Tag Archives: Flamini

6 defensive midfield options for Arsenal

In what is perhaps the most predictable piece of news this season, Francis Coquelin has been ruled out with injury until the New Year.

Over the summer, top of everyone’s wish list was a defensive midfielder. Whilst Coquelin has proved in the last 12 months that he perhaps is good enough to be our first choice, the worrying lack of competition / understudy / back up is what worried many.

An injury to Coquelin for any length of time would leave us in a situation relying on Mikel ‘Legs Gone’ Arteta and Mathieu ‘Energy Baron’ Flamini. Worrying.

If course, in the summer, many of the Arsene Wenger loyalists also pointed to Jack Wilshere & Aaron Ramsey as players who could perform there if needed. Whilst that would work as an option in the majority of games, it is an option which negated to remember that both of them are likely to miss big chunks of the season, which they have.

Add in the fact that when Arteta does find his legs, they tend to break down very quickly, it leaves us in a scenario where our options in the middle of the park are very limited.

So what are our options?

Mathieu Flamini

The only fully fit defensive senior midfielder in the squad would currently be in Turkey if it was up to the club.

Despite his goals against Spurs writing himself into Arsenal folklore, he is simply not good enough. Being Mesut Ozil’s best mate is should not be the basis of the club retaining your services.

But he is the most likely option.

What he lacks in ability, he makes up in work rate. Although this has declined over recent years, he can still cover a lot of ground. And with Santi Cazorla likely to play next to him, you need someone who can get about the pitch. Someone with legs. It is why Arteta and Cazorla would not work, but Ramsey and Arteta would, or Coquelin and  Cazorla. You need players to compliment eachother. One to do the running, one to be the ball player (in an ideal world, you would have 2 who could do both, but those players are rare).

Aaron Ramsey

There was talk that Aaron Ramsey had an outside chance of being fit for WBA. He was not. The game against Zagreb might be 24 hours too early for the Welshman, but I would be very disappointed if he was not fully fit for next Sunday’s visit to Norwich.

Whilst he might not be a pure defensive midfielder, he can defend, he can tackle, he can read the game and he can cover ground.

A couple of seasons ago, when I nicknamed him the general, he was showing signed of turning into an all round midfielder in the Michael Ballack mould. Able to defend and attack.

Nothing has changed, he can still do that job. A central midfield of Ramsey and Cazorla should have the balance to be able to beat the likes of Norwich, Sunderland and Aston Villa. Whether it is good enough to beat Manchester City in December is another story.

And of course, this options requires Aaron Ramsey to get fit and stay fit. Easier said than done.

Calum Chambers

A genuine option. He is fully fit and ready to go. In the long term, his versatility might hold his development back, in the same way it has for Phil Jones. However, in the short term his versatility might benefit Arsenal.

Some believe his future could be in the middle of the park. He certainly has the defensive awareness to play there, and is good on the ball. In the same way as Ramsey, a midfield of Chambers and Cazorla should be good enough to beat Norwich, Sunderland and Villa, Chambers and Cazorla should be good enough as well.

Moving beyond those games, perhaps a Chambers / Ramsey combination for Manchester City could give us more defensive stability. But that would cause a potential issue.

Ideally you would like to give Chambers a run in the team before City in the middle of the park. With 5 games between now and then, he would certainly get that chance to be ready. But then Aaron Ramsey also needs games to get fit. So can you really accommodate the pair of them in preparation for Manchester City?

Maybe we will see a return of Ramsey playing on the right wing, with Chambers and Cazorla in the middle, before shifting Ramsey inside for City? Or perhaps give Cazorla the rest he needs and start Ramsey & Chambers together against Norwich to see how they get on?

It is certainly a flexible option.

Krystian Bielik

There was a lot of excitement when we signed Krystian Bielik last January. This might have been because people honestly felt he had the makings of a top player, or just because he was our only signing. Bit like your mate who hasn’t had a shag for a year boasts about banging a minger.

12 months on and Bielik, still just 17, has yet to make any sort of break through.

He came out of the Sheffield Wednesday with some credit. A half hour cameo, he did not do much wrong. However at this point Wednesday were out of reach and had taken there foot off the pedal. There was not the pressure and pressing on Bielik that there would have been earlier in the game. So it is perhaps wrong to judge him on the Wednesday performance.

I doubt most of your reading this (or calling for him to start on Twitter) have seen anymore than him than that cameo in the League Cup. Whenever it comes to youth players, always check out Jeorge Bird’s excellent site for an honest opinion from someone who actually watch’s youth team games

Bielik might be an option in the future, but the fact he is not playing central midfield in the youth teams would show he is probably not yet ready to step up.

Glen Kamara

I kid, I kid. He is not an option.

Kieran Gibbs

Currently having to fill in on the left wing, Kieran Gibbs could also be an emergency midfielder if needed.

