Arsenal Won’t Regret Spurning Schneiderlin
Spurning is maybe not the best choice of word, especially when you think Arsenal weren’t interested in Schneiderlin in the first place.
Manchester United capturing the signature of Schneiderlin for the princely sum of £25 million has caused much consternation since it was announced as the French midfielder has long been an object of desire for many Arsenal supporters.
The worry for many now is a lack of recruitment options to reinforce the defensive midfield position in the unthinkable scenario of a long-term injury to Francis Coquelin. To many, Schneiderlin seemed like the perfect player with his Premier League experience, impressive stats and style of play.
It is felt that Wenger and Arsenal will regret not going in for Schneiderlin when an injury to Coquelin could see Arteta or Flamini thrust into the starting line-up for an extended run. I don’t think he will regret it.
Certainly, Schneiderlin has many attributes one would associate with the defensive midfield role but I have always felt he is more akin to a traditional midfielder – the sort of midfielder who existed before such mythical creatures as defensive midfielders – someone who does a bit of everything. Nowadays we call them box to box midfielders and some are more attacking than others and some more defensive.
Schneiderlin could have adapted his game to take up the midfield anchor role but I believe it would have limited him and we may have found ourselves in a Song situation within a year at most.
It is easy to forget what an excellent defensive midfielder Song was in the two years before Fabregas left as a lack of creativity in the side gave him an open invitation to get forward and spray a few sexy passes around. Sadly, Song got a taste for being the assist maker and neglected his defensive duties.
Coquelin too was guilty of this in his early career with Arsenal. The Coquelin we benefited so much from last season is largely indistinguishable in ability and style from his first Arsenal incarnation but like Song he got the taste for attacking and soon found himself on the fringes of the team and then shipped out on loan after loan. Arsenal needed someone to sacrifice themselves for the team and two players with promising futures showed they were not up to the task.
When Coquelin returned from loan in December it was to fill a bench place and make up the numbers but he rediscovered his selfless mentality and curbed his attacking desires to cement his place within the team. He is fortunate to have been given a second chance in an Arsenal team full of creativity so the opportunities to get forward are fewer and as such he is much less tempted to attempt to live out lofty dreams of being a ‘Trequartista’.
The job of a midfield anchor – made famous by Makelele, whose name has been appropriated by the position but possibly is more deserved by Turyanchyk – is about so much more than tackling. It is a hard job that few are suited to. It requires hard-graft, vision tempered by risk aversion, and positional excellence.
A top quality defensive midfielder can force a complete change of pace, direction, formation and momentum just by moving a few paces to cut off a line. As silky as they can be in possession it is their work off the ball that makes the difference – and the role. Statistics for interceptions and tackles are yardsticks but you can never truly appreciate what they do unless you watch them closely for a full game. Much like Mertesacker, who is much maligned for his lack of pace, their best work is done in the inconspicuous moves they make. Acute positioning that goes unnoticed and unappreciated unless you give them your undivided attention.
I don’t think Schneiderlin in that player. He is much more a traditional midfielder who does his best work when in possession of the ball. I am certain he could have been a great addition to our squad but £25 million is a lot of money for a player who would either need to adapt to a new position, in turn limiting their talent, or find themselves behind 2-3 other players in the pecking order.
Morgan Schneiderlin in a great midfielder but in the Arsenal squad he would be behind a fit Ramsey and Wilshere. As a pure DM he would be behind Coquelin too.
Schneiderlin is certainly better suited to a more traditional midfield role and does his best work when in possession of the ball. If we want competition or back up to Coquelin we have to consider signing players who are more able to perform in his role. Spending big on players who need to adapt isn’t the answer.
If we are to sign a player it will be a significant upgrade on our starting players not our backup players who we will – in any circumstance and regardless of who they are – spend most of the season hoping the manager never has a reason to play.
Big money for a player somewhere in-between the players we have and not as good as in the specific roles they have in the team seems like a step backwards. I’m sure Schneiderlin will do well at Manchester United but I doubt we will regret not signing him any more than we do Fellaini, N’Zonzi, Cabaye or Diame.
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