Arsenal midfield depth chart after £34m Fabio Vieira transfer and Youri Tielemans decision

Arsenal’s midfield options have been improved with the signing of Fabio Vieira, although Mikel Arteta and Edu could yet be tempted to dip back into the transfer market for at least one more addition.

With Mohamed Elneny signing a new deal and emerging talent such as Albert Sambi Lokonga, Charlie Patino and Miguel Azeez potentially in line for more game time next season, the Gunners certainly have a lot of depth in the engine room. This may increase if Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Lucas Torreira don’t seal moves away this summer.

Barring the expected departures of the aforementioned pair, if recent reports are to be believed then Arsenal’s business with regards to the midfield could be over as talk of signing Youri Tielemans this summer has cooled off. Whether a deal can be revived towards the end of the transfer window remains to be seen, but Arteta’s options could already be set in stone.

READ MORE: The 13 Arsenal deals for Mikel Arteta and Edu to complete next after sealing £34m transfer

Although, given how last season unfolded when Thomas Partey succumbed to an injury, is the Fabio Vieira signing alone enough for Arsenal’s midfield to cope over the course of the campaign which also includes the return of European football at the Emirates Stadium after a one-year absence?

Considering Arteta’s current midfield options, assesses who should be prioritised in the Spaniard’s two preferred formations and whether or not the club should re-enter the transfer market to bolster this department even further before the window slams shut.


In December 2020, Arteta revealed his long-term plan for Arsenal was to transition into a 4-3-3 formation from a 4-2-3-1 system: “We want to move to a 4-3-3,” he said “But for that, you need a lot of specificity in every position but now in five or six positions, we don’t have it.”

It took a while for this to happen, 14 months to be exact, but the Gunners’ most consistent run of form since Arteta took charge coincided with the change of formation with Partey operating at the base of midfield. In Elneny, Granit Xhaka and Lokonga there’s cover in this position next season to help manage the Ghana international’s workload and Benjamin White is a wildcard option.

Martin Odegaard slotted in perfectly as a right-sided No.8 and this is where Fabio Vieira can come in when the Norway international needs a breather with Emile Smith Rowe another option – although the experiment with him as a central midfielder appears to be on hold for the time being.

Xhaka completed the trio and whilst performing fairly well, it’s clear that an upgrade is required as a long-term solution for this role. With that said, he could still be an automatic choice in Arteta’s midfield next season if there are no further additions in this department and ahead of Lokonga who is staying put.

If Arteta plans to turn to youth then Azeez, Patino and Salah-Eddine provide him with the opportunity to do so and Bukayo Saka is another wildcard option as one of the two ‘8’s’ alongside the deepest lying midfielder, although this seems unlikely given how he has flourished as part of Arsenal’s attacking trio.

Meanwhile, as both Maitland-Niles and Torreira – who has had his shirt number taken away from him and given to Gabriel Martinelli ahead of the new season – are available to leave this summer they are unlikely to feature high up in Arteta’s plans as things currently stand.

Depth chart:

Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Fabio Vieira, Sambi Lokonga, Emile Smith Rowe, Charlie Patino,SalahEddine, Miguel Azeez, Benjamin White, Bukayo Saka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira


“I’m an attacking player who looks to find space between the lines to be able to finish off moves either with assists or by scoring goals,” Vieira said after his move was announced. “I think those are the main attributes that Arsenal fans can expect from me. I’ll always give my all for the team.”

Therefore if Arteta reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 shape it would allow Vieira to occupy the role behind the central striker and make things happen with a starting position closer to the opposition’s box. Although, he’d have to nudge ahead of Odegaard and possibly Smith Rowe to get that chance.

Previously, Partey and Xhaka have been Arteta’s preference for a double pivot in midfield in this formation and that would most likely be the case if there are no further recruits in this department this summer with Elneny and Lokonga operating as back-ups and once again, Azeez, Patino and Salah-Eddine are the youthful options

Depth chart:

Thomas Partey,Granit Xhaka,Martin Odegaard, Mohamed Elneny, Fabio Vieira, Sambi Lokonga, Emile Smith Rowe, Charlie Patino,SalahEddine, Miguel Azeez, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Torreira

In conclusion, even though there is plenty of depth to Arsenal’s midfield, it’s effectively the same as last season. So that coupled with Maitland-Niles and Torreira unlikely to be welcomed back into the fold should offer hope for at least one more signing in this department before the window closes.

Any addition must be a quality addition and ideally it’s an upgrade on Xhaka in ‘left 8’ role. Whether its Tielemans, Fabian Ruiz or Oleksandr Zinchenko remains to be seen, but in getting Fabio Vieira signed up already, Arteta and Edu have given themselves enough time to target the perfect signing.


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