Arsenal, balance, Vieira and the 'Three Midfielders Theory'.
A successful team needs perfect balance between attacking ability and defensive ability. The central midfield of a team is a key area for achieving the outcome of perfect balance. For it is not only the zone that links defence and attack together, it is also the zone that can amplify both these elements.
Last season Arsenal had perfect balance between attack and defense. Gilberto, Edu or Parlour sat next to Vieira and these partnerships in the centre of the pitch would support the defence and attack with equal high ability. In other words, the team had perfect balance.
This season Gilberto, Parlour and Edu have been unavailable for almost all of the season. Pat has fatigued in effectively doing the work of one and a half midfielders to support the inexperienced Flamini and Fabregas: Fabregas is not an able defender, and Flamini is not an able attacker. With the centre of the pitch weakened, the team accordingly has not had perfect balance.
Result: the team has not achieved the consistency of last year.
This result has arisen because of the absence of Edu, Parlour, and Gilberto. I call this the 'Three Midfielders Theory'.
Each of these absentees are high class, primarily defensive midfield players, who not only gives Vieira a physical licence to maraud, but more importantly allows Pat a psychological license to maraud.
Pat is at his best as a marauder. A warrior marauder. This is how he played when he had the excellent Manu Petit anchoring the midfield. And when he plays like this the team achieves great balance between defensive and attacking ability.
With the burden of having to support, sit-back, and look after the young, 'development in progress' Fabregas or Flamini, Vieira places a psychological restriction on his license to maraud. This is a responsible choice, but it also means that we don't see Pat at this best.
Pat has had criticism directed at him from many quarters this season. These observers have not taken into account the different context Pat has found himself in this season. He is often coming across three man opposing central midfields with only a youngster to support him. Vieira is only human and he needs more effective support in increasingly congested central midfields.
When Pat has good support and therefore removes his self-imposed restrictions, his own game excels. Just look at the difference in Pat's game when Edu briefly came back last month.
If Arsene Wenger comes across this article (some hope!), I would ask him to make sure that Arsenal are well covered in central midfield next season. I would suggest Van Bommel of PSV or Essien of Lyon.
Vieira will appreciate this support, the team will regain its balance, and success can comeback.
Essien scored two excellent goals against Bremen last week. I was impressed by his power surges into the box and finishing ability for someone who is regarded primarily as a defensive midfield player. He seems to have a good balance between defensive and attacking ability. And as noted above, this is the type of central midfielder Arsenal needs to regain perfect balance.
So priority number one in the summer for Arsene is clear: buy an experienced, primarily defensive, central midfielder. The benefits for Pat and the rest of the team will be significant. And it will also allow me to gladly accord 'non-applicable status' to the currently active 'Three Midfielders Theory'.