Much has been made of Arsenal’s recent woes in midfield in the absence of Cazorla (injury), Ramsey (injury) & losing Elneny to the African Cup Of Nations. This leaving Arsenal with two recognised central midfield players in Granit Xhaka & Francis Coquelin. It wasn’t until the 28th of January in the 4th round of the FA cup Vs Southampton where we saw Chamberlian play in the engine room.
In that match Arsenal deployed a much yearned for 4-3-3 by the Arsenal fans as opposed to the usual 4-2-3-1. Chamberlian was accompanied by two rookies in Maitland-Niles & Reine Adelaide in midfield. He prospered in this particular outing, with 88 touches, 62 passes completed, 91% passing accuracy, 3 chances created, 2 tackles and 2 interceptions. Now it’s worth noting that Southampton fielded a relatively inexperienced, weakend side, but those numbers are impressive. Mainland-Niles operated at the base of the midfield trident , often receiving off the centre backs to progress play. Chamberlian exhibited a real appetite to help his colleague in the build as his 88 passes show. One thing to note is Chamberlian dynamism & creativity in possession. Often midfielders can be passive in possession and act merely as a ball circulating tool. As the 3 chances created suggest, Chamberlain is very creative in possession. This best demonstrated by his pinpoint outside of the boot pass to Lucas Perez in the games closing stages. With 2 tackles & 2 interceptions too, Chamberlian showed his worth out of possession, a near complete midfield performance.
Struggles out wide
Chamberlain’s emergence in midfield has been refreshing due to his fluctuating form on the flanks. With 6 goals & 7 assists this term, it’s the English international’s must productive campaign to date, however, Arsenal fans weren’t quite satisfied with his performances out wide. Playing out wide often restricts your infuelcne in build up play & focuses more on getting in 1v1 duels with the opposition full back or making out to in runs behind back line. This simply isn’t Chamberlian’s game. His compatriot Theo Walcott is a master of this trade & Arsene Wenger has favoured him over Chamberlian for much of the season. On the other flank, Iwobi has been used regularly. This for his neat movement between the lines & using him as link player from defence to attack. So whether it be beating the offside trap with an incisive run like Walcott or coming inside, between lines like Iwobi, neither of which suit Chamberlian’s game.
Thriving in a chaotic structure
Personnel isn’t the only problem at Arsenal. Much has been made of their abject system in & out of possession.
Here we see Arsenal’s disorientated 1 man counterpress (Coquelin) results in a Bayern-Munich counterattack. Xhaka & Coquelin simply don’t have the recovery pace to get behind the ball & regain shape. In this dysfunctional system, recovery pace is paramount. As the CM’s often have to chase back as they’re asked to lock on high up without a structured attacking system in place. In this particular match (Arsenal-Bayern) Chamberlain was deployed on the right in a 4-2-3-1. Arsenal found it very taxing to circulate possession & build through the CB’s & CM’s. This was largely due to Coquelin’s negligence in offering a passing option for the CB’s. Xhaka was often left on his own in the 1st phase which attracts a press as there’s no rotation. https://twitter.com/11tegen11/status/831984165369348097
This pass map shows Arsenal’s patent lack of structure & options in the 1st phase.
Chamberlain is very willing, competent builder in the 1st phase, making him active across all thirds, akin to Naby Keita, Marik Hamsik & Wylan Cyprien to name a few.
Here we see Chamerlain in the 1st phase building attacks and progressing play.
A further attribute to Chamberlain’s game which is a very practical tool in the middle of the park is his immense ball carrying ability & pressure resistance. In Cazorla’s absence, Arsenal have lacked a midfielder who can act has a ‘get out of jail free card’ when bypassing pressure. Due to Arsenal’s poor spacing & structure in possession, these pressure resistant players are imperative to bypassing pressure and not losing possession in dangerous areas.
Amid Arsenal’s midfield problems, fans have pondered over potential signings in the summer who can fill the void of the perennially injured Cazorla & Ramsey, but have Arsenal found their midfield dynamo from an unlikely source. Possessing athleticism, & a good engine, good technique, Chamberlain possesses all the tools to cement his position in central midfield.