Arsenal FC: How Will the Gunners' Midfield Line Up Once Jack Wilshere Returns?

Matthew Celentano@@Gunner_NYCFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2012

BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 10:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Blackpool and Arsenal at Bloomfield Road on April 10, 2011 in Blackpool, England.  (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Arsenal's midfield has taken quite a few hits in recent years.

To start with, the Gunners had their creative heart ripped out last summer with the departures of both Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. It was in that same span of time that Jack Wilshere—arguably Arsenal's best player in the 2010-11 season—picked up an injury that saw him not play a single minute of last season as well as miss the start of this season.

It didn't stop there, though. With Alex Song, considered by many as Arsenal's best midfielder last season, sold to Barcelona this summer, it's become clear that the Gunners' midfield is certainly undergoing a revamp.

It's not like there haven't been additions, though. Brought in on deadline day last summer, Mikel Arteta had a tremendous first season with Arsenal and has already proved to be one of its most important players.

Santi Cazorla, signed this summer, has already looked like the successor of Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates with brilliant performances in all three of his first matches for the Gunners. Lukas Podolski is in this mix as well, as Arsene Wenger has already utilized the German's versatility by playing him as a left winger as well as a centre attacking midfielder behind the forward.

So despite all of the hits Arsenal have taken to its midfield, it still looks quite strong. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better holding midfielder in England than Mikel Arteta—he keeps things moving in the centre of the pitch, gives a creative spark and has even shown that he can defend.

Abou Diaby, Arteta's partner in holding midfield, has had a surprisingly good start to the season following his injury-laden 2011-12. His recent Man of the Match performance in Arsenal's 2-0 win over Liverpool reminded us all of what a player Diaby can be when he's off the treatment table. Provided he stays injury-free this season, the Frenchman will definitely be a key player for the Gunners.

Arsenal's centre midfield triangle is completed by Santi Cazorla, who, as I mentioned before, has already proved to be a wonderful summer acquisition.

The guy can do just about everything: pass, dribble, shoot—he's even a decent tackler! Cazorla is currently Arsenal's creative heart, and if he continues his excellent run of form he could be giving the likes of David Silva and Juan Mata a run for their money.

So far, Arsenal's midfield have performed well. They've controlled the game in each of Arsenal's matches so far and are crucial to the way the Gunners play—keeping possession of the ball as much as possible.

Step in Jack Wilshere. After a 13-month injury layoff, the 20-year-old is closing in on his return for Arsenal and—touch wood—is expected to be back playing for the Gunners within a month.

But how will he fit into Arsenal's solid midfield trio?

Mikel Arteta is a must in Arsenal's starting lineup—Arsene Wenger's side only won a single match without the Spaniard in the team sheet last season.

The same goes for Santi Cazorla, who is arguably Arsenal's best player at the moment. Many would argue that the in-form Abou Diaby deserves his spot in the lineup after some solid—maybe even Patrick Vieira-esque—performances as the Gunners' midfield enforcer.

Now, I'm not expecting Wilshere to immediately be forced into Arsenal's starting lineup once he's recovered from his injury. Arsene Wenger is likely to ease the youngster into the team with substitute cameos as well as appearances in the cups, slowly getting the Englishman back to match fitness.

That said, I'd be surprised if Jack Wilshere isn't a first-team regular come the end of the season. 

With neither Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby nor Santi Cazorla deserving of losing their starting places to Wilshere, it'll take some tinkering from Arsene Wenger to get all four of those key midfielders on one starting lineup.

Many have brought up that Wilshere has played as a winger before and could feature in that position again, but I think he should be kept in the centre of the park.

If it were up to me, I'd keep Arteta and Diaby as holding midfielders, playing Wilshere as the more attack-oriented midfielder, with Santi Cazorla playing as a "false winger" and one of Walcott, Gervinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain on the other wing.

What do you think Arsenal's starting lineup should look like once Jack Wilshere returns?


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