 Diaby is more offensively minded and looks more akin to the box to box player than holding player.

    2 I think he needs a fraction more pace for the role of HM

    3 Is he really after all these years going to play 40+ games in a season without significant time on the treatment table?

    So for me a new shiny top level holding midfielder is required to push us onto the next level.

    Well RA, you asked me to validate it. Bet you wish you hadn’t now?

  11. GoonerB says:

    Chas, your point about the high playing FB’s is another reason why I feel we need a powerful pacy deep lying midfielder who can do a bit more than both Arteta and Flamini can currently.

  12. GunnerN5 says:

    I spoke with Kelsey this morning, he sends his best regards and thanks to those that expressed their concern.

    He’s not in a good place right now and is not up to blogging – but he will be back when he’s feeling better,

  13. GoonerB says:

    Thanks for the feed-back GN5

  14. RA says:

    Well done, GN5, good to hear the news, thank you. 🙂

  15. RA says:

    I find your comment very interesting and there isn’t too much wrong with it.

    The thing is it is easy to see that there is a lot of leeway in the term, and I am not sure if it was you or Chas who said the old way of simply describing a players position is the easiest to grasp, but with modern fluid tactics they do not convey the meaning of today’s game formation, and the type of player needed to play there.

    When I listen to ex-player pundits, it is obvious to me that they are very lax with their use of positional play too, and the terms ‘deep lying’ player or a player ‘sitting in the hole’, blah, blah.

    Does it matter? Probably not – but it makes discussion of what we need or do not need when we are not comparing like for like, and to be honest, in that respect I am not sure we are that much further forward. 🙂

    Where are GIE and 26M when you need them?

  16. RA says:

    Sorry GB, my comment @1:26 was to you – obviously. 🙂

  17. Big Raddy says:

    Thanks Gn5. Please wish kelsey well.

  18. GunnerN5 says:


    This is from Football365.

    Personally i would like to see Diaby play in the PV4 role, assuming his body will hold together.


    Wenger plans to convert Diaby

    Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has revealed he is planning to turn injury-plagued Abou Diaby into a defensive midfielder in a bid to prolong his career.

    The 28-year-old has been dogged with injuries his entire career and has made just 41 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners over the last four seasons.

    Diaby made his latest comeback from injury as he started his first game of the season in the midweek Capital One Cup defeat by Southampton.

    The Frenchman played 67 minutes against Southampton and Wenger believes converting him from a box-to-box midfielder to a defensive role would suit Diaby.

    “I will try to transform him because he was injured and has the physical potential to win the challenges,” noted Wenger.

    “To face the game will be easier for him than to play back to goal with the injuries he had.

    “I’ll try to develop him in a deeper role. I think he can do it, he can be very interesting, has all the attributes,

    “He must love it as well because he’s more of an offensive minded player.”

  19. Big Raddy says:

    Is this worthy of legal action?

    Big Raddy says:
    September 24, 2014 at 5:32 pm (Edit)
    RA. My idea of a holding midfielder varies from the small but hugely effective Mascherano or Makalele (probably the best I have seen) to the big fellows like PV4 and Yaya Tours. If the defence has enough height in it I cannot see the problem with having a diminutive holding midfielder

    RA says:
    September 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm (Edit)

    Their names, Makelele and Mascherano. Both were/are small guys and therefore very different from the very tall, strong and athletic Patrick Vieira — so I think size can be excluded as a necessary requirement for the position(s).

    Where is 26 when I need him? 😀 😀

  20. Sneaking on here as I’m very busy …… I’m sure I got into trouble recently for adding a pic of PV4 to a post about HMF so I’m mightily confused now.

    Back to the kitchen peaches …………….

    Lots of love to kelsey xx

  21. Apples and honey anyone?

  22. GoonerB says:

    Possible case Raddy although I would say that Mascerano, Makalele = holding midfielder while Vieira, Yaya Toure = boxto box (defence minded) midfielder.

    Different players with different roles so you may have a problem in your case if RA were to call me as an expert witness. After 2 hours of GoonerB talking tactical bollix he will be looking at his watch and noticing it is only 1 hour before he is due to tee off and will subsequently dismiss the case on a technicality.

