2016/17 Arsenal Defensive Midfielder Preview: Xhaka, Elneny and Coquelin

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More than arsenal defensive midfielder options trading else, more than another striker or a new right-back or one of Barcelona's high-calibre cast-offs, as Arsene Wenger's scouting team met in the aftermath of the FA Cup final victory, the Frenchman informed them the club was in the market for a defensive midfielder.

That was top of the list. Everything else could come later. The list of qualities was tightly defined: The only question mark centred on how important it was that any potential target be able to match his new teammates technically. Some of those Wenger solicited felt it was key that there should be no interruption to the side's smooth running; others believed they could sacrifice a little bit of ability for the physicality they had so sorely lacked at times last season.

Four months on, it looks like those conversations never came to a conclusion, as if Wenger and his trusted adjutants never quite reached a consensus. Arsenal will face Manchester City at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday with 76 million pounds' worth of new signings at Wenger's disposal: They never did find that defensive midfield player.

There is a feeling of renewal around Arsenal at the moment. Speaking this week to Theo Walcott -- an observer, rather than a participant, over the past few months -- it became clear that the mood at the club's Colney training ground is noticeably different.

That can be attributed in part to the FA Cup win, ending that long wait for a trophy and removing that burdensome weight of expectation, and in part to the sense that this is the summer Arsenal defensive midfielder options trading have long wanted and long needed. He talked of winning trophies, of pushing on, of the new arrivals taking Arsenal getting back to where they need to be.

That is quite a nice phrase, as it happens, because the impression is that Arsenal have gone back arsenal defensive midfielder options trading move forward. Wenger's reign can be broadly split into three eras.

The first -- the one that brought all but one of the trophies -- was built on speed, precision, counter-attacking, founded on the bursts of Thierry Henry and the darts of Freddie Ljungberg. The second, brought on by defeat in the Champions League final, sacrificed that. In its place, an approach based on the retention of the ball, a form of tiki-taka constructed with Cesc Fabregas arsenal defensive midfielder options trading its heart. It was designed to help Arsenal conquer Europe; Wenger believed possession was king.

It would be harsh to describe it as a failure -- that long record of qualification for the Champions League speaks for itself -- but it did not deliver what it was supposed to, of that there can be no doubt. In turn, that ushered in the third era, one that at times seemed directionless but was rooted in pragmatism. There have been times over the past few years when it has not always been clear what Arsenal have arsenal defensive midfielder options trading trying to do. They have long been associated with youth, but from onwards, Wenger's side has grown incrementally older; his signings have always brought with them the benefit of experience.

They have been assumed to be a team built to cherish possession but their statistics arsenal defensive midfielder options trading suggested they have been caught between two stools, unsure of their identity, not quite Barcelona and not quite Borussia Dortmund. The captures of Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck, in particular, suggest that Wenger has decided the future lies in the past.

No arsenal defensive midfielder options trading where they play, whether one of them is deployed as a central forward or whether one or both are utilised in the line of three behind Olivier Giroud upon his return from injury, they both seem designed to help return to their old, jet-heeled selves.

Walcott spoke of the club possessing the quickest forward line in the Premier League. It is certainly hard to nominate a faster one. And yet, for all the optimism and the talk of reinvigoration, the absence of that defensive midfield player lays a seed of doubt in the mind. Arsenal do not need reminding that they were given hidings at Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea last season, all of them in lunch time kickoffs.

The aggregate score was The journalistic desire to find patterns in the noise makes it tempting to suggest that perhaps Wenger and his players are not early risers and maybe need a nice long breakfast to be at their best, but the likelihood is that the timing of the arsenal defensive midfielder options trading is mere coincidence.

No, a far more convincing explanation is the fact that in all three games, Arsenal were simply over-run at midfield. The qualities Wenger identified to his scouts as key in the theoretical new recruit -- power, size, physicality -- were all absent in the midfields they chose in those games.

In all three, they had just one natural holding player: Mathieu Flamini against City, Mikel Arteta who is not, if we are all completely honest, even a natural for that role at Anfield and Stamford Bridge. In all three, as their teammates were hounded and pressed, they found themselves tasked with holding back the tide.

In all three, they were understandably found wanting. That is why he set his scouts the challenge of finding a player who could play that specific role. It is not inconceivable that he envisaged the signing of a player who would only feature in precisely these games against the biggest, best sides, to offer his team a bastion of resilience, to make them more opposing; a sort of footballing equivalent to a special teams unit in the NFL.

Such players do exist. Manchester City brought in Fernando. Nigel de Jong was available for the right price this summer.

Wenger has long tracked Morgan Schneiderlin; had he moved fast enough, he might have been able to pry him from Southampton. They are not in short supply. It is hard to explain why, then, Wenger and his scouting staff failed to address arsenal defensive midfielder options trading need they themselves had identified. Perhaps they could not settle on their preferred option. Perhaps they moved on to other things.

A personal suspicion would be that these are the sorts of signings Wenger knows he has to make, the sort of players, he knows he has to have, but that he does not particularly enjoy bringing them in. Every manager has a type of player he regards as a necessary evil. The Chelsea manager has always found room in his teams for the likes of Deco and Wesley Sneijder and even Fabregas arsenal defensive midfielder options trading, but you sense that if he could, he would rather not have arsenal defensive midfielder options trading.

They are too maverick, too difficult to finesse into the team ethic, too prone to bouts of work-shyness. It is the same with Wenger. He wants a team of artists. He is hardly likely to be enthused by the prospect of signing an artisan. Whatever the cause, though, no midfielder arrived. Arsenal will face a City team that put six past them last season -- admittedly, this time, with home advantage -- with almost exactly the same midfield and defence that was present for that humiliation, and the two more that followed.

It is a gamble. We are about to find out whether it was worth it. We use cookies to offer an improved online experience. By clicking "OK" without changing your settings you are giving your consent to receive cookies. Gunners fail to address need d Rory Smith. When can Man City win the Premier League? UCL history is important City can forget derby vs. Hand of God, Hurst arsenal defensive midfielder options trading Battle of Santiago: World Cup's biggest controversies 7d Nick Miller.

Who won and lost March? Only 5 real favourites to win World Cup 11d Ian Darke. World Cup in Russia: The ugly side of the beautiful game 13d Garry Kasparov.

So your country didn't qualify; what now? Spain could be semifinal preview 18d Raphael Honigstein and Sid Lowe. Legends games increasingly key for Europe's elite 19d Mark Ogden.

Barca back on top; Liverpool, Madrid also climb 19d Shaka Hislop. United will back Mourinho to build a team Sep 12, Rory Smith.

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