Arsenal Depot

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Yann M’Vila Is The Right Answer, But What Is The Question?

As is customary in the summer, the hills are alive with the sound of transfer gossip – Arsenal’s interest in Yann M’Vila in particular is echoing incessantly around news sites and football blogs.

The main justification for buying the £17m-rated midfielder seems to be our poor defensive record this season. Alex Song’s metamorphism into a creative playmaker is cited as the reason for a strong physical presence to shield the back line, someone disciplined enough to stay back and mop up when our own attacks break down. M’Vila also has a good long ball in his armoury which would add a different dimension to Arsenal’s attacking play.

Before I go further, let me make it clear I am not disputing the quality of Yann M’Vila. By all accounts, he is a very talented player and if he were to arrive, I am sure he would be successful at Arsenal. As the title suggests, Yann M’Vila is the right answer. What this article aims to do is look at whether he would answer the questions posed of Arsenal in the present.

Yann The Mann

There is no argument that our defending needs sorting out. Individual errors played some part in Arsenal’s concession of 49 goals, so having new personnel would help. But most of the chances we allowed to the opposition were down to a lack of defensive cohesion as a team. Full backs being caught up the pitch, midfielders not spotting danger early, runs of opposing players not tracked and lack of communication are all allegations levelled against the Gunners, which indicate a problem with the whole rather than just one or two parts.

These issues are unlikely to magically disappear with M’Vila’s arrival. Even if the Avengers line up in front of Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal troubles will continue unless work is done on the training ground to address our weaknesses as a team.

If it happened, the positives from M’Vila’s move to the Emirates would be:

1. He’ll add defensive solidity and real steel to the midfield (see this chart for defensive stats comparison)
2. He’s only 21 and can develop into a world-class player
3. He’s French and will fit in seamlessly
4. He would be a marquee signing and appease a large section of fans

At the same time, let’s look at some of the other consequences of his arrival:e

1. Alex Song or Mikel Arteta will benched for extended periods
2. Possible departure of Alex Song
3. Limited game time for Coquelin and Frimpong

The deep-lying ball-recycling role perfected by Mikel Arteta was extremely vital to our success, highlighted by the fact Arsenal managed just one victory without the Spaniard the entire season. Alex Song has the fourth highest assists (11) and tops the league in most accurate through-balls per game (0.7).

With M’Vila’s arrival, Alex Song’s place in the team would be most under threat. There is a more complete footballer underneath that outer coat of defensive paint and a lot of the underlying primer of creativity has been revealed this season. At this stage of his career, the Cameroonian will want to play regularly – it would be a shame to let him go at a time when his complete talents are just beginning to blossom.

We also have to remember that unlike at City, Chelsea or even United, Arsenal do not pay the high wages to keep top-class players happy on the bench. While every player wants to be involved, the fact that you’re getting paid £150k for doing bugger-all is surely cause for comfort. Which is precisely why Arsenal’s bench is so often criticized as lacking depth.

Also, there’s the small matter of the returning Jack Wilshere and his starting position in the team. Will he continue to play in the deep-lying role or move up behind the striker as an attacking midfielder? This will create a further dilemma for Arsene Wenger.

Still, I feel the Gunners need to reinforce the midfield to cover for the inevitable injuries and suspensions. But I reckon we would be better off looking for the kind of player that does not produce the negative consequences that M’Vila’s move would. Someone with experience, good work rate and a professional ethic. Someone who can accept time on the bench and would not be harmful to the development of younger players. Someone who is not that high-priced and would not demand the wages M’Vila might be looking for.

Of course, there aren’t many midfielders out there with those qualities that are also available. Players who come close like Michael Carrick, Xabi Alonso and Jeremy Toulalan are unlikely targets because they do not meet one or more criteria.

There is one player though that checks all the boxes. He was linked to Manchester United back in October and has had another strong season with his club. He turns 28 this June and made his second appearance for the national team just a couple of days ago, although he did miss out on inclusion in the Euro squad. The player of course is Villareal and Spain’s Bruno Soriano.

Bruno Who?

