Best Premier League midfielders ever, Arteta as Emery and…

Date published: Wednesday 11th November 2020 9:42

We are marching on through this international break with your mails. Send views on all subjects to


All-time best Premier League midfielders
In response to yesterday’s mailbox asking for the best all-time {rem midfielders.

First off, I always find things like this a bit impossible. Football changes rapidly, and it can sometimes be difficult to positionally envision players who thrived in 442 formations working in modern/fluid 433s and vice versa. Wijnaldum and KDB are good examples, with both doing their best work as part of a trio of midfielders.

Given that, I’m going to rank KDB within the top five players from similar-ish systems.

1. Steven Gerrard
I’m a Liverpool fan so no surprises here. But he could do a little bit of everything couldn’t he? Scratch that, he could do a lot of everything. There were no real weaknesses. He could pass, shoot, dribble. He scored free kicks and took corners. He scored headers and penalties. He was strong in the tackle (loved a silly red card every now and then) and on the ball. He had a decent turn of pace in his prime and I imagine was a bit of nightmare to play against. The best of the best for a very long time.

2. Yaya Toure
His time at the top was relatively short lived, but he was by some distance the best player in the league during that time. See all the things listed above about Gerrard and increase their potency. Dominated games and generally looked like someone had invited their elder teenage brother to play with their primary school mates.

3. Kevin De Bruyne
I’ve slotted him in here. In the Premier League, every game is a big game. And KDB delivers consistently over the course of the season. In fact, injury often seems to be the only thing that can stop him, as during the 90 minutes he will always attempt an absurd number of crosses and passes from every possible position and angle on the pitch. Of all the players on this list, he is the one who you would say is the most dangerous and always a threat when he has the ball, as you feel he could always create a goal from nothing. The one opposition managers tell their team to keep an eye on. Not to mention the brilliant way he can spank a ball into the top corner with either foot. Woof.

4. Frank Lampard
Could never bring myself to appreciate him at the time, but much happier to accept his brilliance while watching him toil away as a manager. He simply scored all of the goals didn’t he? The goal scoring numbers of a striker in midfield. The timing of his runs and consistency of his shooting and finishing is unlikely to ever be matched by another midfielder. Chelsea wouldn’t have been half as dangerous or successful without him. Yes, he was good at other things too. But with all those bloody goals, who cares.

I’m stopping here since I reckon these four are in a league of their own. So honourable mentions instead:

David Silva – Brilliantly brilliant for-seemingly-ever. But also did some of his best work as a winger in his early years.

Cesc Fabregas – Burst onto the scene as teenager and stayed that age for about 15 years before going off and being a bit average at Barca, which then aged him by about 25 years. Did some very good football along the way.

Vieira / Keane – Not massively proven in a midfield three, but undoubtedly the best of their era before the likes of Lamps/Gerrard had reached their prime. Must be spoken about in tandem because of that tunnel bust up and the weird documentary thing on the telly 15 years later.

Dishonourable Mentions:
Paul Scholes – Don’t feel like I’ve said anything hugely controversial above. So just gonna throw him in here to invite criticism. Never rated him.
Ryan C, LFC


Arteta has turned into Emery…
Why has Arteta turned into Emery – is it like Covid and there is an unseen disease at Arsenal?? Initially Arteta had clarity – now no one looks like they know what they are doing. Why has he changed the formation so much (see Emery) – we have the same players – and they don’t fit a 4-3-3 in the configuration he sends them out in – we fit a 3-4-3. Why persist with Laca, Willian as two thirds of a non functioning attack. Stop putting Auba on the left – he has stopped scoring – has Arteta not noticed this – or is he implying it’s Auba’s fault. Play Saka on the left and Auba in the middle with Pepe on the right (now the full back is fit enough to overlap give him a chance to cut inside via combinations with the FB and right Mid).

Arteta is turning into a crap version of Pep and about as bouncy as Ole in results. He has talked himself out of the formation we should have, he is not running a meritocracy any more as when he gets a tune out of the ‘squad’ players he then drops them for non performing ‘highly’ paid retirees (not including Auba in that – but Willian is shit, Luiz is just one rung above that). Why no AMN – he gave us energy and dynamism – if he has reverted, that’s Arteta’s fault too. This is going really shit-shaped and Arteta has already lost his way – FFS – we’re back where we were 18 months ago….
Mick, AFC (no one ever discusses brackets anymore!)


Ole v Arteta v Lampard
The Ole, Arteta and Lampard debate is quite interesting because it is as much about how individuals are perceived, rather than their results or capabilities.

Arteta worked with Pep Guardiola so the narrative of him being like Pep was baked into his story. He also took a book out of his mentor’s book to bolster his reputation as the man, Pep told three of the greatest players of their generation, including Ronaldinho, one of the greatest ever, they weren’t part of his plans. Arteta discarded Ozil so easily that it is not even discussed. Pogba playing 60 minutes of a match is a bigger story than Ozil not even being in the Arsenal squad.