  23. Lassana Diarra – the one that got away 😦

  24. GoonerB says:

    Don’t worry Peaches I deliberately threw in the PV4 comment because I know you like a picture and I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist. Still relevant though.

  25. These impatient footballers make me so cross!!!

    Ok, I’m gone now. Good post GoonerB, I’ll have to comment later.

  26. I think so but who am I 🙂

  27. Sav from Australia says:

    I think the attributes are difficult to quantify. I would not mind a ‘Xabi Alonso type’ or a ‘Mascherano type’ – but it would be lovely if Diaby takes that position and overcomes his injuries. I like Mikel Arteta as much as the next guy but his lack of pace and power is sometimes an issue – but only sometimes. Maybe the formation should be more conservative against aggressive counter attacks like Chelsea, Liverpool, etc.

    And lets face it, if the referees called the fouls everytime Arteta gets pushed over – which is a foul all day every day – then there would be far fewer questioning his merits. If we have a taller, faster, stronger, younger player in his position, maybe he does not get pushed over so its more difficult for us to get cheated. But I do think apart from tactics of opposition teams, tactics of referees need to be addressed as well. But the Boss knows this better than me, so I live in hope.

  28. Sav from Australia says:

    Excellent post and super comments so far btw. And thanks to everyone for the match reports yesterday, got to yesterday’s article and comments late but it was worth the wait.

  29. GoonerB says:

    Thanks GN5 from earlier and Sav. I only see Diaby as a squad or back up option for the role rather than regular first choice option. He is a quality player though so when fit will give us quality cover in these position(s).

    Also Chas earlier I agree that PV4 wasn’t the DM that everyone thought but was our box to box guy. Great vid BTW.

  30. Pat7 says:

    Good post and following up comments. To me the only guy capable of doing the ‘job’ could be Chambers as I agree that Diaby cannot be depended on for fitness. That would mean of course he is back up for CB and HM and of course has to ‘get into’ those roles….

    I would love to see Diaby fit and well – we have waited too long hoping – but could try Coquelin as well in the run up to the transfer window though not in the EPL! It seems that we have nobody else coming through for that role by AW dalliance in the summer transfer market.

  31. stevepalmer1 says:

    Sorry GoonerB never saw your name mate, thought it was too good to be anyone else 🙂

  32. RA says:


    If you think I shamelessly stole that comment from you — you are damned right.

    It was the most clear cut description I have heard in a while and you obviously convinced me!! 😀

    On the other hand, the devious GoonerB Really Naughty, not only is trying to confuse everyone with his wilful mixing of the ‘holding’ and ‘defensive’ midfielder roles, then keeps slipping in this rubbishy ‘box to box’ player nonsense, as if everyone in the team, except perhaps for the Keeper, does not go up to the box numerous times in every game, else how do teams score?

    Sheesh. 🙂

  33. GoonerB says:

    Just trying to box clever RA

  34. RA says:

    Actually, Gb, I know full well what you mean.

    Rambo, for me, is a box-to-box player, tho’ others may disagree. 🙂

  35. LB says:

    I disagree.

    The problem here is that most people differ on the definition of a box to box player and without a standard being set it is almost impossible to find common ground.

  36. LB says:

    I think the most interesting part of today’s post is that it asks if there is a difference between a defensive midfielder and a holding midfielder.

    And in my mind there most certainly is one.

    We need a poll in which we vote on the definition of each one.

    Something like four definitions of the role with the ability to vote for what defines each role.

    Once the standard has been set we can then discuss whether a players like Ramsey, Wilshere etc rightly come into one category or another.

    And by the way I would like to say thank you to GB for taking the trouble to write something for us to read today.

  37. GoonerB says:

    Thanks LB and I like your idea on the poll.

  38. Big Raddy says:

    So Peaches, Rasp, Micky and Arnie are “very busy”. Norfolk and Chas are on holiday. Kelsey is under the weather. Rocky is on “sabbatical.” Gn5 has gone “quiet”. Chary is Knot Ear. Sav and Pat are not as frequent visitors as they have been. Shard is playing hard. North Bank has his own site to worry about. GIE has two small people to keep him occupied.

    No wonder the site is quiet!!

    Thank goodness for the Valiant Few who will be on the site for the NLD.