Let’s look at Bruno’s statistics first. The table on the right compares the player’s league numbers with those of Mikel Arteta and Yann M’Vila. While judging the numbers, please bear in mind that Villareal have been relegated this season.

As we can see, Bruno has stronger defensive credentials than M’Vila in many areas. While the high number of aerial duels won by Bruno can be attributed to La Liga forwards being shorter and less physical than their counterparts in Ligue 1, the Spanish league is probably the more technical of the two so Soriano’s 5.6 interceptions per game are quite impressive.

While his average passes per game is slightly lower than Yann’s, Bruno has a better pass completion percentage. And although he doesn’t match up to the Frenchman’s 7.7 long balls per game, Soriano does outdo his compatriot Arteta in that respect.

The fact that he’s scored three goals and conceded the least turnovers of the three players suggests a well-rounded player. Which is why there was interest in him last year and that interest is likely to intensify now that Villareal have been relegated.

Having not seen much of the player except for a Villareal game at Manchester City earlier in the season, I contacted one of the most prominent supporters club of the Yellow Submarine, VillarealUSA to get their views on Bruno’s qualities. Below are some of the observations made by them.

* Bruno will do the dirty work and is happy for his midfield colleagues to receive the accolades
* He is a late bloomer and came through the Villarreal youth system (cantera)
* His offensive instincts picked up in 2011-12 when he scored his first three La Liga goals

On the possibility of a transfer to Arsenal and the Premier League, Allen Dodson of VillarealUSA felt that it would be a challenge to convince Bruno to move to England at this stage of his career and he may also find the physicality of the English game hard to deal with.

In addition, the player is Villareal through and through – he’s gone on record to say he has no qualms about playing in the second division. Bruno has effectively left his future in the hands of Villareal chairman Fernando Roig to accept any offers they may think fit. While Valencia have expressed interest, the poor relations between the two clubs mean Villareal have outright rejected a transfer to the La Liga club.

On other hand, the financial realities of relegation may force Villareal to contemplate parting with one of their most prized assets. Transfermarkt lists Bruno’s value around €10m or £8.8m which would be within Arsenal’s range. The player’s wage demands would not pose any problems either. According to Siempre_Riquelme of VillarealUSA, Bruno is a consummate professional and is unlikely to have any complaints if he started the season as second-choice. Could Mikel Arteta’s presence help persuade Bruno to consider the move?

While Bruno would definitely not be a glamour signing, Arsenal have been criticized in recent seasons for not having professionals like him in the squad. The vital contributions of Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun this season cannot be overlooked. Unlike Yann M’Vila, Bruno’s arrival would not pose a threat to Alex Song or stifle the development of the youngsters.

Of course, Arsenal’s last signing from Spain, a certain seasoned professional named Sebastian Squillaci has struggled to find the form he displayed at Sevilla. Also, if Bruno’s transfer does happen, it would be another player from a relegated team that would join Arsenal, Lukas Podolski already having sealed his move from Koln. Not the statement of intent most fans are looking for but does that in itself make the other arguments invalid?

So to come back to the title – Yann M’Vila is probably the right answer if Arsenal are looking to blood a rising star – but that acquisition may cause other potential talents to reconsider their Gunners’ future. On the other hand, Bruno Soriano is probably better suited to our short-term requirements and would not conflict with long-term objectives. Is it an avenue worth pursuing for Arsene Wenger?

Please post your considered thoughts via the comments section.

Until tomorrow.


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31 thoughts on “Yann M’Vila Is The Right Answer, But What Is The Question?

  1. sellarshavin on said:

    Song doesnt need to be benched, he will move into Artetas role and Wilshere will be in the attacking midfield slot.

    • Not sure Song is suited to pulling the strings like Arteta does, he’s just finding his feet in a more advanced role where he’s got the freedom to pick passes. More likely that M’Vila would take Arteta’s place, but he rarely goes forward so that would affect Arsenal’s forward play, don’t you think?

      • Got to agree with you Maverick. Song, M’villa and Wilshere, Walcott, RVP and Podolski, come on you must be excited about those prospects.

