Scouting Report: Centre midfielders assessed

by & filed under News Review.

My word, another scouting report from Mike McDonald. I’m flying today, so likely not back online until tomorrow. Have a good one!

A new midfielder for Arsenal

This next transfer blog is about locating a Central Midfielder, not necessarily finding another Granit Xhaka.
Honestly, I think that would give Xhaka too much credit as his career would’ve been better served going to Serie A when he left BM.

You also need to know that this is not about finding a modern day, athletic DM as that blog is here…
Scouting Report: Where we are, where we should buy

It includes Partey, N’didi, Soumare, Danilo, William Carvalho, Witzel, Javi Martinez, Szoboszlai, Busquets, Sangare, Zakaria and Bruno Fernandez.

Modern day football has a midfield three in many forms. Either in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1/3-5-2 or 3-4-3 with an Attacking Mid/False Nine.

Modern day midfields are made up of …..
a) A destroyer
b) A play maker
c) A line breaker (with and/or without the ball)

Arsenal actually have all three already. Torreira is a destroyer. Ceballos, Guendouzi and Xhaka are all different types of play makers. Willock and Maitlind-Niles are line breakers. Smith Rowe could be a play maker or line breaker.

A few teams are still using an Attacking Midfielder. Often they move from wide areas as Ceballos does for Spain, Nelson could do, Ozil is currently doing, ESR and Willock have been tried and Pepe could actually find himself as.

In my opinion, as a coach myself, it is hard to say how good these options are as Mikel Arteta’s biggest asset is his coaching skills. In his first game alone Torreira, Ozil and Xhaka had their best games of the season so perhaps the answer is local?

What Arsenal might then do is buy based on profile rather than replacing.

The profile we lack is height, mobility, athleticism, speed, penetration and positional sense.

Again, I say that Arteta could change some of this eg; Willock playing as a ‘line breaking #8.’
Ceballos has the ability to be a ‘play making #6.’ I’ve even wondered if Guendouzi could be an ‘energetic pressing #10?’

Most likely

Name: Adrien Rabiot
Position: CM
Age: 24
Height: 6ft 2
Club: Juventus
Nationality: France
Potential fee: Loan or 35M

About: I’m going to keep this profile simple. If the goal is to find a better version of Granit Xhaka as a player, Adrien Rabiot is that.
Has better dribbling ability, mobility, defensive ability, agility, speed and and an ego to play at the highest level. His mother, who is also his agent, has been a hindrance to him as she has placed unrealistic demands on his career. Hence why after half a season at Juve, he is wanting to move on.
If we can get Rabiot for a five month loan, I cannot see this being an initial problem.

Others in same category: Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Salzburg), Thomas Lemar (A.Madrid), Emre Can (Juventus), Kessie (AC Milan)

Generational talent

Not all in this category are CM’s. Again, there is an argument that AFC already have a play maker/regista or two. Some of these could be AM’s or ‘line breaking 8’s’ in a 3 man midfield

Name: Eduardo Camavinga
Position: CM
Age: 17
Height: 6ft
Club: Rennes
Nationality: France
Potential fee: 50M

About: One day you might remember that you read about Camavinga. One day very soon. You remembered his name as you thought he was a Bond villain but now you feel silly because he’s now the most talented midfielder in Europe.
Unless he falls off the track, Eduardo Camavinga is destined for superstardom.
A regular for Rennes at 16 and dominating at 17, Camavinga has everything. Statistically he is the best ball winner AND passer in French football. Is best as a line breaking 8, but plays as a deep lying playmaker with the dribbling ability of a winger. Got spider legs that seem to time tackles like only Kante can, yet the passing range of DeBruyne.
Part of me thinks he should go to a club like Lyon, then to an Arsenal before he has his pick of the elite. The other part of me thinks PSG will snap him up and he will struggle to play and regret the move. Then I watch him again and remind myself that once in a generation there is a player that can play for and start for an elite club as the play maker at the age of 17/18.
The biggest compliment I can pay him is to write a list of every quality that you’d want a midfielder to have. I’d say Camavinga at the age of 17, already ranks as an 8/10 or higher in every area.
If you haven’t yet seen Eduardo Camavinga bless your day and click above.

