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Arsenal Poll: Who should replace Aaron Ramsey in the midfield?

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Arsenal go into their game against West Ham without a crucial lynchpin; what should they do?

Southampton v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Added to the frustration of Arsenal’s last grasp draw with Southampton on the weekend, was the realization that Aaron Ramsey was injured, being mostly unable to run at the end of the match. Today, Arsene Wenger confirmed what we had feared; Ramsey is out for the next match. Where it is a minor issue or one of Ramsey’s patented three week layoffs is yet to be determined but the boss feels it will be short.

Still, it means rotation and a tricky selection for Wenger. Arsenal’s recent subsistence on the 3-4-3 has largely succeed due to the industry of the Welshman. For all the controversy over Aaron’s quality, a lot of the attacking prowess the team enjoys is greatly boasted by the rampaging midfielder, which Ramsey has backed up with, for the most part, with tracking back and adding midfield support. Without that energy, the system could struggle (as was chatted about in our excellent podcast The Fusillade which everyone should go listen to).

So who should replace Aaron Ramsey at the heart of Arsenal’s midfield?

Jack Wilshere

It’s been a long road for Jack Wilshere. From being on of the most highly touted youths in the Premier League, to preforming very well, to endless injuries, to loans, to finally being brought back into the Arsenal fold in a largely second string role. It’s hard not to want to root for Jack as he embodies a lot of what we seem enjoy about Arsenal; boat loads of skill, bit of brashness and long injury layoffs. Wait, scratch that last one.

Still, full credit to him for keeping with it. Lately, Wilshere has begun to string together a fine group of performances in the Europa and Carabao Cups. Perhaps lacking some of his original flair and confidence, he still has been decently effective if not quite ready for first team football. His brilliant performance against an awful BATE non-withstanding, thoughts that he was going to take a midfield role from any first team player was a long shot at best.

Now seems to be his chance, however, whether or not he can effectively work in a 3-4-3 remains to be seen. Stepping into Ramsey’s spot in a high tempo game is immediately going to ask a lot more of the Englishman than he has had to contend with all year. A fare bit more attack minded, Wilshere is a player who likes to be on the ball and pull some strings, where Ramsey likes to make quicker passes and find space to rush into and create chances. Jack is likely to eat more possession, taking it away from Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, which should he not be highly effective, could blunt the attack.

Still, what he brings to the attack is a lot of forward thinking, excellent dribbling and, if BATE aren’t to be dismissed as too terrible for consideration, some good passing over the top and perhaps even a goal. If Wenger chooses to reward Jack for his play, this would be the most offensive option he could go with.

Mohamed Elneny

Mohamed Elneny feels like a forgotten man. Since his arrival, he’s played a fairly quite game and only scored one goal, albeit a barn burner of a shot against Barcelona. Asked to play a more defensive game than the likes of Ramsey or Wilshere, his tenure has been defined by a more conservative approach to the deep midfield than one Granit Xhaka. He could be viewed as a low risk option: a lot of positional defense but not a lot of attack.

As it is an away game, this could stifle a lot of West Ham’s chances, with Xhaka and Elneny working to break up attacks and use their wingbacks to drive play forward. However, it could also lead to a large gap between the front three and the defense which West Ham could exploit to make Arsenal’s chances few and far between. It would require some very good vision from either midfielder and perhaps Alexis dropping deeper to collect the ball to make the formation work.

Still, Elneny has continued in quiet yet efficient play that, out of Wenger’s options, provides the most predictable performance for Wednesday’s match, which might be more important that individual strategies.

Francis Coquelin

For years, the argument over the use of Francis Coquelin has raged. From the days his partnership with Santi Cazorla was seen as a must, Coquelin has become more diminished in his stature at Arsenal. Whatever your opinion of him lies, he remains a fairly one dimensional player: pressure players, make the tackle, get the ball, give it to someone to do something with.

This season, his role has also been largely among the second string. Unfortunately, where in the case of Wilshere and Elneny, it hasn’t led to any dominant or interesting performances. Coquelin remains Coquelin. Good at tackling and not much else. His biggest plus seems to be that he has played in a group of games where he has not hurt Arsenal in any major way.

So why would Wenger choose him? Well, frankly because he is the most senior option and a player who seems to excel when given simple orders. “Go out there and disrupt the attack” is all you need tell Coquelin and then trust the remaining 10 players on the pitch do their part. It’s the sort of game plan that might just suit a side heading into the tiring Christmas period. Go play, be simple and get a goal.

One day, the ball is going to fall kindly to Coquelin and he’ll score his first goal for Arsenal and on that day I’m going to celebrate a little extra since it’s not his role. But it isn’t likely to be in a Premier League game and as Arsenal need goals, I wouldn’t want to bank on a Xhaka-Coquelin midfield.

The Choice

Despite his insistence on sticking to a system, the real choice might be to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation, bringing in the likes of Iwobi or Walcott to help the attack and play a more conservative back two in the midfield. With injured centerbacks, this makes extra sense, should Wenger not be convinced by Mertesacker’s form or that of his younger defenders. Such a system would benefit with Xhaka-Elneny behind the attack.

Yet, Wenger is a stubborn man. Should he continue with 3-4-3, only Jack Wilshere offers the attacking strengths to cover for Aaron Ramsey. Despite the chance that he might hog the ball, his positivity makes sense and if he can routinely find Ozil, Alexis or Lacazette (or Giroud if he gets the rare start), then his inclusion allows Arsenal to take the game to West Ham more than other options.

What do you think? Let’s us know if there’s another option in the comments.

Poll

Who should replace Ramsey against West Ham?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    Jack Wilshere
    (666 votes)
  • 8%
    Mohamed Elneny
    (67 votes)
  • 3%
    Francis Coquelin
    (29 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (clarify in the comments)
    (14 votes)
776 votes total Vote Now