Successful Midfield Partnership
Being realistic, Arsenal aren’t expecting to win the league this season. In Emery’s opening season, a top four finish would be ideal, after two seasons away from Champions League football. But does he have the midfield resilience, and spine, to achieve that?
Of the top four teams in the last 5 years, 14/20 utilised two central midfield players, as opposed to three dedicated centre-mids. Often, teams went for a 4-2-3-1 formation, although of course during 2016-17 it was unheard of to play without three at the back.
It is apparent that in the modern game, two centre midfielders should be sufficient to reach the upper echelons of the Premier League, and even to challenge for the title. The basic formula is to use two defensively minded players, with one making it his role to sit even deeper and guard the defence.
Leicester managed it, winning the league with only two central players (not even a CAM for cover), and Arsenal managed it for many years, through the use of Coquelin, Song or Arteta. These players, while not necessarily world beaters, and not in the same mould as some excellent premier league DM’s such as Matic or Fernandinho, they were part of partnerships that screened balls through to the defence, easing pressure on the back four.
Current Arsenal Offering
Arsenal’s current midfield pair, Xhaka and Guendouzi, while talented, don’t have the same chemistry of old Arsenal midfield partnerships, and lack the defensive instinct to take over the situation when the team is being countered.
This is why so many are crying out for Torreira. Its not hard to see why, achieving 1.2 tackles per game and 1 interception per match, in five sub appearances.
Xhaka, by comparison, has reached 1.4 tackles per game and only 0.8 interceptions, despite starting every week. This is not to take away from Xhaka, who has a key role in the side. But he needs a player with him to do the defensive work, to which he can be an accessory, rather than the other way around.
Compare both to Coquelin, a divisive figure for Arsenal fans (surely not?!), who racked up 3.2 tackles per game during 2014-15, eclipsing Xhaka and Torreira by a mile.
Time for Torreira
Arsenal have been ready for a tough tackling centre mid since Vieira. That’s what the media have been churning out for over ten years. But it may be that after all this time, they have been right. And it may be that, given time, we have found it in the form of the young Uruguayan.