That short era in Arsene Wenger’s time which strictly followed the youth policy to combat stronger powers appears to be as good as over. The poster boy for that period just following the move into the Emirates Stadium has returned to Barcelona, Samir Nasri moved for the greener grass at Manchester City, Denilson is out, Carlos Vela too, Nicklas Bendtner, and Theo Walcott may well have been the last and final piece to leave the club this year.
Good riddance to all bar one or two? Well not really. Bendtner was always a bit of a handful but is undoubtedly far more talented and useful than many options Arsenal currently have. Carlos Vela is currently showing with Real Sociedad what he can do with a consistent run in the first-team—something he was never afforded while in north London. And then there’s Havard Nordtveit, the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder who is excelling in the Bundesliga after never making an appearance for Arsenal in the Premier League.
Wenger has of course made a couple of bad calls during his time as manager, one being the idea to use Denilson for such a lengthy spell in the starting XI without much return, or the decision to push Emmanuel Eboue further up the field into the right-wing position. But Nordtveit’s performances in Germany should be a cause for some regret on the manager’s part.
The Norwegian was of course a part of Lucian Favre’s side who stormed up the Bundesliga table to finish in fourth, ahead of Stuttgart, Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg, who in contrast had a terrible season. Gladbach did so playing some fantastic football on the way, too. Marco Reus was the star player in a team who were subsequently dismantled this past summer by the bigger clubs in Germany, only to be replaced by players who were unfamiliar with life in the Bundesliga.
There have been a number of bright spots this season for The Foals, most notably Marc-Andre ter Stegen. But Havard Nordtveit has also displayed the kind of maturity and stability that Arsenal have been crying out for in the middle of the park.
There’s been nothing wrong with Mikel Arteta’s performances this season for Wenger’s side, but there’s often a feeling that the team do need a genuine stay-at-home defensive midfielder.
It’s always pleasant to watch Nordtveit and the decisions he makes on the field. He knows when stay back and hold his position in the deep midfield position, playing the important role as the first line of defence and breaking up opposition attacks. But such is his understanding of the defensive midfield position that he also knows when to push forward and complement the attack.
It’s coincidental that at this time it appears Arsene Wenger is on the lookout for a player who can perform well in the defensive midfield position and centre-half. With Johan Djourou on the way out of the club and Sebastian Squillaci unwanted, the desire has been to chase a player who can fill in when two of the three prominent centre-back names are out but who can also add another body to the midfield. Nordtveit’s defensive awareness has shown him to play the centre-back position extremely well, while his size and ball-playing ability means he could have been a success if he was dropped into the Arsenal team now.
The fee Gladbach spent on the player should be seen as nothing short of robbery from Arsenal’s perspective, as any player switching clubs for just under £1 million and going on the develop in the way he has should be seen as nothing less.
Wenger has always moved to avoid re-signing former players, and largely you can understand why. But if the club did insert a buyback clause into the sale, Nordtveit would be a fantastic addition to the current Arsenal team.