Geoffery Kondogbia: Can He Solve Arsenal’s Defensive Problems?
The highs of the wins against Sunderland and Burnley have been replaced by the all-time lows from the recent results against Anderlecht and Swansea. The players have been vocal about how they want things to change but I and many Arsenal fans out there would prefer actions on the pitch, rather than soft words off it. Confidence on the players and the manager has reached a nadir and Twitter wasn’t a nice place to be on Sunday night. As expected, some fans wanted Arsene Wenger’s head on a plate while others blamed it on some other lifeforms from outer space.
This season, Arsenal has failed to click in the Premier League and with just 11 games gone, Arsene Wenger’s side is way behind the current table toppers, Chelsea. There have been some pathetic displays like the games against Leicester (away), Dortmund (away), Southampton (home), Tottenham (home), Chelsea (away), Hull (home) before the horror fest against Anderlecht last week Tuesday.
Injuries and a wretched run of form from some players have taken its toll on the team this season but while injuries remain part and parcel of the game, loss of form is something that can be managed. Everyone connected with Arsenal knows that despite the fact that Aaron Ramsey remains a lovable character following his amazing exploits last season, his form has deteriorated badly this season. Santi Cazorla is another player that has been shocking this season and when you think of the fact that his last league goal came in January, you’d see how desperately he’s trying to score yet his shooting boots are never with him. As for Jack Wilshere, you just can’t rely on him to stay fit.
One part of the team that has been on the spotlight all season long is the holding midfield role that has been rotated by the captain, Mikel Arteta, and his deputy, Mathieu Flamini. Constant niggling injuries to the captain has seen Flamini get an extended run of fixtures in the role but he has struggled horribly this season. Flamini reached his lowest point in the North London Derby when he, a holding midfielder, was robbed off the ball by Christian Eriksen that threaded a pass to Nacer Chadli who wasted no time in placing the ball past Wojciech Szczesny.
Sadly, Flamini is the shadow of the player that tormented opposition attacking midfielders in the yesteryear. Even when he made his comeback last season, I was among the faction of the Arsenal faithful that expressed my dissatisfaction and still clamored for a holding midfielder with Arteta suffering from one of his trademark muscular injuries. The Frenchman came on as a sub in the North London Derby and made his presence felt forcing me to eat my words. As the weeks progressed, the yellow cards stacked up and the Frenchman served a lot of suspensions here and there. Then there was the stupid red card against Southampton at St. Mary’s.
Arteta returned and things weren’t the best but at least, they were a bit better. Arsenal was utterly destroyed at the Etihad, Anfield and Stamford Bridge but in winning the FA Cup, Wenger had the best platform to build on something good. The early signings of Alexis Sanchez (what a signing!), Matt Debuchy, Calum Chambers and David Ospina showed that the Gunners meant business but there were two positions that needed some investment. Wenger closed the club’s cheque book and the fans watched in futility as Thomas Vermaelen left for the shores of Spain without being replaced. Of course that holding midfielder we hoped for didn’t arrive, so it was a classic case of making do with what we had, even though it seemed as if it wasn’t enough.
With Arteta suffering from more injuries, Flamini continued to feature but in all honesty, he hasn’t been able to offer enough protection to an already shaky back line. The tactical switch to 4-1-4-1 requires the DM to be a physically tenacious combatant that combines brains with brawn. Flamini obviously lacks the physique, technical ability, agility and other key ingredients to play in this role for an ‘ambitious’ side like Arsenal. At least, it’s glaring for everyone to see that he isn’t cut out for this role, so the only plausible option would be to invest in January.
With the likes of Morgan Schneiderlein, Victor Wanyama, Sami Khedira, William Carvalho unlikely to leave in January due to reasons best known to Smaug the Terrible, former Arsenal legend, Perry Groves, is recommending for the Gunners to take a punt at the wonderkid from AS Monaco, Geoffery Kondogbia,
“They need a physically imposing holding midfield player as they have many technically gifted players going forward but they don’t have many players that think defensively.
“There’s a lad at Monaco called Geoffrey Kondogbia who is very similar to Patrick Vieira and he played at the Emirates Cup. Arsenal need someone who can help in the transition from defence to attack.
“It would take a lot of money to get him, but he’s physically imposing and he would be the perfect buy.”
Everybody has an opinion on who they’d want to see at Arsenal but we all know that there’s only one man’s voice that matters – Arsene Wenger.
However, the question remains – Will a player like Kondogbia solve Arsenal’s defensive problems? I think not. If stats are your thing, feel free to check out his stats on WhoScored and it’s pretty impressive I must say but Arsenal’s defensive problems aren’t down to Flamini’s incompetency in the middle of the park.
There are the obvious issues such as exposing an inexperienced 19-year-old into the thick of things at such a tender age (good for his learning curve though), using a square Nacho peg in a fat round hole, the injuries to the incumbent defensive personnel and a Per Mertesacker in pretty much shitty form. Further up the pitch, I can only think of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and the Ox that really close down the opposition. The likes of Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil (when he was fit) and Jack Wilshere don’t have the word ‘closing down’ in their lexicon.
Until we can fix that fundamental flaw of defending better as a team, even a defensive midfielder from Krypton called Clark Kent would not be a able to do a good job in the team – even though, he’d be better than Flamini and Arteta. I love taking cue from Southampton’s performances this season because Ronald Koeman’s boys built on the foundations set by Mauricio Pochettino which involves high pressing play and this season, their collective defending is outstanding. The lads from the South wouldn’t match the Gunners pound for pound in terms of quality and talent available at their disposal but they’re above the Gunners in the league and currently have the highest amount of clean sheets.
The resilience and tenacity shown from the Southampton lads was exhibited in Arsenal’s late run for a Champions League berth in the 2012/13 season after the win against Bayern Munich in the Allianz Arena. They followed that victory with wins over Swansea (2-0), Reading (4-1), West Brom (2-1), Norwich (3-1), Fulham (1-0), QPR (1-0), Wigan (4-1) and Newcastle (1-0). Only draws against Manchester United and Everton dented this amazing run that saw the Gunners win eight games in 10. It was the kind of form champions where made of but it was just enough to see off another challenge from Tottenham for a Champions League berth.
It’s sad to see superb players like Laurent Koscielny and Matt Debuchy out injured but when they’re replaced with Nacho Monreal as a center back and Chambers in right back, no questions should be asked if things don’t turn out well. If Mertesacker had Bacary Sagna to his east and Vermaelen to his west, some say he might have fared better but football isn’t judged like that. He had both players next to him when Robin van Persie headed in the only goal in Manchester United’s win over the Gunners in Old Trafford last season.
Despite their shortcomings, Monreal and Chambers are giving their all for the badge in front of the jerseys they wear and they have my full support but Arsene Wenger got us into the mess. He’s the only one that can fix it.
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