Arsenal Modern Tactics : The Story of Defensive Midfielder

Happy New Year to you all the readers and followers to this blog, thank you for that. Cheers for every pint of beer that messed up your night! Happy birthday to Arsenal’s son, Jackie Wilshere! Hope to see you recovering and established as legend in our holy club.

As you can see the fixtures in January, we will meet Newcastle United as 1st fixture in 2016. But i would not make any preview for match yet. I would likely to focus on talking about our recent signing rumours, Mohamed Elneny who had role as defensive midfielder. Arsenal are very famous on creating tenacious and versatile midfielder in modern era Premier League. Arsenal tactics are very demanding on playing fast attacking counter but as well very disciplined defense. So, to understand the importance of Elneny role, i would like give my analysis about how Elneny really fitted on that role and which future player will best fitted to Arsenal.

The key factor for Arsenal modern tactics are their versatile midfielders that demands genius defending and control which the ball to attack or dictate the tempo. Arsene is the fans of fast passing and robust random movement in Arsenal. Which very attractive and fit to English football culture, but in that tactics demands the ‘anchor’ to balance the tactics.

Arsene really knitted the tactics very well, created this kind of midfielder is very hard and challenging, create the modern midfield who can control both water and fire (attack and defense). So find the right one or creating the chosen one who fits in Arsenal is hard to find.

Firstly, Arsene playing his modern tactics with the famous formation 4-4-2 , which very well go-round with both forwards to lead the attack pole position and 4 midfielders which separated as 2 left-right midfielder and 2 roaming midfielder. In this formation, 2 roaming midfielder have big keyrole to cover middle field and it was very demanding role.

Secondo, in his 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or his non famous 4-1-4-1 are focused on midfield area as playing as a versatile and creative midfielder, in this modern formation, every single midfielder had his own focused role, who keeps the ball, who drives in, and who defense and playing safe. But defensive midfielder key role still at the same, in Arsene mind, Defensive Midfielder are the one who gives stability upfront back four and gives threat to opponent goalie. This is the story of who and how Arsenal defensive midfielder rated in Arsenal modern tactics.

Patrick Vieira, 1996-2005, former Arsenal Captain.

Patrick Vieira, the famous former Arsenal Captain has been playing for Arsenal for 176 apps for 9 years in defensive midfielder position. I describe him as tenacious, intelligent, skillful player with a good vision. His fearful big physicality has became one of the hardest player ever playing for Arsenal. His style of playing are very attractive, when winning back possession he can immediatly jump in to lead the attack from behind.

Patrick Vieira are the perfect player for Arsenal tactics even in old famous formation 4-4-2, his stamina are very effective as roaming midfielder. The way he command, how he protect his liege, the way he plays and his intelligence made him the best role model for modern defensive midfielder in the world. So, every single future DM in Arsenal will be comparing by his style of play. I rated him as the best DM i have ever seen.

Gilberto Silva, 2002-2008, Arsenal former Vice Captain

This invincible wall Brazilian are very tough DM in his era. He is famously one of the best DM in the world and playing alongside Patrick Vieira in 4-4-2 formation. Even his style of play and his keyrole are all the same with Patrick Vieira but his shadow mimicking are his strongest play against team who playing long ball tactics.

images (12)

He is a little bit more defensive than Patrick Vieira, as his style of play are a little bit as holding midfielder. Arsene describe him as player who comfortable player who sits back upfront 2 centre backs and giving stability there. He is really the master of defense in midfield, even pundit describing how Arsenal is struggling without him in the middle.

His type of style are very defensive in modern tactics as he is a natural defensive midfielder. If i placed him in 4-2-3-1 tactics, he would be one of the best in EPL right now, as its very rare to find natural born defensive midfielder. His captaincy in Brazil and Arsenal really established himself as one of the legend in Football world. Even he is not a modern DM, but his master in defensuve role really cope with Arsenal modern tactics in his era and even now. I rated him 9/10.

Mathieu Flamini, 2004-2008, 2013-now, Arsenal.

He born in Marseille, France and learn his youth career there before he came too Arsenal. His style of play are very disciplined and really high in work rate. But what makes him stand out between all the lads are his mentality and his influence to the whole team spirit. Actually, in Arsenal he is being sidelined because of lacks of skill and technique and just came as an utility player in Vieira and Gilberto era. But when Gilberto injured, he got strong partnership with Cesc Fabregas in new tactics 4-2-3-1 and performed very well before he left to Milan in 2008.

Came back to Arsenal in 2013, his mentality and strong influence really drives Arsenal also given spirits as there is none strong or aggresive leader in Arsenal main squad ( I am sorry Arteta). He really gives us stability even sometimes in his 30s he lacks of speed and work rate but his discipline play still his remarks until now.

He is still playing right now at Arsenal as a DM and very good in commanding the defense but he is not comparable or good enough in Arsene modern tactics as not attractive enough but his style of play really what Arsenal needed right now as his commanding and spirits really stand out in Arsenal cracking mentality. I rated him as one of the best player who had big passion for Arsenal. Rated 7.5/10.

Denilson, 2006-2013, Arsenal

He is one of Brazilian midfielder who plays in defensive midfielder for Arsenal. Came in July 2006 from Sao Paulo but he didn’t got any chance playing for Arsenal until October 2006 for his debut. He is one of player who very talented in dictate the game from midfield. Arsene also describing him player whose talent is between Tomas Rosicky and Gilberto Silva.