    • denny on said:

      Arteta wa Arsenal’s key acquistion, to talk of diplacing him is madness

    • Abayomi on said:

      If Song should move into Arteta’s roe and Wilshere comes on.. What about Arteta?

  2. Lanz on said:

    I am deeply impressed with your analysis, research and the extra mile you went in bringing us this post. I really wish you would do more of such and hope as well that our scouts read these articles. Kudos.
    Coquelin and Frimpong are not enough competition for Song. Neither for Arteta. They do need competition. However, I am not sure that AW is as interested in M’vila as he was last season, especially as Arteta has become quite a revelation in the DM role.

  3. arsenal-steve on said:

    I am not sure of this article. We now have another name in the cacophony of players we should sign or wait for. Why had the name of Etienne Capoue, Toulouse captain disappeared. He is better than all the names given. Coquelin and Frimpong may never be good enough for a league WINNING side. What is well put is how poor we are as a defensive unit and the reasons why. We must be careful with stats. They are important but deceptive too. The stats do not show nervousness. choice of pass, style of play, level of play, or positional sense. These are not held within the figures even if they flatter to deceive. Your point about Villarreal being relegated does show the amount of attacks
    Soriano would face is greater. Arteta and M’Vila’s stats may be better in that context. Maybe?

  4. OnDGooner on said:

    If his arrival signals the departures of those you have mentioned, what it tells me is that they lack the quality needed in the 1st instance & should never have been bought or that they have failed to develop adequately under Wenger. Remember these kids are 21 years or over, same age in some cases as M’Villa! Wenger should therefore look at his transfer policies.

    • Agree mate but when Wenger bought these players they we 15/16? he has turned them in to the players they are, and that is why all clubs will be following the Arsenal model in the coming years. Buying young talent and nurturing it in to the best it can be. i agree sometimes they will not make the grade but under wenger they normally do.

  5. David John on said:

    Please if the arrival of M’villa is going to pose a threat to others i think through what you guys have said we should go for Bruno.

    • do Man utd say we better not sign Sneider because Cleverly might not get a game, or Chelsea not sign Hazard because Sturrige might have to sit on the bench, if they are better players that makes the team better.

      • arsenal-steve on said:

        At last someone with a sense of reality. If Wenger thought your way we could have a decent team. Wenger has lost his way.

  6. with ur analysis of both players and what they both could bring to the club,i’ll go for Bruno,because am of the view that the likes of wilshere,song, and Arteta should not be obstructed. Reasons is,i see them overshadowing any opposing midfield next season if they stay fit.

    • Who cares about obstruction if they are better players. i love song, arteta, rosicky but it is the team that counts and we can’t not sign someone just because they might be better than a player we like!

      • I’m not saying we shouldn’t sign M’Vila because he’s better. I’m saying we already have players in that position who’ve been very influential this season plus a couple more waiting in the wings. If the main point of buying Yann is to shore up the defense, it’s not just going to happen by him turning up on the pitch if the others continue to play in a disjointed fashion.

  7. If M’vila is a better player than Song i’m sorry but the standard of the team comes first! Why cant Song and M’vila play together? giving us a midfield of real power, protecting the back four and letting the attackers do their thing(score goals), also as you’ve said Song has 11 assists this season so creativity should not be a problem. This would mean us playing 4-4-2 or 4-2-4, M’vila and Song in the centre, Walcott and Podolski on the wings with Wilshere playing the midfield maestro behind RVP. Wilshere is the key his acceleration and ability to turn defence into attack, as well as seeing a pass is just what Arsenal need. I know that a team without Arteta this season did not look as good but with Wilshere returning and 2 midfield rocks a believe we can challenge on all fronts.

  8. Malish Stephen on said:

    These are the quality players that Wenger should not sit back but hurry for them

    Buy this

    Yann,Oliver,Eden,Dempsey,Del-piro,Kagawa,Eriksen, and Dembaba

  9. Good article but i honestly do not think that Bruino is what we need now. The EPL need a player that is fast, strong and proactive. I think we should leave the team management to Wenger. I know that he can cope. How did he manage Patrick Vierra, Gilberto and the english horse rider? He can manage all these players. He will find a suitable way of playing Arteta, Mvilla, Song and Jack. Conquelin and Frimpong’s development will not be compromised that i know for a fact. We must look at this scenario realistically. What will happen to Lansbury if we talking of getting someone to play behind RVP? What do we do with Wellington Silva if we say that we must go to the market for a creative midfielder? How do we handle Jol Cambell situation if we say that Wenger should get another striker? So all these i think we should just leave them to the manager to manage.
    Lastly the issue of solving the problem with our defence, i think with Steve in as the assistant coach, he will focus more on that problem.

