Triumvirate: A triumvirate (from Latin: "of three men") is a political regime dominated by three powerful individuals, each a triumvir (pl. triumviri). The arrangement can be formal or informal and, though the three are usually equal on paper, in reality this is rarely the case. There are a number of things to which the fantastic season our wonderful football club is currently enjoying may be attributed. The acquisition of Chamakh, the emergence of Szczesny and Djourou at the back, or the continued spectacular form of Messrs Nasri, Walcott and Van Persie up top could all in some way explain our current run of (generally) good form and, more often than not, spellbindingly good football. However, there is something that usurps all of these factors and shines out as the revelation of the season. That revelation is the emergence of a consistently solid midfield unit consisting of Song, Wilshere and Fabregas. In order to contextualise the magnitude of the discovery of our “Council of Three”, we must briefly explore where it went wrong last season to explain why it’s going so right this season. Cast your mind back to a dismal Sunday evening in late November 2009 when we witnessed Cashley and co run complete riot against us in our own backyard, leaving us 11 points adrift of the league leaders. On that day our midfield three of Song, Cesc and the much-maligned Denilson were often left standing against a robust and clinical Chelsea side (things change quickly, eh?). Fast-forward a little over a year and the Arsenal – featuring the new triumvirate of Song, Cesc and Wilshere - pull off an emphatic 3-1 win to go second in the table, just two points shy of leaders United. You may also (somewhat reluctantly) remember the 3-2 defeat away at Wigan, where a trio of Rosicky, Eastmond and Diaby all helped to
ArsenAl’s CounCil of Three
Matt Woods likes a threesome contribute to one of the most embarrassing capitulations I’ve ever seen from an Arsenal side. Again, contrast that to this term, where we’ve seen impressive and resolute victories in tricky away ties at places like Wolves, Everton and West Ham, to name but a few. Who were the midfield three for Arsenal in all of those games? Yep, you guessed it… On a rudimentary and fairly obvious level, the reason that a midfield three of Song, Jack and Cesc works so brilliantly is because each of them is an incredibly gifted footballer. Yet crucially, beneath the exterior of palpable, mouth-watering talent that all three players clearly possess is an understanding - an almost telepathic bond of the kind that was last witnessed between Vieira and Petit many moons ago. Though they are all different players performing slightly differing roles for the team, the reason the trio appear so effortlessly congruous with one another in the middle of the park is because they are all graduates of Arsène Wenger’s school of football. They play the game how it’s meant to be played but, more than that, they play it together. You may, or may not, be aware that often, when a lady spends a length of time with another lady, a certain monthly event that the two ladies may have previously experienced at different times will begin to occur at the same time. Think of this rather crude analogy as applicable to our midfield triumvirate. Though perhaps not instantly getting results, as the three bedded in together and began playing with one another week-in, weekout, they’ve appeared to synchronise just like our aforementioned lady friends. All three are intelligent enough to know where to be in relation to their two team mates, and dynamic enough to adjust accordingly in differing game situations. These are attributes that players such as Denilson and Diaby lack. As a brief aside, the emergence of Walcott and Nasri as first choice “wingers” (if you can really label them as such in 4 the system we play) means that, when required, we can effectively play 4-5-1, with Sam and Theo dropping off into midfield when the need arises. Any successful relationship requires balance. Though it is fair to say that Cesc lies at the fulcrum of our triumvirate, without his two supporting men behind him his freedom at the higher end of the pitch would be limited. All too often in the past Fabregas has been shackled in and around the centre circle, having to help out one of either Diaby or Denilson (or, in some depressing cases, both). With the current system, Cesc can play safe in the knowledge that he can remain positioned where he is most effective, between the opposition’s midfield and defensive lines, while Wilshere and Song will perform the role of “watercarriers”. The home game against Chelsea was a brilliant example of this working in practice. Jack and Alex harried and hassled the usually unshakable Chelsea midfield into making mistakes before quickly dispatching to Cesc who, positioned higher up the field, was instrumental in all three of our goals. Though Song is established as the more defensive of the two, Wenger realises that both Song and Wilshere are far too able with the ball at their feet to be pigeonholed into the typical “anchorman” role. The position the pair occupy in the defensive area of midfield signals a new kind of defensive-midfielder, a modern evolution of a position that was described in the last decade as the “Makelele role”. Though both players are obviously told first and foremost to offer protection to the back four, they are also encouraged to engage with our onrushing full-backs, who in
Cesc can play safe in the knowledge that he can remain positioned where he is most effective…while Wilshere and Song will perform the role of water-carriers many games where we are the stronger team tend to play as wing-backs, offering the midfield width. Added to this, the pair find themselves involved with the forward line when appropriate, far more than a “Makelele” would ever be allowed – think Song’s goal against Chelsea or Wilshere’s diving header after bursting into the box at Villa Park. Comparisons can clearly be made to the club that have twice in two seasons eliminated Arsenal from Europe, Barcelona. Barca are the pioneers of the system Wenger is attempting to implement with his Arsenal team. Regardless of who claims to have created such a system, they are the undisputed masters of it, playing with an intuition far and above any other team on the planet. Given time I see Wilshere coming slightly further up the field and being deployed as an equivalent to Iniesta, with Song as our Busquets and Cesc our Xavi. Having enjoyed a fantastic start to their relationship, the long-term success of our “Council of Three” lies in challenges beyond the recent Champions League tie.