Tough Start But Some Christmas Cheer: Highlights from Our 2021/22 Premier League Schedule

June 17, 2021

The fixtures for next season’s Premier League were published yesterday and some parts immediately stood out from an Arsenal perspective.

You can read the full list on the club website, but here are some of the highlights:

We Need To Hit The Ground Running

The fixtures computer has given us a challenging start to the new season, which kicks off on August 14th when we are away at newly promoted Brentford, followed by Chelsea at home and Manchester City away.

The Brentford game may look easily winnable on paper (the Bees finished third in the Championship and had to battle through the play-offs), but newly promoted teams are often at their most dangerous at the start of the season when they are still full of hope and expectation. By mid October they have usually had the stuffing knocked out of them with some heavy defeats.

So, this opening day fixture is no gimme and it is immediately followed by matches against the teams that finished fourth and first in the Premier League last season. Chelsea and Man City will both be intent on getting a strong start to their campaigns and we’ll have to be ready to match them. We will learn a lot about the Arsenal of 2021/22 in the first two weeks.

A Reasonable Christmas

The seasonal schedule can be difficult for several reasons: a lot of games crammed into a short space of time; players wanting to be with their families rather than travelling all round the country; odd kick-off times.

This year we’re away at newly promoted Norwich on Boxing Day, then home to Wolves two days later, with a New Years Day fixture against Man City at home. Obviously City will be a challenge, but the fact that we don’t have to travel after Boxing Day until the middle of January is helpful. And given how good City were last season and will probably be in the season to come, I’d rather be playing them on a special occasion like New Years Day, when our home crowd will be merrily lubricated and well up for it.

The Enemy

Our home fixture against the Noisy Neighbours is on September 25th. We play them again at the Armitage Shanks Arena on January 15th, by which time it will hopefully be apparent to them and all their fans that they’re in for another season of disappointment.

It’s also possible that their involvement in the Europa No-Hoper Conference – which will see them having to trail round half the far-flung countries of Europe – will impact their league form, while we have no such excuse.

An Excellent Run In

If we can remain competitive up to the start of March (for a shot at the top four, let’s say) then we’ll have a fighting chance of making it thanks to our decent run in.

After Liverpool at home on February 26th, we have 11 games to the end of the season, of which only one is against a traditional ‘Big Six’ team (Man United at home on April 23rd).

Of course, you could argue that the traditional Big Six is no longer a thing, and that our run in includes teams who may well be in the actual top six at that point of the season (notably Leicester, whom we play at the Emirates on March 12th) and possibly Aston Villa (March 19th away) who are busily trying to strengthen their squad this summer.

However, a final 11 games of Watford (a), Leicester (h), Villa (a), Palace (a), Brighton (h), Saints (a), Man United (h), West Ham (a), Leeds (h), Newcastle (a) and Everton (h) is not bad at all.

Finishing with a home game can also make a difference if we need a result on the final day.

Tough Away Days in the First Half

The fact of that decent run in should tell the observant reader that there must be some pain lying elsewhere in the schedule, and it comes with a bunch of hard away days in the first half of the season.

We face away games at Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Leicester before the end of November.

However…

In the end the fixtures probably mean little. If our team is functioning well and has been intelligently added to during the summer we will do OK, regardless of the order in which our opponents come at us.

But, to coin a footballing cliche, it can be a game of fine margins and in the areas listed above we can hope that the margins might favour us.

RockyLives


Who would you bring in from England Squad (only starters or close to be) to AFC?

June 16, 2021
Declan Kane High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

The coach: Southgate

The goalkeeper: Pickford

A defender: Walker, Maguire/Mings, Stones, Trippier/Chilwell

A defensive midfielder: Rice,

A central midfielder: Henderson, Philipps, Mount

An attacking midfielder/winger: Foden, Sterling, Grealish, Sancho, Bellingham

A striker: Kane, Rashford

I think if we strengthened at DM, our team would look more solid so I would opt for Rice.


