Scouting Report: Centre midfielders assessed

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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

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