Since the turn of the year Arsenal have finally started fulfilling the potential of their squad. After an extremely underwhelming start to the season, Arsenal have won 20 of their last 23 matches in all competitions. They’ve rocketed up to third in the league and have reached the FA Cup semi-final once again. For the first time in a while it’s all looking rosy at the Emirates.
There were plenty of problems that have been solved in the last few months. For one, Arsene Wenger is getting his players back from injuries. This has allowed him to demonstrate the depth of his squad and make changes to match up with other teams. They’ve also been able to sort out the defence, but the biggest change is that they’ve found balance in midfield.
The first change in midfield has been that he has, for the most part, stopped using the 4-1-4-1 formation and gone back to the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 we are used to watching Arsenal play. They have gone back to the 4-1-4-1 on occasion, but more often then not they’ve gone back to their 4-2-3-1. The next big change was inserting Francis Coquelin. You can’t say enough about the impact the Frenchman has had since he has come back from his loan at Charlton. Arsene Wenger has found a couple of different combinations that offer the necessary balance. Now that nearly all of the squad is back and fit, the question is which combination of midfielders offers Arsenal the most balance?
The way the season has been going, Francis Coquelin is an absolute must in an Arsenal midfield. The 24 year old’s story of nearly being sold to Ligue 2 side Tours in the summer, then being loaned to Charlton, is almost as incredible as the impact he has made on the team. Considering the form he has shown since his return from injury, Mesut Ozil has made himself another must in midfield. He has been fantastic since his return from injury and has made the number 10 spot his own. That leaves one spot in midfield left, the box to box midfield spot. The two main competitors for that spot are Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla. Both offer something different to the midfield, so the question is which one benefits Arsenal the most?
Santi Cazorla isn’t a traditional central midfielder and this position is very new to him, but he has had somewhat of a resurgence in this role. He is more of a deep-lying play maker then a box to box midfielder. He does go forward, but, in that role, he prefers to sit deep and pull the strings. Something he brings that Ramsey does not is pull the strings from deep. He is a player that will go to the center-backs, pick the ball up and start attacks. For all Francis Coquelin does, he’s not one to start attacks from deep. Santi Cazorla does that, and more.
Aaron Ramsey is a natural box to box midfielder. He doesn’t have the technical ability of a Santi Cazorla, but he brings a steel to the midfield that the diminutive Spaniard does not. He is a much more physical player and brings the steel that is often necessary away from home and against bigger sides. He also brings more of a goal threat. His goals may have dropped off from the levels of last season, but he just seems to know how to time the runs from deep and put the ball in the back of the net.
It depends on the form of each player, but, when they’re both on good form, I think Aaron Ramsey is the guy. He brings balance with his physicality that is often needed in the Premier League. The Welshman has had to deal with a lot of injuries and has been off form this season, but an on-form Aaron Ramsey brings so much to the Arsenal team. For as much as Santi Cazorla can bring to the side, I think Aaron Ramsey is the best final piece for the Arsenal midfield.