Who would you build your AFC team around?

June 12, 2021

As we are in the transfer period, we are supposed to strengthen our squad but a few questions remain:

  1. Are we to stick in our 4231 system or will Arteta move back to his 433?
  2. Who do we build our team around?

I want to focus on the second one although one could argue that it is dependent on the first one and the argument wold be valid 😛

We have a few talented players in Holding, Tierney, Partey, Saka, ESR, Pepe (?), Martinelli…and then there is also the perennial question related to Aubameyang…so how do we put our best players in the best conditions to perform and who would you build your team around?

Do you build it around Auba and then maybe a 433 or 442 (4312) may be more adapted and who would play upfront with Auba?

Do you build the team around Saka and then is the 4231 system better suited and does that mean that Pepe has to play on the left side?

Do you build the team around Tierney and then do we need a CF that can be a target for his beautiful crosses?

Do you build the team around ESR and then do we need to play Saka, Pepe (or Martinelli) next to him and Laca up front, meaning leaving out Auba?

…We could go on and on…so who do you think we should build our team around and why?


Norwegian Would? Or Wouldn’t? How Much Should Arsenal Spend on Odegaard?

June 11, 2021
A problem solved?

According to supposedly well informed media sources we are making an active attempt to sign Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid on a permanent basis.

The Norwegian attacking midfielder made a generally good impression during his Arsenal loan spell, although it’s fair to say he did not convince everyone that he was a “must have’ for the team moving forward.

The potential for a full transfer is unclear because of Zidane’s departure from Los Blancos, but the story has not gone away.

So, two questions:

Do you think we should sign the 22-year-old?

If so, how much should we prepared to pay for him?

On the first point, there are a few factors that weigh in favour of completing the deal if possible: Arteta really likes the player; the coaching team have had a chance to get a really good look at him up close; he will fit back in to the Arsenal set-up without any need of an adjustment or settling-in period; he’s young and would have sell-on transfer value in a few years time; his potential is high.

The factors against him: if we’re looking to move to the next level and secure Champions League football for the 22/23 season, is he the best we can get for a CAM? Not all would agree that he did enough in his loan spell to demonstrate that he is the man to bring back the glory days; signing him would be the easy option and might make us overlook the opportunity to bring in someone better.

On balance I would be up for signing him if the price makes sense, which brings us on to question two.

With sums like £30-35m being mooted for Buendia, a deal for Odegaard that did not exceed £30m would be a no-brainer in my humble opinion.

At a push I would not be unhappy to see us go to £35m for him (again, he’s young enough that he will have sell-on value in the future), but if the asking price goes much beyond that then we should be looking at alternatives.

With all the squad development that needs to happen at Arsenal during this close season (and with the distraction of the Euros delaying a lot of potential transfer activity) I can imagine that signing Odegaard would remove one big item from Arteta’s “To Do” list: he would have filled a key role with a player who will not need all the extra work of acclimatisation and adjustment that a complete newcomer would have.

An attacking line-up next season that comprised members of Auba, Saka, Pepe, Martinelli, ESR and Odegaard looks pretty fine to me (provided we can find a formation that brings the best out of Auba).

Over to you.

RockyLives


Arsenal’s Best Ever Transfer

June 10, 2021
Two of the best…

Following on from Fred’s howl of pain about the transfer window in a Post on Monday, I thought it would be good to think about the best transfer signing Arsenal has ever made.

I suggest we use two categories, otherwise it will simply come down to a question of “which Invincible was our best acquisition?”

Category 1: Our best signing of all time.

Category 2: Our best NON-INVINCIBLE signing of all time.

In both cases we’re looking at players signed as pros, not players we acquired during their youth development phases.

Please give your answers and your reasons.

I’ll get the ball rolling:

Best signing of all time: SOL CAMPBELL

I know big Sol is not as glamorous as the attacking options we could choose from (Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Cazorla, Van Persie etc) but he was the rock on which our Invincibles season was built.

