Wenger: My left footers don’t unbalance midfield

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Arsene Wenger says Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka are working hard to improve their defensive and tactical relationship and played down suggestions that two left-footed players in midfield is unbalancing his Arsenal side.

In the absence of the injured Aaron Ramsey, Wilshere has impressed playing alongside Xhaka in the last six Premier League games. However, while the duo has avoided defeat in those outings, the Gunners have looked exposed at the back, conceding eight goals.

It’s a situation that the boss says the players can resolve as they get used to each other’s style of play.

“They work very well together,” Wenger told Arsenal.com ahead of the Carabao Cup semi-final with Chelsea, “especially with the ball, where they have a good understanding.

“The fluidity of their game is very good and the partnership grows defensively. That’s a very important part because we are a very offensive team.

“Defensively we need to be very sound and that’s as well why I play with three centre backs, because in midfield we are quite offensive. But they are tactically intelligent, aware and they want to sort out the problems defensively and tactically. I think that will improve.

“They sort out problems on the pitch by getting used to each other. On the football pitch you know quickly what the strengths of your partner are – where he goes, what he will do when he closes down. You adapt to that. The fact that they play together every week will help as well.”

He added: “I like to have a balanced team with left-footed and right-footed players, but it doesn’t give us a problem that Granit and Jack are both left-footed.

“Jack played many times on the right side when he was a kid, so he is comfortable to play on the right. You develop your vision from the early position in your life, so the right and the left is natural for him.”

Wilshere is expected to return to Arsenal’s starting line-up for the trip to Stamford Bridge this evening. Whether Xhaka joins him, remains to be seen. The Swiss underwent a fitness test yesterday and remains a doubt.

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NevilleNeville
NevilleNeville

Two left feet is always a little clumsy. Especially on the dance floor.

Nketibag
Nketibag

Smack my pitch up

Ade
Ade

Chamakh my pitch up*

Goonerest
Goonerest

@Nketibag, your username is top top top quality ?

David C
David C

I don’t expect everybody to be Santi, but I’m surprised by how many top level football players are predominantly one footed.

Artro
Artro

You’re right, some left footed players especially seem to be amazingly one footed, Robben for example.

Hate to bring him up because he’s human filth but Adam Johnson too, even when dribbling he’d only control or knock the ball forward with one foot no matter how conveniently placed the right one was… the prick.

Santori
Santori

Just saying Mahrez is actually left footed but plays inverted on the right to great effect.

Its not an issue but the more pertinent point is players who can function on the flank we need to balance out threat from both sides evenly.

An interesting player who can play with BOTH feet but can replace Alexis on the left side is Draxler. This gives us options to also build him into the forward role since we have Nelson and Nketiah developing.

Functionally at the moment, the threat comes mainly from the left side. Our right side threat is more predictable and entails Bellerin pushing high up which has potential consequence behind.

A right sided player with better creativity and technical skills to Walcott is critical.

Runzac
Runzac

“That’s a very important part because we are a very offensive team.” 14 goals in the last 9 games – is that the sign of a very offensive team? Man City have scored 23 goals in their last nine.

catbiscuits
catbiscuits

to be fair, he didn’t say we were any good at it

Pooner
Pooner

I took it to mean we were offensively bad.

Matt
Matt

I’ve been pretty offended of late.

SFME
SFME

“I like to have a balanced team with left-footed and right-footed player”

Ahaha it was told by the person who put the right-footed Maitland-Niles to play LWB

Stayne
Stayne

Azpilicueta?

SFME
SFME

I’ll be very happy if AMN will become our Azpi

Dennis’ first touch
Dennis’ first touch

Even more hilarious when you consider that there have been times when AMN was playing on the left while there were no fewer than 5 or 6 left footed players on the pitch for arsenal

Santori
Santori

Honestly if we can find a CBack to add, we can switch back toa back 4. Monreal can cover Kolasinac and AMN can then role into providing alternative to Bellerin.

he would have already accumulated good experience in the fullback role so switching him to his dominant side makes sense instead of relying on him to now learn the trade in the middle (never mind academy experience).

JDubs
JDubs

Signing Xhaka over Kante has to be one of Wenger’s worst bits of business ever. Wenger was on his holidays when Chelsea signed him.

Xhaka can be good, but needs a real DM next to him.

Homer
Homer

False premise.
Its not as if Kante vs. Xhaka was an actual option. Kante wanted to go to Chels and he did.
There is plenty to blame Wenger for – as in, A LOT – but lets at least keep it objective and avoid revisionist history.
(And, if memory servers, Ramsey floated away from Kante to score the FA cup winner. He’s not perfect, like every other player and has been bang average this time.)

Limparrr
Limparrr

I remember that summer, we signed Xhaka before Kante moved. Wenger thought he wasn’t available. Next week he signs for Chelsea.

Kante would have been a much better buy in my opinion, he actually helps the defence and we need that.

