3 Pivotal Attributes an incoming Midfield Linchpin has to possess
By Daniel Finton (Deputy Editor)
Given the fact that there is practically nothing to write about, I figured it would be best to touch on hypothetical transfer possibilities. Prior to the season coming to an abrupt halt courtesy of the coronavirus, the gunners were having a diabolical season. Mikel Arteta’s men sat 9th prior to the corona conundrum striking.
There were an abundance of issues that led to our poor position in the table including but not limited to: Unai Emery and his systematic issues, a diabolical defence, a lack of goals being scored due to a lack of chances being created etc.
Along with those issues just mentioned, a flurry of others that you are fully aware of if you’re an Arsenal fan are also present. Furthermore, the lack of an effective midfield pivot linchpin has also cost us dearly on a number of occasions. Lucas Torreira recently picked up a season ending injury which left us with no naturally defensive midfielders at all, but even prior to his injury, Arteta seemed to believe that other options were better. Maybe unpopularly, I would agree.
The Uruguayan is a good player, but there are certainly limits to his game that make him possibly ill-suited to the system Arteta is trying to implement. Torreira would no doubt be an excellent squad player, although a better linchpin more suited to the style of English football is needed in my opinion. Here are three pivotal attributes a new number six will need to possess in what I expect will be a 4-3-3.
Effective Ball Progressor
Whilst a host of defensive midfielders have been and will continue to be linked with a switch to Arsenal, the club must make sure that whoever is purchased to fill the role is a capable and consistent ball progressor. Someone who can distribute the ball quickly and effectively from deep areas.
Torreira is a good tackler and covers a good deal of ground, but at times he hardly tops the charts for progressive passes. The new linchpin should arguably be as good on the ball as they are at winning it back. Arteta is keen on playing a protagonistic and attacking style of football which thrives on ball retention and high levels of possession. Along with defensive responsibilities, bridging the defence with the attack is of the utmost importance to the way which we aspire to play.
Physicality, Athleticism and Leadership
Though it may be asking for a lot, a personality like Patrick Vieira’s is desperately needed. Intensity, passion and leadership are attributes that are often missing from modern footballers, but we should try as hard as we can to find a player with those three strengths. Similarly to the centre of defence, he who fills a linchpin role should have a certain type of presence and personality; one that gives the other players chills when they walk into the dressing room.
The gunners currently lack said personality in the squad and a midfield general of sorts would be exponentially helpful in solidifying the spine and even discipline of the team.
They also have to add an element of athleticism and physicality to what is currently quite a feeble midfield. Torreira is far from physically imposing, whilst Xhaka, Ceballos and Guendouzi lack mobility and pace. We need someone who covers a lot of ground and is a powerful and energetic force in the middle of the park, that can cope with the intensity of the league and prevent counter transitions (so often our defensive downfall).
Tenacity and defensive awareness
What Torreira lacks in passing ability and size he makes up for with his tenacious way of play. Aggression is indescribably important for a defensive midfielder in the modern game. One prime example is also Manchester City’s Fernandinho. The Brazilian veteran never shies away from flying into a tackle and completely discombobulating the opposition's rhythm and attacking momentum.
The midfield general we bring in should have the same aggression and tenacity as the two South American players aforementioned. Tactical fouls are an essential skill that every modern linchpin should know how to commit without getting in too much trouble. A specialist in shithousery would do us a world of good.
They have to possess the defensive discipline to fit into Arteta’s rigid structural shape but also be able to form part of this aggressive pressing system. They have to find the balance.
All in all, there are a load of attributes that the ideal defensive midfielder would have but these three mentioned are as Arteta likes to so frequently say, “non-negotiable”. Arsenal are a massive club and should not settle for anything less than top level quality. An effective linchpin is an integral piece in the jigsaw puzzle which needs to be solved in order to reach the top level once again.