It is because Ole feels like he is happy to be along for the ride, keeping the seat warm till United get a real manager. It seems like all good things at Arsenal are because of Arteta whereas all good things at United are despite of Ole.

Bruno is great because he is great, has nothing to do with Ole. Fred put his head down and became a competent player. Rashford is improving and Greenwood is a natural finisher. None of any of this credit seemingly goes to Ole. Most United fans probably think United might do better with Bruno Fernandes as our player-coach.

Ole doesn’t talk tactics, he doesn’t talk about his plans, and how players fit into it or not, he doesn’t criticise players and seems powerless in front of Paul Pogba. None of this help his perception as a glorified PE teacher.

Lampard is similarly following his mentor by creating a siege mentality at Chelsea, freezing out Rudiger, not giving William an extension, and criticising his players for bad performances. He’s never really backed Kepa like Ole backs Pogba even when Chelsea didn’t have a viable alternatives.

All this helps everyone see Lampard and Arteta as they are firmly at the wheel, whereas Ole seems happy to be on the ride along, despite however loud Rio screams Ole is at the wheel.

Also helps that both Lampard and Arteta were seen as thinking footballers with an ability to control games, this perception of in-game masterminds is also why Pirlo has been given one of the biggest jobs in world football without a CV as a manager that seems to merit it.

Whereas Solskjaer was seen as a lucky player, every run of Lampard was timed to perfection through years of hard work but Solskjaer just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Ole has finally realised his job is on the line though and he’s finally shown some anger, be it directed at the easiest possible target but he can really help his perception by drawing a line in the sand with Paul Pogba, at this stage very few United fans would begrudge him for that, most will even be happy to see Pogba leave in the January window. Least Ole can do for himself is get some credit for it.

And I say all this as somebody in the ‘Ole out’ campaign. A club like United can’t wait for Ole to emerge as the man.

Pochettino in.
Shehzad Ghias, mufc, Karachi


A retort to the retorts
Less silverware than Solskjaer: Not too sure what winning the Norwegian League 8 years ago has to do with the Premier League in 2020. But you’re right I should have clarified – since he took over in the Premier League.

Decisive with Ozil: Means rather than having him in and out, shoehorning him into a team / creating a formation to suit him, Arteta has taken it off the table as an issue. At least we don’t have to hear him answer the same 3 questions on Ozil every week. It’s the little things… Shame though, he was awesome to watch…

Bleak / hilarious: #arsenal – see above

Villa: Yeah they are actually pretty good. Martinez tied for most clean sheets, Watkins 2 goals behind top scorers, Grealish and McGinn 2nd and 3rd in assists, 3rd highest scorers in the league. 3 points off top with a game in hand

Polyglot angle: Huh? What a weird thing to bring up…

Watching highlights / lads on the Tube / FUT / FM / MyClub: Nah, I watch every Arsenal game I don’t have to pay £14.95 for. Clear improvement under Arteta: Post-Wenger we watched them somehow go on a run of wins with Unai Emery in charge, sandwiched between a lot of running around with no idea of what the team was trying to do with the ball or a clear defensive structure. I would have called it style / tactics / pattern of play (gulp) there, but didn’t want to come off as a tool. FWIW I’ve got my headphones on in the tube, never played FUT or FM and don’t know what a MyClub is. Fair point though, next time I’ll avoid talking football style in an email to a football website because I look really, really foolish…

Comparisons: Nope, they aren’t Meelan in the 90s, Ajax in the 70s, Real Madrid in the 50s etc. etc. And yeah sh*t managers have won trophies and some good managers have won none (although tossing LvG and his CV in with the other two is a bit strong). 42 games in Arteta has some silverware and the team is better than it was when he got there – after 100 games I haven’t heard many fans / ex-players saying the same about OGS and United. Not too sure about Lampard, Chelsea is definitely better up front than it was, but how much of that is down to him and how much of that is down to the quality of players brought in…

International week when everyone is stuck at home with the days getting shorter – try not being knobs fellas, it will make the time go faster…
Simon (not Ghana Partey this week (sorry)), London


Arteta arsiness
I suppose the time has come now for football’s finest visionary Mikel Arteta to reinvent his clear plan and set out his side not to concede the first three goals…
Manyooligan SOC


More on Stan on Kane
I know Mediawatch already covered quite how ridiculous Stan Collymore’s Harry Kane comments are, but I thought it was worth delving into a little more detail. First, bracketing him with Jermain Defoe. No offence to Jermain who has had a perfectly decent career, but Kane would have to score 12 goals in his next 278 PL appearances to end up with the same scoring record. That’s 1.5 goals a year for just over seven complete seasons. I think he might manage that.

