All was well that ended well against Wigan except the late injury sustained by Mikel Arteta. In the twilight of the victory over the Lactics at the Emirates, one that pushed the Gunners to within a victory to finish in the top 4, Arteta pulled up with an injury suspected to be a calf complaint. The injury has now made him a heavy
doubt for the all important clash against Newcastle. A season defining match. Arteta has been an integral part of our team and his importance is underlined by the fact that he has started all the Premier league games he has been fit for and also completed 90 minutes in all of them provided he was fit.
In all, he has played 42 matches for Arsenal this season and has started all of them. The games he missed this season has been down to him been injured or rested. Now that he is almost out, Wenger must decipher a solution and find a replacement from his litany of versatile midfielders. Let’s consider those that could get the nod.
Aaron Ramsey – he has been Arteta’s partner in defensive midfield. Arsenal use double pivot in defensive midfield and while Arteta sits back protecting the defence, Ramsey has more licence to make forward runs. The Welshman has been one of the most vilified Arsenal players owing to his under-performance but he seems to have turned the corner and fans tend to like him now owing to his performance in defensive midfield.
It is a different thing to play as auxiliary defensive midfielder, it is a different kettle of fish to play the role of the main defensive midfielder. All season, he has only played the role once and it was in the 5-1 win over West Ham. Should Arsenal call on him to deputize for Arteta? The only problem in asking Ramsey to play the Arteta role is the fact that who acts as the auxiliary defensive midfielder? We don’t have too many defensive minded midfielders. There is Wilshere but he is not entirely fit and it will be risky to ask him to play a gruelling 90 minutes against highly physical Newcastle midfield. There is also Coquelin.
Coquelin – he is a natural defensive midfielder. He has been kept out of the side owing to Arteta’s impeccable form and Ramsey’s sudden surge of confidence but with Arteta out, it could just be his opportunity. Coquelin is a clean tackler and also decent with his passes. Should Wenger ignore him in his search for a fill-in, he might see his future away from the club and then force a summer move away.
Wilshere – the English starlet is an attacking midfielder but with a knack for tackles. Through out his Arsenal career, he has played majorly as an attacking midfielder or an auxiliary defensive midfielder but never as a defensive midfielder. The fact that he is also nursing an injury that will require surgery to correct
though a mild one means he is not the right candidate to replace Arteta. Using Wilshere as a defensive midfielder will be akin to risking the balance of the team and it might end up hurting us. The Newcastle match is not one where we experiment. If Wenger thinks Wilshere can play defensive midfield, he should wait for pre-season or Emirates Cup to try him out.
Vermaelen – the relegated Arsenal captain is an outside contender for the role. It is not a news that the Belgian is quite versatile as he can play center-back, left-back and defensive midfield. Against Wigan, he was brought in to replace Arteta but we cannot really judge him in that role based on the performance because before his entry, the Lactics had been dead and buried and the clock was already ticking away. Newcastle will be a different kettle of fish. I have no doubt that Vermaelen will thrive in that role because he tackles well and will have the opportunity to make runs forward. The only challenge I have with having him in that role is the fact that we will be having all our three centre-backs on the (Mertesacker, Vermaelen and Koscielny) field all at once and should one be injured, it will be serious but considering the fact that this is the last match of the season (expect the crazy play-off happens), the risk might just be worth it.
Whoever replaces Arteta, the demand is the same; 3 points with loads of goals to at least stand a chance of leapfrogging Chelsea. You have other options? Kindly share them in the comments.