For once Wenger moved early in the window, wrong target though.

Tusik
Tusik

‘With Arsenal there was an interest but not a big as other clubs,’ he told Sky Sports. ‘That is why I didn’t go to Arsenal and went to Chelsea.’

There you go, I’m keeping it objective – The man himself said Arsenal wasn’t serious enough, so yeah, it kinda is Wenger’s fault.
‘Ramsey floated away from Kante to score the FA cup winner’, come on man, and that’s objective?
Do you want us to start mentioning the times where Xhaka was pure garbage? Kante is far more solid and consistent than our guy.

Kwame Ampadu Down
Kwame Ampadu Down

Forget about Xhaka/Kante.
We signed Elneny for 7m in Jan 2016. In August 2015 we could have got Kante for less than that. That pains me much more.

Or even Wanyama or Dier both of whom the Totts signed who are much better than Elneny…..(nothing against him, he clearly tried hard but he’s just below the level needed)

Santori
Santori

Elney was one of these band aid buys we should not be making but it was January transfer window and he made a punt for cover.

Frankly, Coquelin if anything should be the player we retain as a jack of all trade type content with coming off the bench but unfortunately Elneny (like Debuchy and Walcott) is the sort of non performer that is difficult to get off the books because he frankly doesn’t offer much to a buying team for price they have to pay.

Mediocre and high salary.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

It’s also quite rich to point out Ramsey floating away from Kante, ironic too considering how many times Ramsey floats away from his own defensive duties.

Santori
Santori

The problem is Wenger insist on playing Ramsey in the link role next to Granit.

We have seen this before with both Flamini and Coquelin.

Two seasons ago Ramsey held together with Flamini very well in a period over christmas when we were without our main assets. They oversaw huge wins against City and Olympiakos away.

BUT ironically when our top assets returned (including Sanchez), we dried up in front of goal. Ramsey pushed forward to make the difference but exposed Flamini’s older legs and we ended up on the wrong side of some lob sided results.

Many heralded then the return of Le Coq but instead both Coquelin and Ramsey conspired to let in 14 goals in 7 subsequent games.

The problem is that link role in the 4-2-3-1 is the most interpretive role in the team. The player needs to know ehn to push forward to make the offensive difference and when to hold back in caution.

Ramsey is capable of doing it but only for short spells before his greater instinct takes over. He is a player who naturally prefers to attack the box.

Thereby trying to work him into a discipline asset next to Granit has always got to have its fallibility (beyond any flaws the Swiss may possess)

IMO I feel Ramsey really needs to play the Ozil position.

In fact its the reverse with Iwobi whom Wenger has been playing higher up.

I think the young Nigerian hasn’t been given any favours trying to play higher.

He may have better assets for a deeper role next to Granit or Jack.

Its a position where he can see play better. He tends to be more discipline when required and has the physical strength to contribute to combative situations in the deeper role. Also his technical footwork is better than Ramsey’s and unlike both Granit or the Welsh man, Iwobi can turn on a dime.

He often receives (and like Jack) turns immediately to face the opponent which is a good asset deeper in midfield.

If Wenger can reverse the roles on Ramsey and Iwobi, these players may find better joy and we may find better balance in the team.

Santori
Santori

Kante has also been a liability in many instances. When we played them he did some good and bad things. When we equalised, he was at fault for being too far off Bellerin.

Rose tinted glasses.

Granit provides excellent forward passing ability which Kante does not have.

There are positive and negative to both sides.

Tusik
Tusik

Come on!
Do you think there’s even one PL manager who would consider Xhaka over Kante given the choice?!

Kwame Ampadu Down
Kwame Ampadu Down

Kante best midfielder in England two seasons in a row & the key player in two different league champion teams. To suggest the positive & negative on both sides are equal sounds like an argument a simpleton would make ? (a word I know you love to throw out at others)

Matt
Matt

This criticism is one of the most peculiar biases in football. When has having two right footed central midfielders or defenders been thought to pose a balance problem? Poor lefties. No wonder Ned Flanders felt the need to create the Leftorium.

Fletcher
Fletcher

Good thinking..however, we have to remember that the majority of players are right footed,and you probably need to balance that with sufficient number of right footed player distributed reasonably across the ground to avoid being dribbled and passed easily…
Right footed players can dribble easily past left footed equally as left footed player do to their opposite.

Kwame Ampadu Down
Kwame Ampadu Down

What’s even more peculiar is that it’s another straw man argument from Arsene. I don’t know anyone who thinks Jack & Xhaka are balanced midfield partnership….but I’ve never heard anyone say the reason they don’t think they’re balanced is because they’re both left footed…

A Different George
A Different George

I have indeed seen it argued that the presence of three left-footers (Ozil is the other) has been a problem in our midfield. Half the comments on this post agree with that argument.

