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The Arteta Succession: Who Will Be Arsenal's Next Deep Midfielder?

A common complaint among many Arsenal fans, especially after defeats, is that Mikel Arteta isn't good enough. He is either too slow, not defensively astute enough, too weak on the ball, or not adventurous enough with his passing, or all of these combined. Some feel Mathieu Flamini should replace him in the side, others believe he is better than the Frenchman. Some feel that neither are good enough. Whatever your view, the advancing age of Arteta, who is 32 at the end of the season, and the relative weakness of Flamini as a replacement means that Arsenal must surely be looking for successors for Arsenal's deepest midfield role.

In this author's own humble opinion, Arteta has filled the role very intelligently in the last two seasons, though his age is starting to catch up with him. He offers excellent shielding of the ball and calm passing from the back, and his positioning is generally excellent, especially when playing with the right partner. However, more free-spirited midfielders like Jack Wilshere tend to leave him exposed, resulting in..well, 5-1 defeats to Liverpool. But he does have flaws, like strength and speed, and Arsenal's scouting of a few players this season (more on that later) indicates there is some kind of succession plan at work. 

What do Arsenal need?

This piece runs on the assumption that whoever joins Arsenal will be partnered by Aaron Ramsey (when he is fit again), the Welshman being the standout performer in midfield for Arsenal this season, combining attacking runs with a willingness to help out defensively, and an engine that marks him out as a rare breed of box-to-box midfielder. On his pre-injury form, he was one of the best in Europe. Such ability demands a partner to enable this. Arteta, while usually effective next to Ramsey, was occasionally isolated and unable to cover ground Ramsey left behind. What is needed is a similar technical level, the ability to build from the back, as well as a superior engine, the ability to cover ground and a greater physical presence. That is not to say physical size and strength are paramount-the correct combination is needed. Cheick Tiote would be as useful as Marco Verrati. However, these characteristics are difficult to find. 

Double pivot Ramsey Arteta

A midfielder similar to Ramsey may work, as long as the two work as a true double pivot, with one midfielder attacking while the other sits. Sami Khedira has been suggested, though he plays a very similar role to Ramsey, and his positional discipline has been questioned. However, he is undoubtedly an excellent defensive midfielder, with tireless running. However, his distribution is questionable. The same can be said for Lars Bender, who occupies an almost identical role to Ramsey for Leverkusen, though he has expressed a preference for playing deeper. Arsenal bid for him last summer and are apparently still interested, so it's possible Arsene Wenger believes he would fit the bill. He is certainly defensively astute, and has the legs to play right-back on occasion, though again his passing from deep can be questioned. 

Are we just Blind?

A player suggested by one of our own writers, the exceedingly handsome Willem, is Ajax captain Daley Blind. His view on him is here.

This is certainly an interesting idea, and Blind appears to have the perfect blend of passing ability, defensive nous, and technical prowess to fill Arteta's role. The only question mark over him could be that he plays as the sole number 6 midfielder for Ajax in a 1-2 shape midfield. His, or Arsene's ability to change either his game or his tactics remains to be seen. Of course, he may not leave Ajax, or if he does, he may not even come to Arsenal. Certainly one to watch however. 

Arsenal have also extensively watched William Carvalho of Sporting, a 21-year old anchorman who has received rave reviews. I can't pretend to have watched anything other than YouTube clips of him, and while he has looked good, YouTube clips can make anyone look good. I watched an Ashley Williams compilation that made him look like a prime Rio Ferdinand once. 

A player I myself wouldn't mind seeing is Morgan Schneiderlin at Southhampton. He's held their midfield very successfully for two seasons now, alongside Jack Cork or Victor Wanyama, and would provide Premier League experience (if you'll forgive the cliche) as well as all of the attributes Arsenal seem to lack in their midfield. How he deals with the step up into European-level football remains to be seen, but Arsenal were tempted to sign him at seventeen, and there are rumours he was placed at Southampton to ready him for an eventual move to North London.

Who will replace Arteta is a very difficult question, one that may not be answered by anyone discussed today. It should be one of the most interesting stories that unfolds in the summer transfer window. Though I suppose Diaby will be fit by then... 

Tell us what you think! If you agree, or have a different view, please leave a comment in the comments section or why not write a response or your own article on YouWrite?

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