Name: Martin Ødegaard
Position: AM
Age: 21
Height: 5ft 9
Club: Real Madrid (on loan at Sociedad)
Nationality: Norway
Potential fee: 80M

About: When Mesut Ozil was at Real Madrid he was at his peak. Raking up titles, both team and individual. The king of the assist that Arsenal have rarely seen on a consistent basis.
Martin Ødegaard has this ability but has arguably started excelling more consistently at a younger age. You may remember him touring Europe‘s biggest clubs picking where he wanted to go. Many feel that he has been the best player so far in La Liga and he’s at Real Sociedad. Much like Valverde (below), there is no common sense reason for Real to sell as he is their future. It’s Real though and so you never know. Ordinarily plays as a 10, but perfectly able to play as an 8, penetrating on the dribble or floating between the lines. What I wish Dani Ceballos was, who has this level of talent but prefers to simply maintain possession in his eternal rondo. Heerenveen to Vitesse to Sociedad to Arsenal then on to Real Madrid, perhaps?

Others in this category….. Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Salzburg), Boubacar Kamara (CB who has played FB and DM… Marseille), Dani Olmo (Dinamo Zagreb), Phil Foden (City), Kai Havertz, Dejan Kulusevski (Parma), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Bruno Guimaraes (Athletico Paranese)

Established talents

Name: Fabian Ruiz
Position: CM
Age: 23
Height: 6ft 2
Club: Napoli
Nationality: Spain
Potential fee: 55M

About: Much like Rabiot, see Xhaka, think upgrade. Faster feet than both and more likely to use all surfaces of his golden left foot. Fabian also excels in his ‘second touch,’ the one that accelerates you away.
His fine form has seen him as a staple in the Spanish national team. An achievement that Granit Xhaka would never touch (if he were Spanish), due to his lack of mobility.
Real Madrid have been sniffing around but Fabian must be careful if he were to move as he has established himself. Could return to being an after thought at RM.

Name: Houssem Aouar
Position: CM
Age: 21
Height: 5ft 9
Club: Lyon
Nationality: France
Potential fee: 50M

About: Smooth. Graceful. Makes the hectic look simplistic. Small of frame and light on his feet, Aouar is a natural footballer. Much like Weigel at Dortmund, he makes me a little insecure as he looks too lightweight but he seems to glide effortlessly away from physical pressure.
You may remember Mikel Arteta teaching the players the concept of ‘ball, opponent, space and teammate’ at the first session. Aouar plays this way.
I was trying to think of a comparison to a player we’d all know and then I watched the video again and saw Arteta himself in his Everton days. Interesting.

Others in this category ….. Doucoure (Watford), Pellegrini (Roma), Van De Beek (Ajax), Zielinski (Napoli), Koke (AM), Ruben Neves (Wolves), Isco (RM), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Merino ( Real Sociedad), Nandez (Cagliari), DePaul (Udinese), Sanson (Marseille), Cyprien (Nice), Pulgar (Fiorentina), Bentancur (Juventus), Weigel (Dortmund), Saul Niguez(AM)

Possible for different reasons

Name: Federico Valverde
Position: CM
Age: 21
Height: 5ft 10
Club: Real Madrid
Nationality: Uruguay
Potential fee: £50M

About: As hot as fire in the Spanish capital right now. Valverde has broken into a super competitive midfield with his all-action style.
Valverde is a supremely athletic box to box #8 who has recently been called a ‘jack of all trades and a master of ALL.’
So, why would they sell a youngster that has broken into the first team when they normally ship out youngsters on loan?

It’s not likely as I’m sure they’d offer players they don’t want, but if Arsenal have the upper hand in negotiations, never discount a Real Madrid president from doing something that the coach and fans oppose, just to get a star player he wants.

Name: Santi Cazorla
Position: CM
Age: 35
Height: 5ft 6
Club: Villarreal
Nationality: Spain
Potential fee: loan or £10M

About: I wasn’t going to profile Santi but I went on YouTube and I couldn’t resist!
I think that this is a very real possibility for a variety of reasons.
The long term fix is likely to not have PL experience. Cazorla would give us this. If you are concerned about his age and form then recognize that he was not in Spanish squad whilst in his latter years at Arsenal. At the age of 35, he is now.
Five goals and four assists in 15 LaLiga games. A goal against both Barca and Real too. On fire!
Is it coincidence that he has mentioned many times that he didn’t say goodbye? Just saying.

Others in this category….. Allan (Napoli), Alcantara (Bayern), Lallana (Liverpool), Vidal and Arthur (Barca), N’domble and LoCelso (Spurs), Paredes (PSG)

Upcoming midfielders

Name: Kalvin Phillips
Position: DM/CM
Age: 24
Height: 5ft10
Club: Leeds
Nationality: England
Potential fee: 35M

About: Wow! How is he not playing in the PL? How??
I understand that he’s not played at higher levels but to my eyes he is quite easily England’s most talented defensive midfielder. That’s England’s weak point. How is he not in the squad? Watched the video yet?
Kalvin Phillips should become a top player at a top team. Hard as whatever is harder than hard. Fantastic feet too. Converted from a CM to DM but so talented , he could play either. Not entirely sure what PL refs and those lovely VAR folk will make of his force of tackling but they say Arsenal are too soft so..?
The modern day argument is, do you want a deep lying play maker or a ball winner. Kalvin Phillips says, ‘do you want both?’