  39. liambaldock says:

    It’s a toughy this one, and always a conversation I love having. I’ve recently started myself a football blog, and was looking to compile a post on this topic too.

    Okay so the defensive midfielder. I like to think of him as the invisible wall. The anchorman as such. A player who is pretty much completely defensive minded who, in my opinion, is one of the most important players in a club. Nowadays, they seem rare… Javi Martinez, Busquets and Matic are the standout few I can name who are world class. Well Matic isn’t quite as elite as the aforementioned. But anyway these players are key, these almost act as the third centre back in many ways, coming short and in between when defending and receiving the ball. They break up play and are generally very physical. Standing tackles. Interceptions. That sort of thing! I’d say Flamini is our best classed ‘defensive midfielder’. Always see the lad in between Per and Koscielny, and he is very disciplined positionally. Just a shame he’s a bit of a nutter and is guaranteed a yellow every game. But then again, the aggression is needed in that role sometimes, shown by Busquets. Gilberto Silva, Makelele, Petit are other examples from the past. Some even have a thunderous strike on them. But that’s a defensive midfielder, and they’re hard to find. We are one away (as long as they’re elite level) from being a title contender and European challenger.

    Then there’s the box-to-box. I won’t go into this much… But Yaya Toure is one. As was Patrick Vieira. Pogba. Ramsey. Vidal. Crucial at both ends, but they bring the ball forward, make the late midfield runs into the box. Grab 10 or so goals a season. So many get confused, saying we need Pogba. And as nice as he would be, it’s not him we desperately require. It’s a holding ‘defensive midfielder’ as aforementioned. Still though, I wouldn’t turn the man down!! But we have Ramsey for this role, and in a 4-2-3-1, all we need is the holding midfielder to partner him in the centre of the pitch. One goes up, the other drops deep. You’ll often find the defensive midfielder cover for the attacking full-backs also. And that’s needed at Arsenal, the amount we push forward and commit. Lord almighty, remember Villa (home) and Chelsea at the Bridge last year!?


    I feel that’s the difference. And a lot of people often get it wrong. At Arsenal, Aaron Ramsey and maybe Jack Wilshere are the best box-to-box players, but they wouldn’t work together that deep. They aren’t disciplined enough. And Flamini is the defensive one, alongside Arteta, who undoubtedly is past his best, despite his phenomenal distribution. We are close to finding the missing piece, and I’m sure when we find it, fingers, toes and everything crossed that it isn’t About Diaby, we will be at a higher level immediately. And maybe we won’t concede as many goals! Hope you enjoyed my response, be sure to check out my blog if you’re interested in these sort of discussions for football all around Europe!

  40. Big Raddy says:

    Liam. Fine comment and good luck with your blog

  41. RA says:

    Excellent, Liam.

    Pretty much echoes my comments on the subject and I will pop in to your blog to have a look-see. 😉

  42. RA says:

    I would sack the lot of ’em, Raddy.

    Malingerers. 🙂

  43. stevepalmer1 says:

    Personally speaking all these different formations and new position names often has me scratching my head. the only positions that seem the same is goal keeper.

    Full backs speaks for itself that means Back and should mean full time, If you want somebody running down the wing use wingers not full backs.

    In the old days of centre halves and half backs, you had a man to handle the centre forward and half backs to help out in defence and help the inside forwards.

    The inside forwards job was to back up the centre forward and also to pick up what the centre forward misses.

    Seems to me we have changed too much full backs as wingers, wingers as midfielder who does what and where is a bit confusing. I always thought that scoring goals was the most important thing, 5 forwards who’s sole intention was making goals and 5 defenders stopping goals.

    Of course a goalkeeper to mop up and take goal kicks. Simple.

  44. GoonerB says:

    Excellent comment Liam @6.11 and I also wish you luck with your blog. Your description of the defensive midfielder completely echoes my thoughts on that type of player, even though I may have termed them a holding midfielder. I guess my use of the term “holding” is because I see them as a defensive midfield that holds in a disciplined position.

    Your description of the box to box player also tally’s with my thoughts and the players you mention for each of the roles would be the ones I would pick also. I would also concur that this is the one position that if we had the right player in would elevate us to a new level.

