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15.00 6 Aug 2014


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For seasons on end, Arsenal fans used to implore manager Arsene Wenger to "spend some f***ing money".

Right until the deadline day signing of Mesut Ozil last summer, the French manager had resisted those calls.

But an FA Cup trophy and lucrative deals have liberated the Gunners this summer and breathed new confidence within the support base.

However, apart from cover at centre-back if Thomas Vermaelen leaves, the one area that would appear to require a little bit of surgery is defensive midfield, to provide competition and an upgrade for Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta.

While some are calling for a tough tackling type of player, that should not be the most important asset a potential signing should have.

Firstly, Wenger will know that any addition must be able to cope within the fluidity and movement of an Arsenal midfield department which looks to dominate possession. Interchange is an important part of what Arsenal do in midfield and the defensive midfielder's role in the team is not to simply sit pretty in front of the back four a la Makalele, but to also keep the ball flowing and keep close to his midfield colleagues.

Take Barcelona for example. At the peak of their powers, the Blaugrana used Sergio Busquets as their defensive shield, just behind the Andres Iniesta and Xavi tandem. But while the Spain international's speed of thought and brilliant positioning made him an excellent reader of the game defensively, his tidy yet incisive distribution was an equally important asset for the club as he conceived the nebulae of attacks.

Sporting's William Carvalho (R) celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Paços de Ferreira during the Portuguese First League soccer match at Mata Real stadium, in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal, 05 April 2014. EPA/ESTELA SILVA

While Arteta (and Flamini to a lesser extent) are excellent passers of the ball (they had completion rates of 92 and 91 per cent respectively last season), the former's defensive work does not measure up to the level of a Busquets.

Indeed when it comes to interceptions per game Arteta posted solid numbers but was behind a host of other Premier League midfielders including Mile Jedinak, Youssouf Mulumbu, Michael Carrick, Yohan Cabaye, Bradley Johnson, Mark Noble, Jose Canas, Steve Sidwell and Morgan Schneiderlin in terms of players who occupied his position regularly.

Over recent weeks, it has been mooted that Jack Wilshere could be entrusted with the deepest role in Arsenal's midfield and while he is tenacious and technically strong, the jury is out over his ability to read the game defensively in that position.

Speaking of a Busquets type of player, the Gunners have been linked with a big money move for Sporting Libson and Portugal international William Carvalho, who was characterized as a Busquets type by Vasco Mota Pereira, our Portuguese expert on Team 33.

Carvalho's reading of the game has been praised, while he also has the distribution skills to fit into Arsenal's engine room.

Whether he is the exact player Arsenal need is unknown, but Wenger will know distribution must come with the package. And it would be Wengeresque to buy a player who is both one thing and also completely different from stereotype.


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