Arsenal have been linked to a number of defensive midfielders over the past couple of years. It’s been a position Arsene Wenger has needed to address for years. This season, they found an option for that position in Francis Coquelin. The young Frenchman came into the team and made the defensive midfield spot his own.
Yet, for as good as Coquelin has been, a top team like Arsenal need two quality players in every position. At the moment, they lack cover for their combative French midfielder. The only back ups they have for Coquelin are Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. Flamini struggled for much of this season, often looking out of his depth, Arteta’s legs don’t allow him to play week in week out anymore, and both are the wrong side of 30. So it seems as if Arsenal are looking for the cover they need. They’ve been linked with Morgan Schneiderlin for years, and recently they’ve been linked to both Geoffrey Kondogbia and Sven Bender. All of them seem feasible options with Dortmund and Southampton out of the Champions League and Kondogbia looking take a step up from Monaco. The big question is: who would be the best fit for the Gunners?
When someone is a defensive midfielder, it is important that they are solid defensively. Based on the Squawka comparison, they all have their own strengths. Schneiderlin has made the most tackles per 90 minutes and most clearances, while Bender has made the most interceptions per 90 minutes, and Kondogbia has committed the fewest fouls and won the most duels.
Since Arsenal is looking for a foil for Coquelin, they should look for someone that covers his weaknesses. He doesn’t have too many weaknesses defensively, most of those are with the ball at his feet. Based on the last six months, the only real possible weakness for Coquelin could be his lack of height and physical presence. For that, Kondogbia would probably be the best choice. He is the tallest player of the three and he has the best percentage of aerial duels won.
The biggest weakness for Francis Coquelin is he’s not the most reliable with the ball at his feet. Based solely on the comparison, Schneiderlin would be the ideal person to buy. You do have to take into account that, while he was a defensive midfielder, he was paired up with another defensive midfielder in Victor Wanyama. He was allowed to be a more creative player than he would be is he was a lone defensive midfielder. Kondogbia also tended to play more as a box to box midfielder than a defensive midfielder, which is why he attempted and completed more take ons. Still, the on the ball ability paired with defensive stability is what Arsenal need. They already have a destroyer in Coquelin, so they would benefit a lot from the passing ability and the ability to dictate the game that they could get from Schneiderlin.
Any of those three choices would be great buys and they would be a huge improvement over Arteta and Flamini. Of they are looking long term, Kondogbia may be the best choice over Schneiderlin, because he is supposed to have so much potential. But, for next season, Schneiderlin seems like he would be the ideal singing for Arsenal to come and step in as Arsenal’s other defensive midfielder.