    One area I would discuss further is Ramsey and the box to box role, and would welcome your further opinion on this. I can see how he is suited to play there but also I feel he could easily play as a goal-scoring number 10 higher up the pitch. I would actually personally say that Wilshere is our best box to box player. My reason for this is because the role isn’t primarily associated with a high goal-scorer but is more for a player that can carry out defensive duties but also carry the ball out from deep and drive up-field.

    This is where I feel Wilshere has the edge over Ramsey. He has a burst of pace that can take him past players which Ramsey doesn’t have in his locker. Once that player gets closer to the oppositions goal then it becomes more debatable who is the more effective, but I actually feel that bringing the ball out from deep and being able to carry the ball through the middle of the pitch is the more important quality for this role.

  45. LB says:

    As the day has gone on a few things do seem to have been accepted by the majority, for example:

    Flamini is a defensive midfielder.

    Arteta is a holding midfielder

    Diaby is a box to box player.

    Ramsey is an attacking midfielder. I think this part is agreed by most but I accept that some would also say that he is a box to box player. I don’t agree with this as I feel that such a player should have a defensive string to his bow and I don’t believe Ramsey has or certainly not enough of one to qualify.

    Wilshere. Believe it or not I think some common ground has been found here and that is he is a midfield link player; that’s to say, that he links the defence with the attack. I would argue that he will end up further back rather than further forward but that I realise is hotly disputed by many.

    Anyway we are getting there.

  46. Pat7 says:

    Great discussion lads. Well done Liam – great contribution – the way i see it…..we just have to find the man!

  47. GoonerB says:

    Wilshere is an interesting one for me LB. I always thought he had the ability to play further forward but I am now accepting a slightly deeper role as his best position. I agree that he will primarily play deeper but with some forays into the opposition box which is why I felt he was our new Vieira.

    I feel he needs a top class defensive midfielder (or holding) to play alongside him so that he can have that licence to play from deep or go up to support the attack. I like the way that he often brings the ball forwards, lays it off and continues his run to receive the return pass at pace driving into the box. When he does this he has excellent control of the ball when receiving or running with it at pace and has provided us with some truly classy goals like the recent one with Man City and the goal of the season last year.

    Where I may disagree with some is my view that he should be considered in our best 1st 11 and that he is one of the 2-3 players the team should be built around.

    That would also be an interesting post. The current Arsenal best 11 with everyone fit.

  48. LB says:

    Goodness the penny has just dropped as to why I differ with everyone over what is and what isn’t a box to box player.

    You all think that such a player picks the ball up from our box and has the skillset to run it to the opponents box on a regular basis.

    If this is the case then Wilshere certainly is a box the box player and you might as well throw in Ramsey.

    My idea of a box to box player is someone who can pick the ball up on the edge of our box and not only be able to purposely move to the opponents box

    And here is the critical part.

    But is also capable of quickly getting back to our box, should an attack break down, to help defend. Vieira could do this. But Wilshere with his little legs cannot and this, I would suggest, is the reason why Woy is playing him as a holding midfielder as did Arsene on Tuesday when Diaby went off, a small fact that many people, I think, missed.

    So in my opinion a box to box player is someone who not only operates from our box to the opponents box but, importantly, back again to ours.

  49. liambaldock says:

    I’ve just written my own piece on this topic of discussion. If those who have replied to my previous comment want to check it out, please feel free. Addressed the issues we mentioned about the box-to-box role and evaluated the necessities of both too.

  50. liambaldock says:

    LB – I agree with what you’re saying completely. But when debating on the differences, the point of the argument is all about the offensive qualities a box-to-box holds against a defensive midfielder. But when referring to other qualities, you’re quite correct.

  51. Gööner In Exile says:

    GoonerB good topic for discussion and my answer is no PV4 was not a holding or even defensive midfielder, big tall aggressive yes all those things, but that doesn’t mean he was a defensive or holding midfielder.

    Gilberto is the best we have ever had in that position, as for my money it is just as important that he screens the defence as wins back possession in midfield.

    This is why Arteta is used there, his reading of the game makes him the best in our current squad. That comes from experience, also for our system to work they have to be able to pass.

    By all means have the mythical 6ft 4 beast in the squad if we need to go out and kick a few players to allow others to play, let’s call it the Keown role that he performed so willingly under Arsene, but he should not be the first name I the teamsheet as it is only in very few games that this would be useful.

