Song and Denilson: Arsenal’s worst-ever central midfield?

Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal

5 Live’s commentator referred to us as ‘troubled’ Arsenal throughout the match and Motty said it again on Match of the Day. Let’s face it, it’s a moniker that is well deserved.

At some point this club will hit rock-bottom, at which the only way can be up. We’re not there yet though I suspect. Yesterday was just dismal. Shambolic at the back and toothless in midfield, Arsenal’s confidence is so low that all the problems we have (exhaustively) spoken about were magnified ten-fold.

In defence, we looked rag-tag. Silvestre and Clichy keystone-copped it to gift City their first goal in first-half injury time, then at the death Djourou, looking to get in on the act, gave a daft penalty away. This defence has now conceded 18 league goals – which is just about the amount a title-winning side tends to concede all season. I feel sorry for Gavin Hoyte, an 18-year-old who was given his debut. When the rest of the team is struggling to pick itself up off the floor, he was always going to struggle and how hard must it have been for him?

Midfield – ah yes, midfield. Denilson and Song, or Petit and Vieira? Denilson and Song, or Flamini and Fabregas? No use making the comparison really but I can only say that it’s the worst central midfield I’ve ever seen Arsenal put out, right up there with Selley and Hillier.

To me, Denilson and Song are part of the problem. I’m not saying neither player will never be good enough to play for Arsenal (though I’ll be honest, I have my doubts), but they’re certainly not ready now, and especially not when the chips are as down as they are now. They are simply not good enough at present, and getting a competent, combative and spiky central midfielder in January is top of the list. How many other Premier League sides would accept the combination of Denilson and Song over what they have now? Not many I wager.

Up front, we had a few chances, but not many. One of our myriad current issues is that we’re not creating our way out of trouble – next to nothing against Villa, and not enough again yesterday. It’s a by-product of draining confidence.

What of Wenger? Well whatever he really thinks, he is rather sensibly masking it. He had the temerity to suggest that the win flattered City – but I suspect he’s just trying to protect what is left of his side’s belief.

He also ping-ponged away any question of Gallas, as if swapping captains and leaving him at home was an ordinary occurrence. He even suggested his Arsenal career is not over. “Obviously he has a future at the club,” said Wenger.

He does have a future – it’s about a month long, in Arsenal terms. And it’s probably a future in the reserves. I can’t see any way back for Gallas now, though on yesterday’s balance, past errors and media outbursts aside, he’s still our most accomplished defender.

With Gallas gone as captain, I’m confident things will start to iron themselves out. And with a few of yesterday’s absentees back – Fabregas and Adebayor in particular – we might be able to drag ourselves out of the mire.

Starting against Kiev of course. Let’s get a win under our belts before Chelsea on Saturday.


Arsenal since about 1979. Thick, thin and all that.