Kwame Ampadu Down
Kwame Ampadu Down

‘Half the comments on this post agree with that argument.’

Really ?? I think you might be seeing things you want to see….there’s maybe one & I’m not even sure that person was referring to it

badaab
badaab

This just in: stubborn man refuses to admit he might be wrong when evidence shown to him!

Matt
Matt

whats the evidence that a midfield 2 with the same dominant side leaves the midfield unbalanced?

Malaysian gunner
Malaysian gunner

There has been no balance for the last 10 years.His md/defence have been made up of under sized guys.
Hopefully a PV4 can come in .The cd are all ageing and slow.
Time for change and reports of the Italian coming in
will be good news for all gooer fans.

antgoon
antgoon

I’m sorry but i’m still not convinced by Xhaka. I think Wenger keeps starting him because he doesn’t like to be proven wrong and we have not much option.

Fizan
Fizan

I agree- I just do not think he that good or what he actually does bar one good ball over the Top.

Lewdoo92
Lewdoo92

His comments on the back 3 give credence to the idea that Wenger doesn’t understand/believe what a DM is. You can play as many centre backs as you want – without a structured midfield you are putting the defense under pressure and just waiting for the mistakes to cost us goals.

I don’t think there are any midfield combinations we could play at the moment apart from maybe one with AMN that gives us any level of tackling, physical or defensively minded balance.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

Let’s be real.
AMN may be a DM, but even if he turns up to be spectacular as a DM, he’ll get the Wenger treatment and get converted into a B2B CM ala Song, Flamini and Coq before him.

Soon he’ll be deep in the opposition box as the opponents perform a rapid counter transition on us through the centre and we’ll all be asking where AMN was and call him shit and wonder if he was ever that good anyways.

Repeat ad infinitum.

karl
karl

It is not two left footers that is the problem. Xhaka losing possession easily and his partner always being an attacking midfielder (Wilshere or Ramsey) is the issue. Maybe a 3 in midfield with AMN, because there is no other player that looks good enough to cover defensive areas.

Drew Dewsall

How is this even a thing? Nobody would give two shits if they were both right footed.

Goonerest
Goonerest

Ignore them mate. It’s just ignorant left-footedists

He\'s+got+no+hair+but+we+don\'t+care...
He\'s+got+no+hair+but+we+don\'t+care...

True. It’s you and treating cash as it’s your own and stubbornness in general that unbalances things.

Faisal Narrage
Faisal Narrage

“they want to sort out the problems defensively and tactically. I think that will improve.
“They sort out problems on the pitch by getting used to each other.”

Probably just me, but I find a few things concerning about this line. Words like “they”, “I think” and most of all “sort out the problems by getting use to each other” rather than “we need to practise and drill at training/coaching” just adds credence that Wenger just kinda leaves players to sort things out themselves.

kaius
kaius

It’s pretty obvious now that the reason Arsenal never replaced Vieira and Gilberto is Wenger has never felt the need to replicate their impact.

The same year Vieira retired (2005) was the same year Chelsea bought Michael Essien from Olympique Marseille. Essien would have been huge for us. But Wenger started going with Barca-lite midfields of Flamini and Cesc. He’s still making the same mistake with Xhaka and Wilshere and it’s going to cost us a lot of points this season.

Santori
Santori

Yes but we have no creative options on the right, particularly players who can stretch play.

We are reliant on either young Nelson or one trick pony Walcott.

with Ozil, he will generally tuck in even if playing wider.

So we instead rely on Bellerin to make up width which has potential consequences further back when the ball gets turned over.

We really ought to be looking at a Mahrez type player who can provide both technical ability but also better creativity to Walcott (not difficult)

At 26yrs, the Algerian is fully blooded in the PL (unlike say Pavon)

Yes he is more expensive but I think at this point, Wenger is not thinking straight in buying too young.

We are about to lose one most possibly two of our top assets. We need players who have demonstrable capabilities NOW.

IF that means spending higher, he should seriously consider it because at 68yrs with a year to go on contract, he should not be thinking of building for future. We need results in the NOW.

AND we need to build up the marketability of the club again which will undoubtedly take a hit from high profile departures never mind current results.

Trying to build a team for the future is entirely the wrong approach for Wenger.

In any case we have enough potential perculating that have as yet delivered.

What we need is ready made ability from market.

bdotm
bdotm

The issue in that midfield is the lack of a proper ball winner, someone who can sit in front of the defence and screen. A lot of people never rated Song (I’ll never understand why) but I’d give an arm to have him right now. Coq is the only one with such characteristics in the squad and we are about to sell him. We don’t learn, remember how shit we were defensively before we brought him back. By all means play beautiful and expansive football and buy a DM that can initiate attacks from the back and is pretty on the ball but for all intents and purposes make sure he is a proper ball winner first and foremost. Playing three centre halves has not solved this problem for us , might be because of the personnel anyway but that’s an issue for another day