Others in this category…..

Sander Berge (Genk), Mwepu (RB Salzburg), Aribo (Rangers)

Potential Attacking Mids in a 4-3-3

Ziyech (Ajax), Maddison (Leicester), Fekir (Betis), Mooy (Brighton), Grealish (Villa), James Rodriguez (Real), Yazici (Lille)

My choice

Initially after researching, I had a list of 48 options. Amongst a list of supremely talented midfielders, there was one stand out choice for the circumstances Arsenal are in.

I’d choose Santi Cazorla.

Arsenal have a young group of midfielders made even younger if Xhaka leaves.
A PL experienced player on a short term deal, who clearly wants to play for Arsenal again AND here’s the big one…. we’ve had an awful season so far. You want to lift the fanbase?
Can you imagine the happiness?!?

I’d also attempt to buy N’didi to initially partner Cazorla and Szoboszlai and send him on loan to a PL team to understand the physicality. I’d also buy back Bielik as a very useful squad player.

What will Arsenal do?

I think we will sign Rabiot on loan and buy Szoboszlai. I think we will sign Fernandinho and Thiago Alcantara in the summer.


Like these transfer blogs? I write review blogs after every game @mike_mmcdonald

481 Responses to “Scouting Report: Centre midfielders assessed”

Jump to comment form ↓

  1. China1

    Hey there’s nothing wrong with spending your days on a combine harvester and rolling around in pig shit

    We bristolian consider that a way of life!!!

  2. Aussie Gooner

    Matt Smith was MOM in the under 23’s – perhaps it is time for him to step up into the midfield? James Olyinka is also showing a great deal of confidence as is Folarin Balogun up front. How about all the youngsters for the FA cup?

    Sadly there appears to be no full backs worthy of promotion from the U23’s.

  3. Aussie Gooner

    “Arsenal make Jerome Boateng offer, Chelsea bid for Moussa Dembele”

    The headline says it all!

    And “Atletico Madrid have reportedly called Jorge Mendes to try and push through a deal for Thomas Lemar to join Arsenal”. Why are Atletico so keen to push Lemar out? I am worried!

  4. PhD2020

    NelsonJanuary 4, 2020 03:47:05
    For Bamford, I would say that there are a few posters here ganging up on him and argue with him. He appears to me like a religious person who would defend his believe till death.
    Yeah sure..I guess religious people talk in the manner as seen below:-

    Bamford10March 27, 2018 23:17:32
    Mate, don’t say stupid shit like that. I’ve been watching the game longer than you. You’re a fuckin’ fan boy. Just because I don’t worship at the shrine of Neymar doesn’t mean I don’t know the game. What a dumb fucking king-of-dumb-cunts thing to say. You fucking child. Jesus Christ. Let’s come up with a wager and the reward is the other leaves Le Grove for a year. You’re fucking annoying, mate.
    Bamford10March 27, 2018 23:28:08
    No, dipshit; I didn’t think Messi was a zero. I’m not Redtruth, you dumb cunt.
    Regardless, you’re a little dickhead; let’s come up with a wager.
    Bamford10March 28, 2018 00:59:21
    I have a better idea: why don’t you go fuck yourself? Awesome.

    As you were saying Nelson?

  5. Habesha Gooner

    What annoyed me most about bamford was during the man United game he kept saying This as poor as I have seen them look or they aren’t up for it and we are. He was so desperate to prove what he said about man United were better than us he couldn’t let everyone else enjoy spanking them. That was my problem with Bamford.

  6. Freddie Ljungberg


    Haven’t you been banned at least half a dozen times over the years for stalking people and being an absolute relentless dickhead? Maybe be careful where you throw stones.


    Sure Bamford can be annoying but he seems to have a fanclub of posters who only posts to rile him up.

    Phd, Bill, Ernest and of course that cunt Aubergine among others can’t post without mentioning him at least once, in Aubergines case he sometimes substitute it with abuse towards someone else though to be fair, he’s more of an equal opportunity cunt.

    Still, he’s got to learn to not bite I suppose, he doesn’t have the magical shield of those that turned on Emery before a ball was kicked last season.

  7. Useroz

    Skill level aside it’s absolutely critical we get pace and physique to give the talent a chance to adapt to and excel in the PL. Height and aerial abilities are much needed too especially in our MF.

    I’d think Xhara, Ceballos (and ESR) could do much more with added pace and /or physique …

    These super agent friends of Raul is a worry. Lamar is the least that we need at this stage. Fine if he’s on the market for 30m but it ain’t.

  8. Useroz

    Would you put much weight on reports saying RB rejected our initial bid of €60m for Upa?

    Surely media talks or RB setting expectation given we allegedly bid only £40m last summer?

  9. China1

    I’m really not sold on the Lamar link

    I’m not sure what the purpose is of adding him. I may be wrong but he strikes me as not particularly physically imposing and he’s still basically potential so what’s the major advantage of him over any of pepe/Nelson/saka/auba on the wings?

    If we have a limited budget let’s attack the CM/DM/CB situation as nothing means a thing if you don’t have a quality spine

    Straighten up that spine then invest in the peripheral positions

  10. China1

    Btw there were reports that dayot’s injury record has been far less than stellar in the last 3 years

    Make of that what you will 🙁

  11. Useroz

    …and with Upa’s contract is dwindling down to the last 18 months in the summer., like Auba actually

    In both cases would make sense for either clubs to consider cashing in unless they are very confident to renew contract, or well with money to burn!

    Between on field improvements and the interviews it’d seem Arteta learned quite a bit in the City job. Particularly impressed with the sort of charisma on display. A far cry from the way many senior players speak and you’d consider yourself lucky to understand let alone appreciate what they say.

    If we’d blow away the competition in similar fashion in the next 3 games, starting with Leeds, an identity is genuinely beginning to crystallise.

    With progressive improvements on show in the last 3 games, though Arteta’s appointment has not triggered a new manager bounce, (aka energy drink) the team has built up organically in a sustainable manner. Hopefully that’s whats happening.

  12. Freddie Ljungberg


    My complaint with Nelson has always been that he’s too timid when playing for our seniors, he wasn’t like that for the u23s and from what I’ve seen not in Germany either.
    Starting to be a bit more adventurous the last couple of games and driving forward with the ball more so maybe he’ll get there.

    If he can reach Iwobi levels and we can keep him as a back up that’s a win in my book, the less we have to spend on the squad the more we can spend on the first 11. Helps with the quota too.

  13. Useroz


    Do you mean Nelson is good now or counting on improvements from Arteta’s coaching ?

    Agreed Nelson gives the impression of being timid, or nervous, compared to say Martinelli who’s younger with much less experience.

    Short term, would like to see Nelson improves on strength, and aggression in his overall play. Rather he get turned over having a go at the defence than making side/ back passes on the right flank half the time.

    Wonder if Arteta would have him playing left as well?

  14. Emiratesstroller

    Arsenal are not going to make significant transfer movements in this transfer
    window as many suggest.

    Let’s be clear the club has already spent a significant amount of money in the
    transfer market during current financial year and one suspects also our revenues have also been impacted by the loss of Champions League revenue
    not to mention compensation paid to Emery and his cohort of coaches.

    Arsenal do need squad replacements that has been plain for all to see this season, but I would be surprised if we bring in more than one new player in

    This thread talks about midfield acquisitions. Somehow I don’t see Arteta going out and BUYING a new midfield player in this window unless Xhaka or
    Torreira are sold and that seems less likely now.

    Moreover Arsenal’s priority must be a defender. We have lost both Tierney and Chambers with longterm injuries. If we are going to bring a replacement
    it needs to be in my view a versatile defender.

    A number of CBs have been discussed in the media. Personally I would not spend a dime on Boateng, because he falls into the same category as both Sokratis and Luiz both of whom are on the way downhill in their careers. If
    he were to come to Arsenal it should be a short term loan deal.

    There are of course several CBs who would be a good investment for the future most notably Koulibaly and Upamecano, but I would be very surprised
    if Arsenal will be able to buy either of these two players in January.

    Leipzig are leading in the Bundesliga. Why would they want to sell to us Upamecano unless we are prepared to pay a grossly inflated fee? Arsenal are not going to pay £70-80 Million for this player even if they had the funds to do so.

    Arsenal’s transfer budget if any needs to be invested in players with a long term future with the club and not on emergency or panic buys.

  15. Gentlebris

    If Ozil, Xhaka and Luis could suddenly find some form under Arteta, has anybody considered what Arteta might be able to do with Mikki?

    If Arteta says sell, then sell; but don’t if he doesn’t.

  16. Aussie Gooner


    I am worried because, as Stroller said above, we will have little purchasing power during this window and I don’t want the club to be railroaded into buying a player that does not cover a vital position. We will end up with has-beens and wanna be’s filling vital LB, RB and CB positions. (Boateng for one!).

  17. Useroz

    A defender aside ,we need genuine cover for Ozil who wouldn’t sustain his recent physical contribution for rest of the season; injuries too.

    Ceballos could do some of it but not an ideal cover.

    Arteta prioritises on getting injuries back and maximum output from current players, according to his Leeds press conference But he also gave clear indication we’d look at January market IF options come up. Over to you, Raul.

    But don’t buy us Lemar ffs… unless it’s on a wage only 6 month loan.

  18. Emiratesstroller


    The problems in midfield over last two seasons has been lack of balance and
    frankly no proper gameplan.

    I think also that a number of players in our squad were demotivated by Emery’s methodology.

    Arteta played in midfield against Man Utd Torreira, Xhaka and Ozil and that
    looked for first time in eighteen months a solid combination. Whether that
    was because the players raised their game or because United’s midfield was
    weak remains to be seen.

    However, we do have a midfield option coming back from injury in Ceballos
    and whilst I am no big fan of Guendouzi he is also regarded a first team option with Willock and Smith-Rowe viewed as bench players.

    I don’t see Arsenal bringing in another midfielder in this transfer window.

    The Rabiot story might have been relevant if Xhaka leaves but that seems unlikely now.

  19. Pierre

    “Arteta played in midfield against Man Utd Torreira, Xhaka and Ozil and that
    looked for first time in eighteen months a solid combination. ”

    Unsurprisingly, they were the players who figured predominantly during our unbeaten run last season , until Ozil was marginalised and torreira’s position changed.

    It’s not perfect , but for the time being it is the best we have as it is well balanced and everyone is comfortable in the role they are playing…

    I can’t see Arteta meddling with it too much except in the FA cup.

  20. Pierre

    Mhkitaryan is a quality player and I think Arteta likes quality

    What needs to be asked is , is he better than what we have as back up.

    Mhkitaryan can play as a CAM or wide, so he would be a readymade replacement for Ozil if he was injured or has a loss of form, plus he is more reliable than Nelson or ESR as back up..

    I would keep him if he wanted to stay , if he doesnt then 20 mil is a reasonable figure.

  21. Samesong

    So transfer news is that Juve have rejected a bid from Leicester for Demeral. But google links say that we were the leading candidates of signing him?

    Is he any good?

  22. Pierre

    It was a common theme on Le Grove that the players are not good enough and need replacing.

    My argument ,and a few others, would always be that it is very difficult to judge any player playing in a dysfunctional system under a dysfunctional manager.

    I stuck to that principle throughout and it looks like many of the players are showing what they are capable of, though we need to see a few more performances like against United to be totally convinced.

    Arteta will extract the maximum out of the players and I’m sure our league position will improve as performances improve.

    To compete with the very best , Arteta will need to buy wisely and dispose of players who don’t cut it…he will need to be ruthless.

  23. Leedsgunner

    Dear Snr. Arteta

    Please play the kids and fringe players in the FA cup. Silverware is always nice but it’s where we finish in the EPL that truly matters.

    If you doubt this ask any Liverpool fan which trophy means more, their Champions League trophy won last season or the high probability of their league title this year.

  24. Valentin

    The point regarding squad poverty that many makes was that this squad was not good enough to challenge for the title but was plenty good enough to challenge for top 4.
    The fact that last season we were penalty miss against Spur by Aubameyang away from finishing 4th is proof enough.
    This year it is going to be much more difficult. Because like the fable of the tortoise and the hare by dithering on Emery’s sacking and naming Arteta 5 weeks later we may have left ourselves too high climb to make up.
    I still think that we need another CM and a CB.
    In midfield, Ceballos is a CAM. If anything happen to Torreira, we have nobody to take his place.
    Robbie Burton may be involved against Leeds, but I doubt that Arteta would want him involved against premiership opposition.

  25. Useroz

    Other than Ozil, and Ceballos we don’t have an abundance of MF capacity to deliver much needed killer final balls. Can’t see Arteta being too pleased with just squeezing creativity from Xhara , Guendouzi, Torreira and ESR. Also , where are goals coming from? These 4 hardly get 10 goals a season, in total!

    If we don’t /can’t spend in January recalling Mihki is an option. Media says he’s doing well over there…. it’s just wages.

    Last, presumably Arteta would want physique and aerial prowess in MF. Personally would like these attributes available sooner than later noting Torreira jumps and heads much better than Xhara and Guendouzi combined… and reportedly Tierney tops the heading department.

    Very curious and expectant who would be brought in for defence.