I remember as a youngster he played a couple of game’s for England Under 21s under Stuart Pearce and looked comfortable.

At the weekend he dropped inside a couple of times from the wing and looked comfortable. Whether the has the speed of thought and ability to play under extreme pressure to do it for the next 3 months would be up for debate.

Also we are short out wide. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is due to come back from injury, likely for Sunderland. But his return should be treated with caution. Like Ramsey, you feel the next injury is just round the corner.

And if he does get fit, surely his give us the opportunity to rest Alexis Sanchez. That would then leave Chamberlain on the right with Gibbs still on the left.

 

Whilst none of the above situations are ideal, we do have a few viable options. Flamini, Ramsey & Chambers being the most likely. You should be able to play any combination of those 3 with/and/or Cazorla and beat the likes of Norwich, Sunderland & Aston Villa.

You see other teams having to make do with much weaker players. West Ham playing 16 year old Reece Oxford against us as an example.

We seem to have an irrational fear every time a first team player is out injured. Whether it is a goal keeper, a defender of whatever. We maybe do not give the squad players the credit they deserve. WBA for example had their 2nd choice keeper playing yesterday. Their fan’s were not fearful. Yet we would all be worried if David Ospina, an international class keeper, had to come in for Petr Cech. It is irrational.

However, it has exposed the weakness in our squad that we all knew already existed. The “nobody better” brigade (NBB?) seemed to forget that it was not just better than Coquelin we should have been keeping an eye out for, but better than Flamini and Arteta. There were players out their, at a reasonable price, would could have provided that back up  / competition for Coquelin.

The fact we do not have a competent specialist defensive midfielder to cover for Coquelin is an utter disgrace. And could cost us the title.

Keenos

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Arsenal set to release £12 million worth of players

At this end of this season, it seems like Arsenal will continue what they started last summer. Culling the ‘dead wood’ – although I hate this term.

Last year saw Abou Diaby, Ryo Miachi & Lukasz Podolski leave the club. According to the Evening Standard, Arsenal are unlikely to renew the contracts of Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. All of whom’s current deal’s run out at the end of the season. This will free up nearly £12 million from our yearly wage bill.

Whilst many will say they should have gone a long time ago, all 3 will leave with their heads held high knowing that they helped Arsenal through a tough time in the clubs history.

Some will claim Mikel Arteta was one of Arsene Wenger’s most important signings. Whilst this is a tad of an exaggeration, he joined the club during our darkest hours.

Clichy, Fabregas, Eboue & Nasri had just left. Arsenal had only signed two first team players – Gervinho & a young Oxlade-Chamberlain. We had just lost 8-2 to Manchester United. The club was in crisis.

On transfer deadline day, Arsenal spent nearly £30 million bringing in 5 players.

We needed calm, experienced heads. And in Mikel Arteta – and Per Meresacker – that is exactly what we got.

His influence on the club, both on and off the pitch, was there for everyone to see.

On the pitch, he was like a metronome. His ball retention ability was 2nd to none in the league. Whilst he did not have the flair of Nasri, or the creativity of Cesc, he was able to influence the team from deeper, leading many to say it is a pity we did not sign him sooner.

Sacrificing his own attacking instincts, he went back to the defensive role which he played earlier in his career, and he was excellent, if not always ideal.

As captains continued to leave around him, Robin van Persie & Thomas Vermaelen, Arteta became more important off the pitch. He grew into his current role of club captain.

He might not have been a first choice for 18 months now, but a captains job is not just for the 90 minutes on the pitch. Many players have often spoken about Arteta’s role in the dressing room.

Santi Cazorla said “He is always up for whatever the guys need. And that is what a captain has to do: transmitting conviction in order to keep the team together…. Whenever there is a problem he is the one that goes and talks to the manager. He leads this group, so this captaincy is well deserved after his hard work here at Arsenal.”

He is also often found at Hale End with the Arsenal academy taking training sessions, and is the man who makes youngsters welcome when they are invited to train with the first team.

Arteta is a true captain. After the ego captains of Henry, Gallas, Cesc, van Persie & Vermaelen, he was the right choice to get the arm band 18 months ago.

It is just a pity he is not a few years younger, as he would still have an important role to play within the club.

Personally, I would not mind seeing him getting a contract extension. He is clearly influential off the pitch, and he could fill a role that the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes did at Manchester United. Guiding other players through the early stages of their career and ensuring squad unity.

I would not be surprised to see Mikel Arteta become a very successful manager in the future.

Tomas Rosicky joined Arsenal in 2006. After a brilliant World Cup, where in my opinion he was the 2nd best player on show after Kaka, he had just been made captain of the Czech Republic. I was excited about his signing after having first seen him at Dortmund.

This was a player who had the talent to fill Robert Pires’ boots. To become a World Class player.

Sadly, injuries damaged his career.