  10. Malish Stephen on said:

    Arsenal player out this season


  11. Interesting analysis,But i still think to keep our stars,we need to sign players we are convinced will be fit and ready for the EPL,Bruno is aging and could fail to click though he wont be a bad signing!

  12. denny on said:

    Really good article – I look forward to your posts – by far the best around. Thoughtful, constructive and full of information and reasoning. Don’t always agree but enjoy the read. If we can acquire players that improve our play we should do so. Arteta and Benayoun did so l;ast season. I feel that we need to add creativity to our mix at times we have lacked penetration and we need another high quality striker. Also disappointed we don’t seem to be in the market for another defensive (back 4)player.
    I still believe that our current team is close to being top class and I love the football they produce when playing well. In Arsene I trust.

  13. Abdul on said:

    I think its a great piece, with lot of homework. But I can’t agree few things, like it ll stop growth of young guns. We play enough games for those players to prove their worth and Arsene will give chance. Also remember our medical record. Plus few seasons back Arsene wanted Xabi Alonso but dint buy coz he dint want to pay little more(in mil ofcourse) money and also he said it would kill development of Denilson. Look what happened now, Jack stole Denilson’s spot. Xabi is another version of Arteta, our team would have been much strong if we had got em. If Coq or Frimpong are good enough to start they ll prove it. Once it has happened we ll see who to keep and sell. When promoting Coq or frim (I like both) also remember we had high hopes for Vela. I think we should go for M’vila. Signing M’vila doesn’t mean Song ll be in bench the player in form will play other one will fight for his place, good competence and also good cover during injury. I don’t know about Bruno, stats are excellent, its not just about numbers, Spanish teams attack a lot, his team relegated meaning they would be defending more than attacking, so the numbers could be high due to this reason. He is happy playin second division, it can been seen as loyalty, or home comfort ops lack of ambition. So M’vila is the Answer for our questions. Thanks for this piece, well written and explained.

  14. Maso on said:

    Thank you for the well written article. You have rightly said, Yann is not going to solve Arsenal’s defence problems because we play a very attacking style of play we are always exposed at the back. What we needed is the change of style or to be patient with the ball when we play at home as we do when we are away. We always have 8 players attacking when we are winning the game so I say, Wenger need to the talk team about how to defend. Arteta is experienced and very aware of what is happening around him. If half of the team playem like him, we would have been a better team.

  15. Abel on said:

    Good research but opinions divided

  16. Mfundo on said:

    Well written article, my concern is that we seem to have established a system where young players get a starting role at Arsenal. Remember Pep’s statement taht they have many players like ours in their B squad? Should players not prove their worth through carling cup, etc! The young players must develop and learn from better players! At present we are continuously developing while loosing the same players once they are developed…

  17. bolaji on said:

    we employ a 4-2-3-1 formation, that makes room for song and yann as the two holding midfielders with song roaming and yann staying put, wilshere should be allowed to recuperate properly and not just sloted into the side straight up. Arteta, polds, and either walcott or gerv should fill in behind v.p

  18. Anu henshaw on said:

    The stats are well seen but lets put in mind that a good bench makes a god team,we surfered in previous seasons cos we dint ave good players on the bench and when this players go on injury theres not a good player to cover that role thus theres problem on the field.
    See what happened when song and arteta was on indivdual injury the entire M.F was exposed with M’villa’s arrival there will be more options in D.M for Arsenal,the players will be rotated which puts less pressure on players and reduces the chances of injuries and fatigue.

  19. Tornye on said:

    Nice blog! Yeah Bruno Sariano who indeed!! I’m going to run my own research!

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