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Ranking the central midfielders for the Mikel Arteta era

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 23: Mikel Arteta the manager / head coach of Arsenal and Granit Xhaka at full time during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Everton FC at Emirates Stadium on February 23, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

Perhaps Arsenal’s greatest position to solve this summer will be central midfield. But first, Mikel Arteta must work out what he already has at the club. Here are the present central midfielders ranked in order of utility for the looming rebuild.

Mikel Arteta is in the process of conducting a rebuild at Arsenal. And there might not be a position in the entire squad that needs more attention than central midfield. Spending is not necessarily vital, although it would, of course, be helpful. But Arteta will need to shuffle through his pack, determine what he can demand of the players he has at his disposal, and build off that information.

So, with that in mind, here is my ranking for the current central midfielders in the squad in regards to how useful they are in an Arteta rebuild — I have not included Emile Smith Rowe or Mesut Ozil as they are more attacking midfielders, while Mohamed Elneny is also not included because he is on loan.

Arsenal, Joe Willock

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND – JANUARY 27: Joe Willock of Arsenal controls the ball during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Bournemouth AFC and Arsenal FC at Vitality Stadium on January 27, 2020 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

5. Joe Willock

Whether Joe Willock is better in a deeper central midfield position or pushed higher up the pitch remains to be seen. Unai Emery used him in both roles, with his more impressive performances coming deeper, where he could pick up the ball and carry it forwards or make late runs into the box, showing off his deceptive knack for goalscoring. However, Arteta has predominantly used Willock as a deputy for Ozil.

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Nevertheless, Willock has shown an aptitude to play deeper in midfield and at just 20 years of age, he still has plenty of time to learn a new role in a new system and develop. His greatest asset is his ball carrying. Willock is unique in the Arsenal squad in this instance. His dribbling is a little ungainly and gangly at times. He is always on the cusp of losing control of the ball without ever actually doing so. But it is direct, progressive, and injects speed and purpose into attacking moves. No other midfielder can replicate it.

That said, while Willock is an intriguing talent, he has severe shortcomings — his touch is loose, his passing is inconsistent, and he struggles in tight spaces when he cannot drive forwards. He would also require at the very least an adaptation of position. For those reasons, despite his talent and youth, he ranks fifth in the squad.

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