More than that, when news broke that we had pinched him from the noisy neighbours it was the most sensational Arsenal transfer moment of my lifetime.

In one fell swoop we secured one of the best central defenders in the world; massively diminished our traditional rivals; and established that North London really was red.

Yes, those aforementioned attackers – plus players like Vieira, Gilberto and Cole – were all crucial components of the team that made history, but without Campbell I wonder whether there would ever have been an “Invincibles.” A title-winning team? For sure. But an UNBEATEN title winning team? Unlikely.

Best NON-INVINCIBLE signing of all time: IAN WRIGHT.

It was a close call for me between Wrighty and Aaron “Mr FA Cup” Ramsey. They have both given me huge pleasure as an Arsenal fan. I know we have had many players with better all round skill than Ramsey, but his cup final heroics make him really special for me.

As for Wrighty, it was impossible not to love his exuberance, his passion and his love of the game. If you are too young to have experienced his skills first hand, look at some YouTube compilations of his Arsenal goals: you will see one of the greatest natural finishers ever to have played for us.

Those are my choices – what about yours?

RockyLives


Let us talk about the French…Open before we all go crazy about the Euros 2020

June 8, 2021

I am not sure many of you follow other sports than football but if you do, welcome to the club! Besides my AFC and PSG passion, I am an avid tennis fan and am devouring the French open at the moment and it is quite an interesting one so far…

In the women’s side, the highest ranked player left is last year’s winner Swiatek. I really like the way she plays and her attitude. She is playing solid tennis with the necessary hints of risk but tomorrow, she may lose to the Greek sensation, Sakkari. She is very solid, extremely consistent and also physically ready for a grueling battle. I think that the winner of the F.O will be the winner of this encounter. Today, Zidansek and Pavluchenkova qualifed but neither will prevail in the final and I am not sure Coco Gauff is ready yet…so if all goes according to plan, we should see Zwiatek land her second Roland-Garros. The talk of the tournament was of course Osaka and what she has done by pulling out citing mental health issues was not only brave but pioneering. She is really a trail blazer and the leader of woman’s tennis. This French Open also showed that Serena probably will never lift the F.O trophy again but that she can still compete so I wouldn’t put it past her to win another 2 slams especially at Wimbledon and the US Open. On another note, Rybankina and Badosa have the weapons to be top 10 players but will they have the mental fortitude on court to realize their potential?

On the men’s side, Roger came to Paris to prepare Wimbledon so let us hope for him that he actually goes far in Wimbledon and ideally wins it. I d like him to leave tennis on a victorious note and ideally at Wimbledon but the Olympics would also do 🙂 Rafa seems destined to win another RG. He is just so good on clay and so hard to beat. Given the current draw and level of play of the other players so far, only Tsitsipas could stop him and that would be in the final. So I am confident of a Rafa – Tsisipas final with a 4 sets victory of Rafa. If you would like to bet an upset, do not understimate the chances of Berretini against Djokovic – the Italian guy is playing very well and our Serb maestro is not his usual clinical and sharp self so I could see Berretini winning in 4 sets tomorrow against Djoko to set-up his semi-final against Rafa. On the other side of the raw, Zverev is looking too timid in his intentions to be able to beat Tsitsipas so that is an easy call…The talk of the tournament has been the emergence of Italian tennis with Berretini, Musetti (I call him Baby Fed because he has the best shot-making ability on tour), Sinner reaching the last 16…Well done to our Italian friends for the production of a golden generation of tennis players.

We are slowly coming to the end of the Fed and Williams era and we are not far away from ending the dominance of Nadal-Djoko with the solidification of the challengers pack (Tsitsi, Medvedev, Zverev, Berretini) and the emergence of huge talents (Musetti, Sinner) so definitely exciting times for the neutral fans

So here are my two cents on tennis and looking forward to your thoughts on Tennis or on whether the abysmal form of French tennis players could be compensated by Les Bleus’ triumph at the Euros?


