• Premier League

Arsenal need midfield steel

John Cross | ESPN FC
July 28, 2014
Can Arsenal challenge for the Premier League title?

Arsenal may have excited their fans with the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez, but Arsene Wenger would be making a mistake by not signing a new midfield anchorman.

That's not to say Mikel Arteta or Mathieu Flamini cannot do a job there, and Jack Wilshere is definitely worth a look in that role. Wilshere has the technical ability, but does he have the physical presence? It's an interesting question, and we could soon discover the answer.

But if Arsenal really are going to make a bold statement then surely a proven top class midfielder to do the holding role is the way forward. They have certainly looked at a few, and they started the summer believing it was a priority so there's an acknowledgement that one is needed.

Sami Khedira, Morgan Schneiderlin and Lars Bender were all possibilities but now look to be off the agenda. Wenger often pushes the argument that players must be better than they already have, and Arteta and Flamini can both do an excellent job.

But over the course of last season, it was the area where Arsenal were most exposed. The need for a tough midfielder to protect the back four was obvious. It was almost as pressing as the need for a top striker, and they delivered on Sanchez for 33 million pounds, so it would be a shame not to buy well in other areas.

The interesting thing would be to see if Wilshere could do it. The ideal is to have a big physical presence, but you don't have to. That's why Wilshere could maybe do it to good effect. He has a big season ahead and will hope to nail down a place for club and country after too much frustration over the past couple of years.

His ability and quality are not in doubt; he's an excellent technical player who can pass well, keep the game moving and is not afraid of a tackle. But with so much competition in midfield with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla all vying for attacking roles, there has to be an opportunity if one of the existing squad members can play deeper.

Don't forget that Claude Makelele did the anchorman role for Chelsea. Was he that different physically or technically to Wilshere? Not really. A smaller, technical player can do it.

Arteta has performed there brilliantly but can't go on forever while Flamini, for whatever reason, didn't establish himself as a regular last season. My feeling was that Wenger would go for a new midfielder this summer, but as the weeks tick by, that is becoming less likely.

It's a shame as I still feel that is the key area - providing protection for the back four - where Arsenal need to strengthen.

They are so close to being a team capable of winning the title. They've proved their quality with another top four finish and the FA Cup to end their wait for a trophy.

Wenger has added a world class striker, but there's more work to be done if Arsenal are to win the league for the first time since 2004. Arteta is a terrific and somewhat under-appreciated player, Flamini is a warrior and Wilshere has big potential.

But maybe a big proven midfielder is what's really needed as the final piece of the puzzle.

...but the signing of someone like Sami Khedira would be a huge statement of intent © Getty Images
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