  52. 26may1989 says:

    Interesting debate here today, well done GB for kicking that off.

    Before commenting further, I’m sorry to hear kelsey is still not well but hope he recovers soon and reappears here, where he needs to be…..

    I can’t add anything significant to the debate about roles, but I would like to comment on the idea of converting Diaby to a deeper role.

    I think that would be a mistake. First off, he isn’t a defensive midfielder (or holding midfielder) – we shouldn’t be making do, we can and should have a player in that position who is amongst the best around. Secondly, the 4141 formation we’re playing makes it even more important that we don’t compromise – a hell of a lot hinges on that one player. The Arteta of a couple of years ago would’ve been fine, but he’s not up to it now. And Flamini doesn’t have the right level of ability (though I’d accept he’s had a pretty good season so far). Coquelin isn’t the answer, he won’t be with the club much longer because he’s just not good enough. And Chambers is both a defender and too young right now.

    As Bayonne Jean commented yesterday, Schneiderlin and Wanayama demonstrated what we need. We have an incredibly good squad but we aren’t going to see the best of it without getting in a player like Schneiderlin or Carvalho, or perhaps Khedira. The one I’d really love to see play for us but won’t is Pogba.

    PS: Raddy, you should sue him, no doubt about it. 🙂

  53. Gööner In Exile says:

    Should also be said PV4 and Silva and PV4 and Petit most definitely played in a 4-4-2, full backs did nowhere near as much attacking, the midfielders had 3 early outlets, DB10, and one of two wingers.

    We adopted 4-3-3 or 4-1-2-3 or 4-1-4-1 mainly to accommodate Cesc in the PL, he could not out fight a three as his predecessors could.

    So maybe with the players in the squad now we could shift to a more traditional 4-4-2. Arsene always used to say this was the best formation to cover a pitch with your players.

    Have we got a team that we could do this with now?




    Compared to:



  54. GoonerB says:

    Agree with all of that 26May.

    LB you may have a point about the recovery pace of that player to get back again although I would suggest that it is impossible for any player to do that too often, and if said player had forged up-field because they saw an opportunity to make things happen then IMO they would be entitled to look towards the other (holding) defensive midfielder, the CD’s, and at least one FB to cover him while he works back to help out again.

    I honestly can’t remember whether Vieira was able to sprint back on a regular basis in a game to regain his defensive position. It may have been that way, but there is probably not much in the way of footage to highlight it. If anyone has any it would be great.

    When Vieira played I would suggest our FB’s were more defensively disciplined so he had more defensive cover behind him when he went into more advanced positions. The discipline of our FB’s I know is also a bone of contention with many.

  55. LB says:


    The point of my argument was to establish a common understanding of what is an what isn’t a box to box player.

  56. LB says:


    Ahh, if you are not familiar with Vieira’s ability to move from one end of the pitch to the other with his incredible long strides then this is going to be very difficult. I was a season ticket holder then I am a season ticket holder now. I remember it as though it was yesterday.

  57. GoonerB says:

    Was just about to sign off for the evening GIE but you have roped me back in. I would suggest our current formation alternates anyway between 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 dependant on certain times in the game.

    For me it is all about the types of wide players used and to play a pure 4-4-2 you would need proper hug the touchline wingers rather than wide players who like to cut in and I would look at more like wing forwards.

    I am not sure that we ever played a pure 4-4-2 even with the past team. It could have looked like a 4-2-3-1 at times :





    or a 4-3-3






    The above could even be a 4-2-1-2-1.If Vieira went forwards closer to bergkamp with Pires and Ljunberg slightly deeper and wider then it morphs into 4-1-4-1.

    I always feel it is about the right balance and having the right players that compliment each other. Wilshere I feel is important because he can link defence and attack in the middle of the pitch but to get the best from him I feel he needs a high quality disciplined defensive partner. Ozil is now our creative Bergkamp and to get the best from him he needs pacy goal-scorers to either side and ahead of him like pires, Ljunberg and Henry. I feel if we get these complimentary components right the talk about what formation we are playing will become largely redundant as it will all click into gear and look fluid regardless.