Transfer Window? I’m an Arsenal Supporter, Get Me Out of Here!

June 8, 2021
A real transfer!

Oh, how I hate the transfer window. 

I know most supporters love this time of year, where they get some shiny new toys to enjoy. But it’s been proven in recent years that our shiny new toys seem to mostly come from the rubbish section.

Since Arsene Wenger left we have made very few proper transfers and it seems like the scouts have gone cockeyed.

18/19 Season

Lucas Torreira – £29m

Most believed Arsenal needed a pure CDM to recover balls break up play etc,  so this was a purchase I understand.

Berndt Leno – £25m

We needed competition for the aging Petr Cech and Ospina was not rated at the club, so I understand this purchase as well.

Sokratis –  £16m 

Why were they trying to build us into a Dortmund side? This was such a waste of money. Yes, Arsenal had been horrible defensively but why did they think he would be the solution to this problem?

Guendozi – £8m 

Guess he was one for the future .

18/19 Overview:  We had a new coach and he wanted to bring in players – I get it. In hindsight, all were bad purchases but I understand them all apart from Sokratis a(nyone who watches football should have known this would be £16m wasted).

19/20 Season

Nicolas Pepe – £80m 

Pepe was a great player in the French league at the time we bought him. I was happy at the time that we didn’t purchase Zaha (as Sue wanted in hindsight). Now I wish we had Zaha, because buying players who are not accustomed to the Premier League has not been great for us. I think in general it was a bad transfer because during the 19/20 season Saka was  emerging and I felt he had what it takes to be a great player (which was another reason I didn’t want Zaha – so that Saka would be able to receive game time).

William Saliba – £30m 

One for the future.

Kieran Tierney – £27m 

Money well spent.

David Luiz – £8m

As mentioned in relation to the 18/19 season, Arsenal have a soft defensive spine so we decided to get Luiz. But anyone who has watched Luiz knows he is a liability 

Gabriel Martinelli – £8m 

The only problem I have with this transfer is that we brought in yet another young player for the future when we already have others who have not been given a chance. As a prime example we have Nelson, who had a decent loan spell in the 18/19 season yet still we get Martinelli. He might eventually be a better player than Nelson in the long run, but Martinelli wasn’t creating too big a buzz in Brazil and even if he was we could have signed him and loaned him out and let Nelson develop with first team. Then, when the 20/21 season came around, we would have known what to do with him instead of leaving his career in limbo.

19/20 Overview: Wasted another £16m on Luiz and Mari, and if we haven’t wasted £16m on Sokratis the season before we could have gotten someone such as Tarkowski for the 19/20 campaign. Tarkowski might not have been the answer (remember when Kean went to Everton – he was horrible) so it could just be that Burnely’s defensive system is really good.  Even so, I am sure everyone would rather us gamble on a Tarkowski rather than the likes of Luiz , Sokratis etc.

20/21 Season

Thomas Partey – £50m 

As Torreira didn’t work out, a new manager comes in and decides Partey is the one he wants.

Gabriel – £26m 

The last Lille transfer worked so well for us we decided to let them screw us for the third time. I wasn’t a fan of this transfer at all (especially after the Pepe and Gervinho experiment). Surely having gone with the likes of Sokratis previously someone at the club might have thought that £26m would be better spent on someone who already knows the league (Tarkowski).

Cedric Soares – £5m 

if I remember correctly he was injured for most of his loan spell with us but we still decided to sign him.

Pablo Mari – £8m

Another never-heard – of player added to our brittle back line.

20/21 Season Overview: We wasted £39m on Gabriel, Cedric and Mari. Most would say that Gabriel was a good transfer so for those then we only wasted £13m, ask yourself who you want starting next to Holding next season: Gabriel or Saliba?

21/22 Season

So I have to watch this drama all over again. We are all saying we need to be patient with the team and the Manager yet instead of patience we want a quick fix. Rome wasn’t built in a day. What we need are smart purchases. 

