February 18, 2009
Since Arsene Wenger first came to these shores, he has been a keen exponent of the tough tackling, gladiatorial ball winning midfielder.
This was typified by his first instructions to David Dein, prior to officially joining the club as manger, go get me a young French gladiator who has found life tough in Milan, Italia.
All the great teams seem to possess a pit bull/rottweiler in the centre of the park who can win the ball and move it on to the better, more skilled attacking players around him.
Following the departure of Matthieu Flamini last summer there has been a number of Gooners in uproar at Wenger’s inability to sign an adequate replacement in the mould of a Viera/Flamini type of player.
There was plenty of speculation all summer regarding Yaya Toure, Inler, Alonso et al. It appears the player the Wenger did actually go for was indeed the Spaniard, Xabi Alonso. Again, there is plenty of speculation surrounding this mooted transfer, did the Gareth Barry move breakdown prevent it? did we not bid enough for him? Who knows!
What is interesting is the current view that maybe a midfield consisting of complete players could be the way forward for attack minded teams. A case in point being last summers splendid European Champions, Spain.
Maybe the method behind Wenger’s madness in letting both Lassana Diarra and Flamini go within months of each other was due to the emergence of Denilson.
Denilson is a most underrated player, he is not flash like Pires, he is not a marauder like Viera, he is not a goal scorer like Red Fred and he is certainly not another Cesc.
What Denilson personifies is a complete midfielder, he can tackle, he can pass, he has a great strike on him which he does not utilise enough and he could play two 90 minutes games back to back with his engine.
Could Wenger have had in mind a fundamental shift in the way his midfields will be set-up from now onwards? Has the Spanish victory last summer proved a team can go all the way with impish ball players as opposed to one ball winner and some ball players?
Lets face it, the era of Viera/Keane tussles will be talked about in 50, 100 years time. We lived through a very special period in football.
Two complete midfield monsters going at each other for 180 odd minutes every season, there will never be two such players at their respective peaks, playing for the two top clubs again.
Viera was a total freak, Wenger realises he has a mighty slim chance of ever unearthing a player of his ilk again. So maybe he feels the time for warriors in the middle of the park is about to be superseded by the era of silky elegant passers of the ball who can keep possession for longer and not have to rely on constantly winning the ball back.
Once Cesc is fully fit again, a partnership with Denilson, Nasri, Rosicky and Arshavin in the midfield could yet yield the greatest Wenger team to date.
A mighty fine prospect.