  58. GoonerB says:

    LB, I remember well his long leggy driving runs forward through midfield but I can’t remember regular full pace lung-busting runs back the other way. That may just be a symptom of human nature in being more focussed in a game on what players do going forwards.

  59. Vintage Gooner says:

    My feeling also is that we should now pick up 4-4-2 with Arteta/Flamini holding in front of the defense until we can buy a truly world class player. We have Wilshere and Ramsey both of whom already do outstanding box to box work and Ozil is clearly world class playing the creative no 10 at the tip of the diamond. We then could play Sanchez and Welbeck up front until we have the delicious problem of Theo back. However will we be too narrow?

  60. 26may1989 says:

    Wenger clearly wants to do something in this area of the team: not much more than a year ago, he bid for Yohan Cabaye.

  61. arnie says:

    Many many apols, knot ear. I hang my head in shame. 😦 In the good old days, one could come on to AA at this time and find the yankee brigade. But Redders has now emigrated to the UK and Rocky is on holiday! 😛

    However, what a fantastic post, GoonerB. And what fantastic discussions all day. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I have to say, my head is still going round with the definitions. However, just to be provocative, he is my tuppence.

    Defensive/Holding MF. Arteta/Flamser and getting on. Untile we get some new toy, our best bet will be to try either Diaby or Chambers, or perhaps both, in the role. I would personally like to see them tried out.

    On the box-to-box, I would ask, why not Alexis? Notwithstanding LB’s point about being able to return back to defence. IMO, he may be our best in this role.

    Where this leaves Rambo and Jack is another question. Perhaps Rambo in rotation. And Jack in RMF in rotation with The Ox.

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  62. arnie says:

    Thank you GN5. Get well soon, Kelsey. 🙂

  63. Gööner In Exile says:

    Someone made the point earlier about Jack playing better with Flamini, I think this true because he receives the ball deeper and can maximise his ability to move with the ball. I don’t think it is an issue when he plays with Ramsey in this role.

    But when Arteta plays Jack and Aaron appear to block each other as they wait to receive the ball from Arreta.

  64. Big Raddy says:

    Morning All,

    Interesting discussions about the DM role.

    I recall PV4 being an aggressive and effective tackler, hence his battles with Roy Keane.

    Arnie. Why not Alexis? Because his talents are better employed elsewhere 😀

  65. Gööner In Exile says:

    BR without doubt Patrick was both those things, but he did it an “earn the right to play” kind of way. When Cesc started getting the game time he couldn’t do that so we needed to add a couple of extra bodies to earn him the right to play. Look at him at Chelsea whenever Maureen has started him a little deeper he has ended up adding a more defensive minded player to free up Cesc.

    I wonder whether Jack and Rambo couldn’t form a similar partnership to Patrick and Petit?

    Leaving the forwards to do what they do best Welbecks mobility also means he could offer that dragging of defenders that Thierry used to do so well, for all BSRs strengths he was more often than not found in the centre of the pitch, Oli’s lack of pace means that even when he stretches out wide he can’t offer the threat to get back in the middle.

  66. Gööner In Exile says:

    Awfully quiet no Micky, no Chas, RA out flashing

  67. Big Raddy says:

    GIE. I expect that is exactly Mr Wenger’s thinking. (JW/AR axis)

    Even arnie is watching the golf!

  68. arnie says:

    Arnie is unfortunately taken up with the job of earning his kip! 😛

    On Alexis, I am persuaded, sort of, by the arguments that we have not yet found his best place. Copyright LB. And because we have an abundance of “talent” in advanced MF positions, ….. 😛

  69. arnie says:

    Anyone following the golf on tele, watch out for the fall colours. Fall is very beautiful in Sconny Botland, and the Trossachs are one of the best places. Unfortunately, fall colours are also very short-lived because of the winds. Now is the time.

    I would love it if herr Fumbucker would have posted a couple of pics. But I could not catch hold of Mr Chastitty before he went on his travel, so dont know.

    I am also hoping for some pics from the pub during the NLD tomorrow. 🙂

  70. GoonerB says:

    Morning all. Have to agree with Raddy Arnie that I don’t see Alexis in the central box to box role. He has the energy and work-rate but I am not sure that his reading of the game and when and who to make a pass to suits this role. I like him closer to the goal and the oppositions back line where I think his main strengths cause the most damage.