“Let’s buy Beundia – he’ll help PEA score goals this season.” So, weren’t the likes of Saka, ESR, Pepe doing that last season? It looks like we’re not getting Buendia, but if we had bought him it would be to rival ESR: does that mean ESR is going to be a squad player again? I know we need cover in case of injury etc, but surely someone inside the ranks can help with this. If we buy a Buendia type player for £30m then obviously they would be starting in front of ESR next season.

“Get Bissouma – he’s the best ball winner in the league.” I mean, he plays for a Brighton side who do nothing but defend so obviously he’ll win a lot of balls. Wasn’t Torreira supposed to be a great ball winner when he came to us as well?

Thus far we still haven’t even touched the main issues in the squad: a proper RB for when Bellerin is injured; and a back-up for Tierney. These I see as the actual issues to be dealt with for the 21/22 season. 

Realistically, what should our goal be for next season? Win either the League Cup or the FA Cup and finish high in the league which – to be fair – should be around 5th because it won’t be easy breaking into the Top Four against City, Liverpool, United and Chelsea (who already have better sides than us and are actively looking for elite players such as Kane, Lukaku, Aubameyang, Grealish, Haaland, Mbappe etc). 

But with the added advantage of no European competition our players should be able to do better than last season. 

Would additions like Buendia and Bissouma get us into the Top Four? I say no, so strengthen the areas we need to strengthen and trust in the youths. 

And allow me to have a peaceful transfer window 

Fred


Sticking Up for Silent Stan

June 7, 2021
Time to cut Stan some slack?

I may have missed something: I have not been in Antarctica, or testing Musk’s Mars Tesla in Outer Space; I keep at least a cuticle on the pulse of general news, sports news and especially (naturally) The Arsenal. Evidently, the entire population of the world loathes, hates and despises Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. Except me.

I just can’t see why. What has this organisation – or, to be accurate, this man, for it is Silent Stan who draws the greatest opprobrium – done, so to exercise sports fans?

He is accused of overseeing mediocrity, that his sports franchises in the US put dividends for the owner before success on the playing area.

This is not a straightforward matter to adjudicate, because of the meritocratic way that sports in America try to function. It is very difficult for a team to maintain excellence at the top because of the cap on expenditure/salaries, and the way that recruitment is pegged to previous achievement.

However, in this era that encompasses the Arsenal, the LA Rams NFL team has sustained success, including making it to the Super Bowl just three years ago, and making the Play-Offs since; the Denver Nuggets are in the current NBA play-offs; the Colorado Avalanche have advanced through the first round of the current NHL play-offs.

Not all the teams are up there, but this list isn’t as disastrous as say last year’s scurrilous Guardian article would have us believe. Additionally, while Joe Supporter would always love to see twenty new billion-pound players signed up every year, the canard that KSE don’t put their hand in their pockets doesn’t stand up to examination.

Firstly, until recently, Arsene and the Board tied their philosophy to FFP, and the belief that ultimately, a self-sustaining model would triumph, as profligacy was penalised. Unfortunately, that boat has sailed down the CAS Swanee. Megarich owners in the system as it stands can splash whatever cash they want.

Secondly, whereas one might be critical of the specific players brought in, it is impossible to claim that money wasn’t spent. If it was spent unwisely, well then, Stan has as much to gripe about as you, but the arrival of Aubamayang, Pepe and Partey amongst others cost plenty of ackers.

Maybe it’s because he is Silent Stan, with an almost hermit-like low profile, that fans deride him, and hanker after Ek. Puzzling, if that’s the case. I saw the delight on his face (why would it not be genuine?) when we lifted the FA Cup. He might not be a life-long supporter, but I’m happy to accept that he is a supporter.

Maybe it’s the opprobrium that seeped across the Atlantic, because he removed the St Louis Rams back to LA (where they mostly were in my early years). That may be a cruel decision for the people of Missouri, and I have no idea why he did it, but it is a decision that has nothing to do with sporting success or excellence.