Then, onto describing Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler as Ferrari Testerossas while Kane is a Range Rover. I know ex-pros have a tendency to overrate their peers and particularly their ex-teammates, but this is laughable. There is absolutely no objective way to claim either are remotely on the same level (and no, trophy count isn’t applicable, it’s a team sport). Even if we ignore the fact that both Fowler and Owen’s careers dropped off a cliff fast after they left Liverpool, the sample sizes at Liverpool alone make it back and white. PL records for each. Fowler – 120 goals in 236 games, two 20 goal seasons. Owen – 118 goals in 216 games, zero 20 goals seasons. Kane – 150 goals in 215 games, four 20 goal seasons. Add in that Kane has a much better international record than either, and is better at literally everything else on a football pitch as well, and why are we even having a conversation?
Phil, London


Transfer fee thoughts
I have been meaning to write in for quite some time now, concerning transfer fees and the expectations of fans and the media at large, as to performances (or lack thereof). We see it all the time: here on F365, Twitter, FB, newspapers, etc, and it essentially boils down to Player X cost the GDP of Wales and therefore should be playing out of their skin – recent names continuously cropping up include (but not limited to) Pogba, and Maguire. Hell, even KdB (y’know the one isn’t much cop) was initially ridiculed for costing so much.

And this got me thinking. A player has absolutely no say whatsoever as to how much their club puts on their head; the onus is on the buying club to either stump up or walk away. None whatsoever. It might be that to their club they are irreplaceable, or simply that the club coming in for him is known to be loaded, and therefore they get charged premium price. Unfair I know, but it happens all the time.

Then when that player (usually from a different country, but not all the time) doesn’t perform to their £50m, £80m, whatever, they are lambasted. Surely that is the fault of their new club? Either not allowing them time to bed in (although to be fair, Liverpool have done really well on this one), not playing them to their strengths, or playing them out of position. Again, not the player’s fault.

But then something hit me. Perhaps the player is at fault.

Y’see, if you move clubs for £80m, you are not going to be on a mere £50,000 a week. No, their agent will point to the aforementioned £80m price tag and simply state that my client wants £200,000 minimum, and that there’s also going to be the minor issue of the agent being paid a few million on top just to get the player to sign.

So in that respect, the player, whilst having nothing to do with a massive fee, can then ride on the back of it and command an insane amount of money every week.

Not entirely sure where I am going with this, and the fact I have just argued with myself (yeah, lockdown is going great for me …), but I think what I am trying to say is that if your shiny and expensive player is a bit shit, you have every right to be annoyed with him, despite the fact he couldn’t control what the club paid for him.
Mike D (parenthesis, brackets, additional clauses added)


Pogba out
Couldn’t agree more with the two mails about Pogba in the mailbox. Tom Cleverly could have been in midfield and France still would have won the World Cup. Aame goes for his time with Juventus even then I don’t think he was ever world class a very good midfielder but never world class. As a long time Utd fan who watches every game I am left scratching my head when pundits commentators call him world class and a great athlete and all the other bull.. Do these guys actually watch him play week in week out?

He had one purple patch for Utd when Solskjaer took over apart from that he has been really disappointing and frustrating with his lack of commitment and so called athleticism. Does anyone else see his attempts at tackling and tracking back in his own half his fake little run to make it look like he is doing something and then let the player go. Is there genuine Utd fans out there that still want this guy? Fans that actually know the game? I’m not sure.

Looks like the great man Ferguson was right along “It is disappointing. I don’t think he showed us any respect at all, to be honest. I’m quite happy that if they [footballers] carry on that way, they’re probably better doing it away from us.” If only we had listened.
Kenneth, Dublin


To follow on from NorthernSoul (NUFC), I think a list of every club F365 are supposedly biased against is simply a list of every club.

They are accused of being biased against all non premier league teams by non premier league fans…. because they rarely (not never!!) talk about them.

They are regularly accused of being biased in favour of the big 6 by all fans of non Big 6 clubs….. because they rarely (not never!!) talk about them.

But then are accused of being accused of being biased against each of the big 6 because either they don’t talk about them enough, or happen to talk negatively against one of them when that club does something stupid (furlough staff, hire Ole etc).

I would suggest that they put a filter in to remove any mails that include the word bias but that might lead to them missing very important mails about broken ‘tibias’, ridiculous ‘homophobias’, and of course ‘labias’ (could easily happen… for example if a Lucy Bronze is caught on camera ‘Phil Babbing’ into a goalpost).

But then…. I forgot about their supposed bias against women’s football….


Iconic teams clash?
To spice up a bland International Break week, I thought I would bring this concept to the mailbox, if you could choose two iconic club sides to face off against one another in the entire history of football who would you choose and why?

For me I would love to see Guardiola’s Barcelona side of 2010/11 take on Real Madrid’s Galacticos of 2002/03, I would fully expect Barcelona to walk the game based on their style but so many iconic names in their primes would be a magical spectacle to witness, could Ronaldo, Figo and Zidane take on and beat Messi, David Villa and Xavi?

But less about my iconic team match up, what are yours?
Mikey, CFC

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