    For some reason I am also not keen on the JW AR partnership in deeper midfield. Are we talking about those 2 removing the need for a proper Gilberto holding midfielder?

  71. arnie says:

    GoonerB. About Alexis. Point well taken, but will watch this space.

    “Are we talking about those 2 removing the need for a proper Gilberto holding midfielder?” Not me, I am OK about trying to convert Diaby/ Chamers in the short run until we get Carvalho or likewise. Not very keen on Khedira. Seldom out of the treatment table. Some might argue, perfect fit for Arsenal then. 😛

  72. RA says:

    Good morning fellas.

    What came from yesterday’s chat was not definitive, other than to say that it is a mistake to label any player.

    Hi arnie, I would hate to disturb your rest 🙂 the slang term ‘kip’ means to ‘nap’ or ‘sleep’.

  73. RA says:

    Europe have an early point on the board.

    Early days. 🙂

  74. GoonerB says:

    Morning RA. Its all definite in my tiny cranium 🙂

    Arnie, I am not so keen on Diaby in the role on a 1st choice basis, but would happily look at him as back up. Chambers is the interesting one for me. The more I watch him the more I feel he potentially has all the right ingredients to be a top DM in the holding role. The problem is he also has all the ingredients to be a top CD so which way to go?

    I feel we need something in that area, (that we don’t have within our ranks), so if AW is confident on Chambers as a DM I would suggest he spends good money on another top CD in the TW to release the need for Chambers in the CD role. If he sees Chambers as a top CD then spend good money on a top holding DM.

  75. RA says:


    I did not make a spelling mistake – 😉 – I said ‘definitive’ (an agreement reached decisively) and not ‘definitely’ as you thought. 🙂

  76. GoonerB says:

    Good point RA, but I can say that I have definitely reached a definitive conclusion up there where not much happens. 🙂

  77. RA says:

    It always helps to reach a decisive agreement when the only party involved is …… you! 🙂

    As I previously said we are in broad agreement, but there are many more who have shades of disagreement, and one or two in absolute disagreement.

    Definitive? …….. No way. 🙂

  78. Pat7 says:

    Hi Guys, just a briefie as ever :-). You seem to have come round to what i said yesterday: what is Chambers best position/ what is available on the market in January?

    In the meantime try Diaby and Chambers out (probably in one match as it stands :-)) in the HM role but if we can’t get a Carvalho type then get a CD and free up Chambers for the role or back up for a number of positions with the regular play to both give rotation and match fitness.

  79. arnie says:

    Redders. “keep”. I stand corrected by Redders, and this is on record. 😛

    GoonerB and Pat7. No disagreement there. oh dear, too much agreement! 😛

  80. VCC says:

    Peaches/Chas/Rasp………I’ve struck gold and got two tickets for tomorrows game 🙂 where do you guys meet up before hand for tipples now. I believe you have changed watering holes?

  81. Gööner In Exile says:

    Oh bloody hell it is quiet no new post..

    VCC the pub of choice still seems to be The Tavern on Blackstock Road. Also if you want to eat to create an alcohol lining or eat to soak up a good days beer Yildiz not far from the Tavern is a lovely place to eat if you like Turkish

    Not sure how many will be there tomorrow.

    But ….. enjoy

  82. Gööner In Exile says:

    New post….

  83. Hi VCC

    Only me going I’m afraid and I’m not sure I’ll have time for a drink beforehand. Chas and his gang are at the Ryder cup this weekend and Rasp finds watching the spuds far too emotional to attend in person.

    Where might you be drinking if I find I have time to meet up?

  84. VCC says:

    Cheers GiE. I’m going with my Son. I love Turkish food so if he fancies the idea we might pop in if we can manage to get a seat. It’s a good idea to line the stomach before any alcohol reaches the parts. 🙂

    Peaches, that’s a shame AA will be low on the ground tomorrow. Still your my favourite AA’er 😉 so would have been great. Never mind maybe some other game.

    I think we are going to try and make the Eaglet as the away boys are performing. Hopefully get us in the mood with some songs pre kick off.

    Enjoy the game.

  85. If perhaps you were about a Faculty vLAN, you’d full entree(TCP/IP level) to any some other computer system inside the Faculty vLAN along with
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