I am hoping that a mob comes onto ArsenalArsenal and lobs grenades at me for being so stupid, and an apologist for a monster, but that amongst the vitriol, there are some cogent ideas which will clear my fogged horizons (so that I’m not guilty of closing with a mixed metaphor, the fog is due to the grenades going off!).

Max


Tottenham’s Next Manager: an Arsenal Perspective

June 5, 2021

The new man at Spurs?

You may have heard the sad news that Tottenham’s attempt to lure Antonio Conte as their new head coach has failed.

Quite inexplicably, the Italian came to the conclusion that the North London club (who have not won the league for 60 years nor any trophy at all for 13 years) are not ambitious enough. Can’t think where he got that idea.

It’s back to the drawing board for the Lilywhites so, in a genuine attempt at neighbourly solidarity, I thought it would be helpful to offer up some names for them to consider.

I’m not going to list the more obvious candidates at whom I’m sure they will now be looking: Harry Redknapp, Glenn Hoddle, Christian Gross, Tim Sherwood, Juande Ramos and the like – I shall leave that to the professional sports writers and, instead, offer some more “left field” suggestions.

  1. Mackenzie Crook

For a club that has really struggled to locate silverware (or any other precious metals) it would be a stroke of genius to recruit the star and writer of the hit TV series “Detectorists.” As well as being an expert at finding lost treasure with his metal detecting device, Crook is a popular and instantly recognisable figure and his experience of starring in The Office alongside Ricky Gervais will give him a head start with the tortured internal politics at Spurs.

2. Lucinda Lambton

Not at the top of many people’s shortlists and undoubtedly lacking in experience of coaching players at the highest level, but the writer Lady Lucinda Worsthorne (to give her her full name) would be a terrific leader for the club and its infrastructure as a whole. As the author of “Temples of Convenience & Chambers of Delight: the Loo Bible,” she is an expert on Britain’s public toilets and would surely relish the chance to make the most of the Armitage Shanks Arena, the largest public karzi in Britain.

3. Pickles the Wonder Dog

If Mackenzie Crook is not available (there are rumours that Barcelona have their eye on him) then Pickles the Wonder Dog would be a great fallback option for Tottenham. He, too, has a track record of finding missing silverware – in his case no less a trophy than the World Cup. The Jules Rimet trophy was stolen in 1966 (when the World Cup was being held on these shores). It was shaping up to be a massive national embarrassment until Pickles, a black and white collie, retrieved the trophy in Upper Norwood while out for a walk. Good boy! (You might reasonably point out that Pickles was called to the great lamppost in the sky some 54 years ago, but that should not be a problem for Tottenham: after all, they appointed Jose Mourinho and he’s been one of the Undead for at least 200 years).

4. Colonel Sanders

If you’re looking for someone to take a sad, skinny chicken and turn it into a world-beating brand, the Colonel is your man. And “finger lickin’ good” would be a popular new motto among fans who struggle with the concept of cutlery.

5. Alan Titchmarsh

Gardeners will be familiar with the problem: you have a dark, shady area in an unloved part of your plot where things just won’t grow. It takes a lot of skill and nurturing to get plants to thrive in such circumstances and only a horticulturist of Titchmarsh’s expertise would have a chance of getting it right. Tottenham have always struggled to prosper because of the huge, dark shadow cast over them by The Mighty Arsenal, but give Titchmarsh the job and you never know: those sad little lilywhites might just bloom again.

6. Hercules

At the extreme end of the options is the ancient Greek hero and demigod Hercules (aka Heracles). He’s a long shot, but if Tottenham’s owner Joe Lewis – frustrated with years of failure – is in the mood to blow it all up and start from scratch then Hercules is the man for the job. The hero was once famously challenged to clean the Augean stables. These stables held a thousand divine cattle and had not been cleared for 30 years, so the task was considered to be impossible. However, Hercules used his great strength to re-route two rivers to wash out the decades of filth. In N17 he would probably opt for diverting the course of the Moselle Brook (which flows into the River Lea) in order to clean out 138 years of sh*t.

