It has been a busy day for Arsenal transfer rumors and this time the source of them is none other than the manager himself with his praise for both Wilfried Zaha, and tantalisingly for Gunners fans, Edinson Cavani. There is however one rumour that won’t go away and that does appear to make a huge amount of sense and that is that Arsene Wenger is looking to add West Ham’s Mohamed Diame to his midfield.
Last night’s victory over Swansea was great for the team, but in some ways it raised more questions than answers. Ignoring the obvious ones like trying to accommodate Theo Walcott in his favoured forward role I am instead going to look at how Jack Wilshere was able to put in such a commanding display yesterday. If you didn’t see it Wilshere put in his best performance since his return from injury. He was a colossus in the midfield pushing the team forward, creating chances for Giroud and Walcott and ultimately scoring the wining goal himself.
One of the reasons I think that he was able to play in a more Steven Gerrard-like way for the Gunners was that the midfield had at its heart a pair of players who have strong defensive qualities. Francis Coquelin was resolute in front of the back four and he was ably supported by Abou Diaby who, while happy pushing forward from time to time, spent a lot of time in the centre of the park mopping up Swansea’s attacks and trying to find both Wilshere and Cazorla.
The dilemma for Wenger is this. As brilliant as Diaby can be he is never going to play more than 20 games a season for the side. And as for Coquelin, I am not sure that Wenger is convinced that he has the strength or the talent to play that role week in week out for the team. Normally his place would be taken by Arteta, who has at times been sublime for the Gunners in the past seventeen or so months with his metronomic passing skills. Arteta is by no stretch of the imagination a defensive midfielder in the mould of the man who he replaced Alex Song. And while he may be the answer for some games, he certainly isn’t the right player for every game.
Nope if Wenger is going to shape his team around Wilshere playing in the hole and Cazorla, who can play anywhere in the middle of the park, then he needs a midfield enforcer to allow his talented players the freedom to attack. And last night in the game between West Ham and Man United Wenger would have been reminded what a great fit Mohamed Diame would be for his side. He was tough in the tackle and solid at the back, yet when given the chance to push forward he took players on and set up chances. He just seems to have that physical presence that Arsenal, with its smaller players seem to be lacking.
For me Diame is a slightly more defensively minded version of Diaby, minus the dodgy ankle, and his versatility would be a key ingredient for the Gunners. Put it this way opposing teams would never know what type of Arsenal midfield they were dealing with and that unpredictability would cause opposition managers real headaches.
Of course fancying a player and then getting him to sign on the dotted line is a long and troublesome process. Diame appears happy at West Ham. And even though he would come comparatively cheaply – a fee of around £7 million might be enough to prise him from the Hammers – the player himself might prefer what is shaping up to be an interesting future in East London rather than heading northwards.
Arsenal have been associated with a long line of combative midfielders in the window and I guess had M’Vila not had his moments of madness he might have been an Arsenal player by now.
Ultimately the arrival of a super star striker like Cavani, might be the catalyst that changes Arsenal’s season. However from a tactical point of view signing Diame might have a huge impact.