Every great side in footballing history has had a great midfield. A pair, or a trio, that control the game, that allow the defenders to rest easy and give them an option to pass to, whilst the forwards can also be rest assured that the players behind them have got them covered.
We’ve seen the likes of Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta dominate an era for Barcelona, as well as players such as Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira marshal the midfield for Manchester United and Arsenal, and so on.
On the topic of the Gunners, they haven’t had such steel in midfield for many moons now, but after Unai Emery was handed the reigns, their midfield looks extremely sustainable all of a sudden.
In his first transfer window since taking over from Arsene Wenger, Emery bought in a number of players, but two stand out amongst the lot.
19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi, signed from Lorient for just £7m, didn’t seem like a signing for the present, rather one for the future. However, he has already caught the eye of the Emirates faithful in his short career in north London and looks to be a future genius on the pitch.
Just days before capturing the former Paris Saint-Germain academy player’s signature, Arsenal finalised a deal to sign Uruguay international Lucas Torreira for £22m after the 22-year-old starred at the World Cup in Russia.
Now, whilst Granit Xhaka is one of the first names on Emery’s teamsheet – the Swiss star has been involved in all 49 Premier League games since the start of last season – he is seven years older than his 19-year-old French teammate.
His experience in the Gunners’ midfield as well as at international level, where he has represented Switzerland at two World Cups as well as at one European Championship, is invaluable to Arsenal as well as for Guendouzi’s development.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach stalwart shall keep the teenage prospect out of the first XI for the next few years at least should he remain at the Emirates, but there is an unerring air of freshness and youth surrounding what is arguably the most important position on the pitch.
However, for when the 26-year-old departs north London, Arsenal possess a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old capable of dominating the middle and implementing a stranglehold on even the most influential of attackers.
This was strikingly evident against Liverpool, arguably the league’s most dangerous counter-attacking side who possess pace in abundance through the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
Having said that, the aforementioned duo struggled to get in behind the Gunners’ backline thanks to the efforts of Torreira and Xhaka, who marshalled the defence so efficiently that it became a rarity for one of the league’s best attacks to get a sight of goal.
As mentioned previously, the defensive midfield role is arguably the most important on the pitch. It allows the defence to perform more confidently, the full-backs to bomb forward at will without being fearful of being caught out, whilst the forwards can focus on making runs and scoring without having to come deep and help out.
Hector Bellerin’s recent form has been emblematic of this newfound confidence in his side’s defensive ability. The Spaniard has already registered four assists in the league this season, compared to just three throughout the entirety of last season as Arsene Wenger’s side looked weak and vulnerable.
If their forwards can maintain the prolific form shown so often already this season and tighten up at the back, there is no reason why Arsenal cannot start challenging for silverware consistently once again.