Your midfield will speak volumes for the way your team plays. Not quite the actual quote, but more or less words to the effect offered by Juanma Lillo, incidentally a mentor to Pep Guardiola.
It can be easy to lose sight of what matters during the summer transfer months. The playing philosophy and “values” of a team can go out the window as fans become ravenous for something substantial. All the while, Arsenal fans are torn on exactly what would constitute a good midfield addition – the only common ground is that a midfield addition of some kind is absolutely needed.
So you can understand those who are underwhelmed by news that Arsenal have singled out Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye as their top target, especially after the Frenchman had a largely forgettable season last term. Though what if it were Barcelona who were targeting Cabaye, even after last season? Wouldn’t the football world be a little intrigued as to what the Catalans saw in the midfielder, possibly holding a perspective that was lost on everyone else?
Make no mistake, Cabaye is an Arsenal player in every sense of the word. Ok, last season was nothing to write home about, and yet the majority of Real Madrid’s squad had a dire season, almost losing their spot in the top two to Atletico Madrid. But would supporters be averse to signing Karim Benzema or Angel Di Maria, both coincidentally are linked with Arsenal?
Cabaye clearly isn’t the all action, all powerful figure some Arsenal supporters may want. Size and stature aside, the Frenchman leans far more towards the Xavis than the Makeleles. He’ll help Arsenal in a big way, though, lifting pressure from both the team and Mikel Arteta. It’s no surprise that Arsenal’s game can begin to crumble in the absence of the former Everton man. As Lillo more than implies, Arteta, in Arsenal’s case, is the engine room and the primary cog that keeps the whole machine ticking over. Replacing or supplementing with Cabaye is one of the most important moves Arsenal will make this summer.
Of course it doesn’t take away from the fact that there isn’t a ‘presence’ in the midfield to stop, say, Gabby Agbonlahor or Scott Parker from marauding through untouched. But Arsenal’s style of play, at least the one that they’re most associated with, leans towards the Barcelona model. The Catalans don’t use a defensive midfielder behind Xavi and Andres Iniesta, despite possessing at least two individuals in the squad who can play that role. The defensive responsibility starts with those high up the pitch, pressing the opposition and forcing turnovers and mistakes. Much like at Borussia Dortmund during their back-to-back title wins, this style of play can negate the need for a tradition holding midfielder. In the case of Arsenal, we’ve certainly seen better pressing and a willingness to do so in the previous two games.
An important point to make is that clubs like Dortmund, Barcelona and now Arsenal need a pivot in the midfield far more than they need a destroyer. Alex Song’s failure at Barcelona thus far – and by that I mean his lack of overall contribution – is that he isn’t good enough to replace Sergio Busquets, the team’s pivot, and he can’t really offer too much at centre-back either. Even if he made a name for himself in England further up the pitch, Arteta plays the pivot role fantastically well for Arsena,l linking the defence and the midfield and offering stability and composure when the team are without the ball.
But then there’s the matter of the fee and whether Cabaye is worth circa £20 million. Reportedly the fee will fall somewhere between £15 million and £20 million, but for arguments sake we’ll go with the higher figure. Cabaye is a title winning, French international. Eden Hazard may have taken most of the plaudits when Lille won the Ligue 1 title, but much like the case with Xavi and Lionel Messi, Rudi Garcia’s team wouldn’t have been as successful without Cabaye in the midfield.
In today’s market, where there really isn’t any moral grey area with clubs throwing obscene amounts of cash around, Cabaye, at 27, for circa £20 million is about right. It’s not so much that Arsenal want him, but more that the club need him. They need him to help appease the fans. They need him because Arteta is out with a lengthy injury and is the wrong side of 30. But importantly, they need him because he perfectly fits the mould of a player who will continue to define the level of football the club want to maintain.
Is Yohan Cabaye the right target for Arsenal this summer?
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