7. Dr Jordan B. Peterson

The Canadian psychologist famous for helping to put thousands of young people on the straight-and-narrow by telling them to “first clean your room” would be just the man to help Tottenham deal with the deep psychoses which have built up at the club over many generations: delusions of grandeur; imposter syndrome; sibling rivalry; inferiority complex… Dr Peterson would have his work cut out.

8. Saint Jude

Jude was one of the Apostles of Jesus (not to be confused with Jesus’s betrayer, Judas Iscariot). He preached for many years after the crucifixion before himself being martyred in 65 AD. So why could he be the man for Tottenham? Well, Saint Jude is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.

Have a pleasant weekend.

RockyLives


Will the Real Thomas Partey Please Stand Up?

June 3, 2021
What do we do with Thomas?

Are you confused? I know I am.

I mean, what exactly is Thomas Partey? What is his best position? In what role will he be most effective for Arsenal?

The Ghanaian arrived in N5 with a lot of hype after excelling at Atletico Madrid over multiple seasons.

His first campaign at Arsenal was blighted by injury, but he showed glimpses of real quality as well as some worrying lapses in concentration and occasional sloppiness on the ball.

My instinct is that his upside is very high and that in the right formation he could be a game-changing figure for us, but what is that formation? And what is his role in it?

Some see him as a defensive midfielder. The most legendary occupant of that role in recent Arsenal history, Gilberto, even gave Partey his own vote of confidence earlier in the season.

But he has not often been used in the same way as Gilberto was (the anchor of midfield, seldom committing to going forward and always ready to snuff out opposition moves). Partey has usually had either Xhaka or Elneny playing in a slightly deeper role behind him.

Only when Partey has been teamed up with Ceballos in central midfield has he been obliged to be the ‘rear guard’, with Ceballos usually drifting out to a sort-of left midfield position.

In those games Partey was often caught on the ball by opponents and lost possession or was pressured into making misplaced passes, but it wasn’t entirely his fault: the lack of a proper central mid partner often meant he was being swarmed by opposition players.

Those who don’t see him as an out-and-out DM tend to see him instead as a Vieira type player – someone with power and pace who is able to do the destructive work of winning the ball in the middle of the park, but can also drive forward to launch attacks.

When considering this it is worth remembering that Vieira generally had Gilberto behind him.

Partey certainly has the physical and footballing attributes to fulfil that combination role (destroyer/creator) although compared with another recent box-to-box star, Aaron Ramsey, his strengths are more on the ‘destroyer’ end than the ‘creator’ or goalscorer end, but there’s more than one kind of box-to-box player.

So… should Mikel Arteta be looking for a new Gilberto to allow Partey to be the new Vieira? Or should he be looking for a more creative (but also combative) midfield partner so that Partey can be the new Gilberto himself?

If it’s the former (Partey as the new Vieira) then it has ramifications for the choice of midfield partner and would, for example, rule out Joe Willock, since Willock is definitely not a DM.

Perhaps that’s where talk of a Bissouma type signing comes in: he could be the Gilberto to Partey’s Vieira.

If, on the other hand, Arteta decides to make Partey the primary protector of the back four, then you could see a partnership with Willock – or with a new signing like Buendia – working well.

Given that, as I mentioned, Gilberto has given his stamp of approval to Partey in the DM holding role, that may not be such a bad option.

There is a third option I have seen mentioned, in which the DM role itself is seen as anachronistic and in which, instead, we opt for a pair of powerful and mobile central midfielders who share the responsibility for shielding the defence but also for getting forward when we’re in possession. This worries me somewhat but would open the door for a Partey-Willock combo.

What do you think?

(By the way, when talking about “the new Vieira” or “the new Gilberto” I am not trying to say the current players are on a par with those Invincibles, I am just referring to the type of roles: so please don’t bash me over the head with “not fit to lace Vieira’s boots” type comments).

RockyLives