Although the Gunners will be basking in the aftermath of what was probably their most effective performance of the season, it isn’t all good news for the Gunners. As good as their 4-1 defeat of Galatasaray was, the game highlighted not only what Arsenal were good at but also what they desperately need. Even a side who are struggling for form were able to score a goal against the Gunners and not only that, but also managed to get in behind the defence on more than one occasion.
Arsene Wenger might point to the injuries to Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta in the 1-1 draw against Tottenham, and the fitness concerns over Jack Wilshere as to why he only had Mathieu Flamini as a recognised central midfielder. Although Santi Cazorla did a good job, playing in a more deeper role than he usually does, that was only ever a make-shift change.
The simple truth is that even if all of their central midfielders are fit, the problem would still remain, due to the similarity of the midfielders at their disposal at the moment. In Ramsey and Wilshere, Arsenal have two central midfielders who are far more comfortable going forward than tracking back their runners and holding their position. With age slowly catching up to Arteta and reducing his already slow pace, the Gunners are left to bank on just Flamini, who hasn’t always enjoyed the greatest of games to play as a shield in front of the defence.
While the Gunners are certainly spoilt for choice in attacking midfield and on the wings, they are still short on defensive cover. Not just in defence, but also in defensive midfield. All summer long, the fans were crying out loud for a midfielder who could add some bite and steel to the line up. But unfortunately for the Gunners, although they did secure the services of a striker, they failed to land a single defensive midfielder.
Although Calum Chambers can play in that position, the lack of numbers at the back have meant that the Englishman has had to make do with playing at either centre back or right back. But even if others were fit, Chambers still looks a lot better in defence than he does in midfield. The Gunners failed pursuit of Morgan Schneiderlin over the summer was one that didn’t go down too well with the fans, who would’ve been delighted to welcome the Frenchman to the line up.
Another summer target who they failed to land, Cheick Tiote might just be available in January and the Gunners must make sure that they land the 28-year-old. Tiote, who has been at Newcastle for the last four years has seen plenty of quality depart from the club, including his midfield partner Yohan Cabaye, but has seen nothing in the vein of like-for-like replacement.
The Ivory Coast international will certainly add some strength and steel to the Arsenal midfield, which has often been overrun in the past few years. The side’s lack of an imposing defensive enforcer has meant that for all of their pretty football, they have been unable to win the big games. Tiote would not only add a physical presence in the middle of the park, but will also give them some much-needed impetus and drive.
Although Tiote is prone to bouts of lapses in concentration, the 28-year-old’s tenacious tackling, aerial ability and his strength mean that he is well worth the risk. Not only can he do the dirty work, but Tiote has shown with his stunning goals and his precise passes over the years that he is technically very good as well.
With Newcastle currently not in the best of places, a offer in excess of £10 or £15 million might just force the Magpies into parting company with the Ivorian. Tiote would not only improve the Gunners’ defensive midfield, but also add another dimension to their otherwise one-dimensional midfield, filled with creative players.