Much of the talk surrounding Arsenal has centered on their lack of a true holding midfielder. I've been guilty of hammering away at this as well.
However, the poor performance against Villa earlier today cannot be laid at the feet of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, Arsenal's makeshift double pivot.
While they lack a complete understanding of the position, they performed quite admirably.
In fact, as far as defensive statistics are concerned, they played as well as Luiz Gustavo, the Arsenal target who debuted for VfL Wolfsburg against Shalke 04 and earned a 7.9 rating from WhoScored? en route to a 4-0 demolition.
And as the following tweet illustrates, the rest of their midfield did a fine job as well, dominating possession:
The issue for Arsenal is their back line.
Ramsey and Wilshere had six tackles between them. The whole back line managed one.
Santi Cazorla's three interceptions were equaled only by Per Mertesacker, and Cazorla was only on the pitch for the second half.
The back line conceded five fouls, two cards (including a red) and a penalty.
And to top it off, Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna—Arsenal's only proven starting full-backs—came off the pitch due to injury.
Manager Arsene Wenger will continue to hear calls from those who saw Gustavo's stats and blame Ramsey and Wilshere for Arsenal's woeful defensive display. He should heed them, but the match with Aston Villa has exposed an even larger weakness.
Luckily, Arsene should have an easier go of finding defenders than holding midfielders. Real Madrid's Fábio Coentrão is looking for a new club, according to this report from SkySports. PSG's Mamadou Sakho and Toby Alderweireld of Ajax are also available.
Arsene will likely enter the market after this embarrassing loss. Against my prior recommendations, he should look to snap up Coentrao and perhaps Alderweireld immediately. Only after the back line has been strengthened should he look to the lack of depth at midfield.
As for strikers, there is simply no time for that. The only strikers that could be considered an improvement on their current force have already been snatched up.
Arsene's first call should be Real Madrid, then Ajax. Only after that business is complete should they bother with anything else.
Gunner faithful, how would you handle the window going forward? Should Arsene stick to his focus on the best want-away strikers, or shift focus to midfield or defense? Could it be time for Arsene to leave? Have your say in the comments!
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