Despite Wenger’s efforts in the summer transfer market, Arsenal are still not the finished article and one of the areas that needs to be urgently addressed is the defensive midfield position. The Gunners lack real steel in the middle of the park and that has been the major Achilles heel when playing direct title rivals. Last season, it came to the fore as the Gunners slumped to heavy defeats away from home at the Etihad (6-3), Anfield (5-1), Stamford Bridge (6-0) and Goodison Park (3-0).
The frailties in the middle has started showing already this season in the big games especially against Dortmund at the Signa Iduna Park and also Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge. Failure to get Cavarlho in the summer meant Arsene had to keep faith with the two musketeers; Arteta and Flamini but both players have fallen short of the weight of expectation placed on their shoulders. Arteta’s injury has been recurring while Flamini has been a walking risk no thanks to his rash challenges.
Without doubt, the need for a defensive midfielder is obvious even to the blind and Wenger cannot afford to ignore it but the problem is who does he bring in that can help both in domestic competitions and even in the Champions League because barring unforeseen circumstances, Arsenal would be through to the knockout stages of the Champions League alongside Dortmund.
Cavarlho who was Arsenal’s top target even till deadline day is already cup tied in Europe and should Arsenal manage to prise him away from the Portuguese giants, he won’t be able to feature for them in Europe. Also, the issue of the fee. If Sporting didn’t budge in the summer, what are the chances that they would in the winter window when they know most teams that shop then are doing so out of desperacy to salvage their season. I doubt if he would be cheaper.
Khedira another name been mooted is more of a box to box midfielder and we already have Ramsey in that mould. He won’t cure Arsenal’s defensive midfield ailment. That throws up the name of long term target Luis Gustavo. The Brazilian midfielder has been on Arsenal’s radar for a long time before he moved to Bayern and when he opted to move to Wolfsburg. Gustavo is perfectly fit to solve the midfield conundrum at the Emirates. He stands at 6 ft 2, maybe not as tall as Chelsea’s Matic that stands at 6 ft 4 but certainly taller than City’s Fernandinho who stands at 5 ft 9 and the Arsenal duo of Arteta (6 ft) and Flamini (5 ft 10). Against Chelsea, none of Arsenal’s defensive midfielders could stand toe to toe with Matic, Gustavo would do that. He has the physical presence to compete with the Serbian tower.
Besides playing in the defensive midfield position, he could also act as emergency centre back as we are currently short there especially with Chambers having to fill in at right back owing to Debuchy’s injury. He could also play left back in the absence of Gibbs. Most Arsenal fans have their heart in their mouths whenever Wenger has to turn to the Spaniard in the absence of the English defender. Getting Gustavo would be akin to getting one peg that could plug many leaking holes.
Prising Gustavo from Wolfsburg won’t be so difficult as Arsenal already have the lure of Champions League football and I bet he misses the competition especially after enjoying it for many seasons at Bayern Munich. He loathed leaving Bayern and guess that’s one of the reasons why he did but had to leave owing to his limited role in the team but he knows that at Arsenal, regular run of first team football awaits him since he is a natural defensive midfielder, versatile and younger than the current incumbents.
Arsenal tend to develop cold feet when the price of a player is astronomically high but I don’t expect that happening in the case of Gustavo. While I don’t expect him to come cheap but his release clause is still way cheaper than that of Cavarlho. Should his release clause be triggered, Wolfsburg would have no other choice than to sanction his sale.