clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

D.C. United season review: Davy Arnaud

New, 9 comments

Our next review focuses on a veteran whose importance to DCU became magnified whenever he wasn't around.

Many of the qualities people tend to ascribe to D.C. United also end up being good adjectives to describe Davy Arnaud. The veteran midfielder is in a lot of ways the distillation of Ben Olsen's side: Gritty, hard-working, effective, far from flashy, and more than a little unpleasant to play against. Arnaud is arguably the most competitive person on United's roster, and he's the sort of guy people don't notice until he's gone. That's life as a "little things" central midfielder.

The major stats haven't really been where to look for Arnaud's impact for several years now. His 3 assists in 2015 don't sound like much for a central midfielder, but he's only been above that figure once in the last eight seasons. In 1915 minutes, the only stat that jumps out is the fact that he picked up 8 yellow cards. On a per 90 minutes played basis, that's the highest rate in MLS.

However, there are stats that don't show up in your bio, and that's where Arnaud makes most of his contributions. His 80.3% passing accuracy was 6th on the team (and 4th among players who played more than 1800 minutes), and that was while attempting more passes per game than anyone on the roster bar Sean Franklin. Arnaud's role on offense was to be the connective tissue, setting the stage so someone else could be the star. It's an unsexy job, but teams that lack this sort of player tend to have issues winning games.

Defensively, Arnaud brings a lot to the table. His 2.1 successful tackles per game were the highest on the team, and he also ended up with more interceptions per game than any non-defender. Arnaud's game without the ball is built around his work rate and his soccer IQ, which he directs towards harassing opponents and making it hard for them to do anything beyond playing safe. When coaches talk about being "hard to play against," they are often thinking about the abrasive nature of a guy like Arnaud.

Perhaps the most telling fact for United with regards to their oldest player is this: Their only win over a playoff team without Arnaud on the field came on April 25th (the 2-1 win on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps). The Black-and-Red were a losing team in games Arnaud didn't play, posting a record of 4W-1D-6L. Of those wins, two were against the Chicago Fire (MLS's worst team this season) and another was over NYCFC. Take those games out of the group, and United's goal difference without Arnaud on the field was a whopping -13 in just 8 games. Sure, the loss in Columbus pads that figure, but does United lose 5-0 with Arnaud in that game?

It was a strange year for Arnaud in terms of his place in the hierarchy of the team. No one ever explicitly said Markus Halsti was brought in to replace him, but Olsen was maintaining the 442 and no one was going to push Perry Kitchen to the bench. The writing was on the wall back in January: Arnaud was going to transition from starter to respectable veteran depth. Halsti's more expansive passing game, his better first touch, and his UEFA Champions League pedigree were going to force Olsen's hand.

Arnaud took the challenge like anyone would expect: He made no complaints and did everything he could to keep a hold of his spot. Halsti's slow adjustment to partnering Kitchen already saw Arnaud looking like the starter at the end of training camp when a sprained MCL for the Finnish midfielder sealed the deal. In his 21 starts, Arnaud was substituted just once (and that was in the 88th minute with him on a yellow card).

A concussion suffered in training back in August ended up finishing off his season almost three months early, and it may do more than that. Arnaud is 35, and has had more than his fair share of concussions over the years. It would be a shame for his career to come to a halt, but one could hardly blame him for looking out for his long-term health. Neither Arnaud nor anyone attached to United has made any statement on his future, but it seems fair to speculate that retirement is on the table.

However, we're not here to declare whether someone should retire or not. This is a hypothetical exercise in which we're supposed to function as the team's brain trust and decide whether Arnaud is someone that should be kept around for 2016 or if it's time to move on as a club. And so: