Santos in ‘dangerous driving’ arrest :: thoughts on midfield

Morning all,

starting this morning with non-footballing stuff and the news that Andre Santos was arrested and bailed last Friday ‘on suspicion of dangerous driving’. The BBC report is quite understated, saying:

Shortly after 9.30am on Friday August 17, a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and failing to stop for police on the A1, near to Junction 22 of the M25. Officers’ attention was drawn to the vehicle due to the manner of its driving.

The man has been bailed to return at a date in mid-September to a North London police station.

The Sun, meanwhile, goes full on with reports of 130 mph chase in his ‘super-car’ and says he could be jailed ‘for up to 2 years’ if found guilty. It’s obvious to me that after so many reports of Alex Song’s tardiness, Santos couldn’t face the prospect of being late and routinely sold to Barcelona as a consequence.

That said, while I’m taking the Sun’s report with a pinch of salt, that’s more Maverick from Top Gun behaviour than cuddly maverick stuff. And obviously something’s gone on to make him behave in a way which seems a bit at odds with his nature. Anyway, we’ll see what happens with this one, hopefully there’s a perfectly rational explanation (like a wasp in his car) but 130mph is a bit crazy if true.

Back to football and it does seem as if Nuri Sahin’s move to Arsenal will be completed after that stumbling block regarding a purchase option was overcome. From what I can gather Madrid were either reluctant to include that at all, or had set it very high, and some kind of compromise has been reached. Perhaps we’ll have some clarity on that when the deal is announced.

Clearly he’s a different kind of player from Alex Song who was, in most eyes, a defensive midfielder, or the now fabled DM. I’d suggest that the D part of that with regard to Song wasn’t as D as we might have liked, and that the weaknesses in our midfield were more apparent when Arteta didn’t play last season as opposed to when Song was absent. Gingers4Limpar has a good look at midfield in this post, and I have to say I feel as if the clamour and demand for a DM is just one of those things that has become ‘a thing’, if you’ll pardon the terrible English.

While I can see the benefit that a really world class defensive midfielder might bring to the side, they are few and far between. Many will say M’Vila (also ‘a thing’?) is that player, but to my mind a well organised, disciplined, functional and balanced midfield negates the need for a specialist DM (as I said in conversation on Twitter yesterday I’m beginning to hate the sight of those two letters side by side now).

My feeling is that the manager will play two conventional midfield players somewhat deeper, thus providing the platform for the attacking part of that trio to operate slightly further forward. If last season we nominally played DM (argh) – MF – AMF, with Song fulfilling that deep role but finding himself pushing forward all the time, this season we might see MF – MF – AMF, and the combinations are endless.

If you look at the options we’d have if the Sahin deal goes through: Sahin, Arteta, Diaby, Ramsey, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Coquelin, Frimpong (when fit) and of course Jack Wilshere when he returns, then I think there’s a very healthy midfield line up. Many of those players are versatile enough to play in either the regular midfield position or as the more attacking option too. So I really think the need for the DM (aaaarrrrgggh) isn’t as pressing as people seem to think.

Of course it’s reliant on that midfield not only providing us with the platform for our attacking play but being disciplined enough to cope when we’re having to defend. Too often in recent seasons the centre of our midfield has been a yellow brick road towards goal and that has to stop. If we accept that defending is not the sole preserve of the back four then defensive work in midfield isn’t just the job of the DM (*cocks gun, points at head*).

With the sale of his most defensive midfielder Arsene, and in the absence of a like for like replacement, Arsene is clearly looking to change things a bit in midfield. Arteta did a fine job in front of the back four against Sunderland but it would be fair to say he wasn’t exactly tested. Sunday’s game against Stoke is going to provide a much sterner test of our defensive game so, assuming the Sahin deal goes through, it’ll be interesting to see how we line up for that one – especially as we’re a squad without an established DM (*pulls trigger*).

Final note on this: if the ‘Makelele role’ has become famous it’s worth pointing out that Makelele wasn’t exactly gigantic or physically imposing, but an ultra-disciplined player who knew his job and did it better than anyone for a period. Maybe Wenger seems something of that in Coquelin, for example, but again we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.

A couple of quick things to finish up today. Firstly, Everton’s new signing Kevin Mirallas says that he was in fairly advanced talks with Arsenal about a move, but chose Everton because he knew he’d play more often. Which is absolutely fair enough, and I understand that completely, but it does suggest that Arsene is looking at another attacking option, even if he specified a midfielder and a defender when he spoke about new signings. That we’ve been linked with him, Niang and a couple of others hints that the boss would like another forward.

And speaking of which, in the latest edition of The Tactics Column, Anam looks at the manager’s striking options and the need, or not, for a Plan B. Go read.

Right, that’s yer lot, it could well shape up to a busy day, news breaking in the usual place, more here tomorrow.


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