Actually, i have to admit that he is a well creative midfielder and skillful player too. But somehow he didn’t consistently and connected with Arsene modern tactics, i believe Arsenal must choose him because our lack of transfer money when we had to pay our bills to our big stadium. Denilson is a brazilian player but his short posed built not very good in DM, he rarely winning on the air so its bad for Arsenal when long ball tactics came on. I rated him 7/10 because i giving him a credit for became most apps in one season.

Alex Song, 2007-2013, Arsenal.

I am actually fans of him, he is one of best passer in the squad and he is good in defense too. His quality actually like he is playing attacking midfielder and defensive midfielder at the same time when he is on his own defense. His quality is exceptional too when talking about passing.

images (11)

He didn’t have the same qualities as Vieira and Gilberto but his passing abilities are his strength. He is the assist of Thierry Henry cameback goal against Leeds United. His quality of passing makes him wanted by Barcelona, and left us which is bad for his development career. If he waited a little bit, he didn’t even have to arrive at West Ham. I rated him 8/10 as DM, because his passing and strong defense are very suited to Arsenal modern tactics.

Mikel Arteta, 2010 – now, Arsenal. Arsenal Captain.

Started playing as attacking midfield for Everton and Arsenal but as we lack of DM and the position are vacant, Arsene convert this midfielder to defensive position. His style of play are very offensive and dictate the tempo from upfront but as he play as DM for emergency, he change it to disciplined marking zone and dictate Arsenal whenever Arsenal need slowing the tempo.

He really fast adapting as his passing rate is high, and playing alongside Cazorla and Wilshere also Ramsey really gives Arsenal stability when emergency situation came. He didn’t Arsene favourites defensive midfielder for his tactics but his change of plays really affect him how he play. His effort to help the team really shows how big his mental to sacrifice. I loved him as Captain, when he came to help everyone even he isn’t started. I rated him 7.5/10 for his sacrifice and passion style.

Francis Coquelin, 2008 – now, Arsenal.

Arsenal is lucky enough have Francis Coquelin coming in fruitful after a lot of loan spell outside Arsenal. I have so much pity for Coquelin after he almost quit from Arsenal but luckily Arsene called him back to cover injured Arteta. He style of play was offensive and most likely in attacking key role.

Arsene told him to play upfront two defender and listen what they needs. And after that Coq is became another person and never be the same. His style of play changing to more defensive and robust tackle. And he makes his style more unique with his zonal marking to cutting possession. Everyone told me that he is more likely new ‘established Vieira’, but his shadow mimicking are more likely Gilberto Silva. His stats told the world that he is one of the best DM in Europe. But this kind of play need more polish and more experience for him to challenge himself became the best DM in his era. With love, i rated him 8/10 for proving himself to bring more honours for us.

Calum Chambers, 2013-now, Arsenal.

Came from Southampton when we had Jenkinson already, and bought Debuchy as main right back. But with Debuchy, Jenkinson and Bellerin as RB,it would be hard for him to play at Arsenal. And he had playing a lot of times in DM position at Southampton, and Arsene loved to see him mature in Arsenal as DM too.

His first match starting as DM is against FC Bournemouth, and even he is a little bit need time to adapt in real game, but he is an OK as DM. He is quite good as right back, fast enough but he is still lack of vision and passing. His technique quite good, and i hope he would become one of best creator in DM at Arsenal. I rate him 7.5 for still lack of experience on DM.


A lot of them are mainly became a legend, several are failed to shine in their last career and few still needs tine to prove. To became best suited DM in Arsenal modern tactics is very hard to do and its challenging to keep the play consistently. So, are those who become new signing for Arsenal can cope the challenge to fitted the role?

Mohamed Elneny, FC Basel.

This midfielder are strongly linked to come to Arsenal and his technique are exceptional too. Arsene Wenger didn’t told media that they didn’t bought him (yet) but this makes the rumour stronger that he is already signed.

unnamed (3)

He is a fan of tiki-taka play based Barcelona FC, and Arsenal is on par with Barcelona on the same style. His average built physique are not promising and his style of play are very offensive, but his long range shot looks good for threatening opponent. Well for back up to Francis Coq he could be enough. I rated him as 7/10 as i never seeing him playing and will he adapt soon with us.

Paul Pogba, Juventus.

He is what happen if we let Coquelin go last year. Manchester United academy player left for looking chance to play, and yet Juventus luckily have him for free. He is born in France, the same as Vieira and yet his skill and quality almost the same. He is really amazing, in his young age, he already has became one of important player in the main squad at World Cup.

He already playing in modern 4-2-3-1 formation, the same as Arsenal. His passing vision, tenacious and mostly skillful technique in him already made he as worth as £55 million. Comparable as Vieira in modern era, unlucky he didn’t play for Arsenal yet. But everything could happen in future as Arsene famously secret signing. I rated him as 8.5/10 because he really great modern DM in his era.

These comparison are meant to be determine which stats would add and drives Arsenal to winning, who added because of emergency and who will gives benefit on the tactics if worth to wait. Modern defensive midfielder didn’t just need to defense or drive the attacking too but also bring goals to the team. Filling in this position also gives you better position to lead or command so sometimes every player who positioned in here became a captain in future.

So this is not just story of a position but also story of the leader of the team.

Author of this post and right now focused as freelance  sports journo on Indonesia, USA and UK.

Anzala Ryanto. @anzalariveris


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s