A mysterious injury in 2008 saw him make no appearances for the club in 2008/09. However, his contribution to the club is certainly not to be sniffed at.

Memorable goals against Spurs showed his talent. He was just unable to put together a run of games.

I was very surprised (as was he) when Arsenal decided to take up the option of renewing his contract for a further year this summer. It was clear he was surplus to requirements, and wanted out to seek regular football elsewhere in the twilight of his career.

Was his contract only extended to ensure there was a friendly face at the club in our pursuit for Cech? If so, it is a years salary well spent.

He Resigned for 12 months, and has since been injured. It is the tale of his Arsenal career.

Like Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini nearly left in the summer.

Moves to turkey were mooted, and then turned down. Whether this was Flamini wanting to stay and fight for his place in the team, or the club realising that he made Mesut Ozil happy, and Mesut Ozil’s happiness was more important than saving a few million, only the club know.

What is for certain is the two goals he scored against Spurs will write him into Arsenal folk lore.

It is amazing to think that if Flamini does move on this summer, he would have been transferred 4 times during his career. All on a free transfer.

On his return to the club, he was good for the first season. Providing the legs and energy that Arteta was perhaps unable to.

Imagine a Flamini / Arteta hybrid, 10 years younger. It would be the perfect defensive midfielder.

After his first year, it was clear Flamini was no longer good enough. Arsenal needed more than someone who could just ‘run around a little bit’. The defensive midfielder saw the ball more than any other player in a red and white shirt. They needed to be able to pass. And that was Flamini’s weakness. He was not a very good technical footballer.

His demise is mirrored by Francis Coquelin’s rise. Coquelin was as close to a hybrid as we could get. He has the legs and energy of Flamini, but can also play. He showed in a few games around 12 months ago everything Arsenal was missing. Everything that both Flamini and Arteta could not do.

Flamini did a job for 12 months, and then picked up a wage for 24 months. He clearly still has the passion to play, and could still perform at a mid table side in England or France. Arsenal should thank him for his contribution and let him depart.

The money that letting these 3 leavIng free’s up essentially means that Arsenal could go out and add a World Class talent to the squad, an Ozil or Sanchez, without the wage bill increasing. Of course, this relies on us spending, but that’s another blog.

All 3 have played a key part in Arsenal’s history. Whether it is a single game or a season. We should all wish them well.

Keenos

FOUR Arsenal stars set to leave this summer

The list of players who’s contracts are set to come to an end this summer was released recently by the Premier League recently. On the list contained 4 Arsenal stars who are set to be available on a free transfer. All are expected to leave this summer.

Tomas Rosicky

The highest profile Arsenal name on the list, the Little Mozart’s 9 year stay at Arsenal is set to come to an end.

Signed in 2006 as part of the new generation midfield of Hleb, Flamini, Cesc and himself, Rosicky’s Arsenal career never really got going, with mysterious long term injuries seeing him miss a lot of game time. Over 9 years, he failed to play over 30 league games and appeared in just 242 games in all competition. 35 in October, and with 99 international caps, we will be losing a bit of experience.

The issue with Tomas Rosicky is squad limits. With just 25 man squads in the Premier League and Champions League, a man who has started just 5 Premier League games this season takes up space that could be used elsewhere.

He spoke in January about being tempted to leave due to lack of game time. Things have only improved slightly since then, and he has not been seen for over a month in an Arsenal shirt.

For me, it comes down to a simple choice. Mikel Arteta or Tomas Rosicky. We have space to accommodate 1 senior player who will not play much. I come down in Arteta’s favour, for 3 reasons:

1) Arteta’s contract does not expire for another year, whilst Rosicky’s does.

2) Arteta is captain and does a lot of well documented work off the field with the young players and new signings

3) We have more attacking midfielders than defensive midfielders. Rosicky is battling with Ozil, Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain in attacking positions

With just 5 starts this season, Rosicky’s Arsenal journey has come to an end. He still has the talent to play week in week out (if his legs allow) for a mid-table Premier League, La Liga or Bundesliga side, or the semi-retirement of the MLS might tempt him.

Mathieu Flamini

Is there any player who has had 4 spells at clubs and never commanded a transfer fee? Marseille to Arsenal to Milan and back to Arsenal. He is now set to leave Arsenal on a free transfer for a second time.

Signed in desperation 2 years ago, it was originally reported that Flamini had signed a 3 year deal, it seems that the truth is a 2 year deal. His 2nd spell at Arsenal has come to a natural end, having lost his first team place to Francis Coquelin.

As this season went on, and as the development of Coquelin exploded, Flamini’s lack of quality was exposed. He is no longer good enough to play for Arsenal. He is still just 31, so has something to give to football, but it is something to give at someone like Stoke or WBA, not Arsenal.

A bit like in the Rosicky case, he would take up an important first team squad place if we kept him, and also like Rosicky, he must be compared to Arteta.

If we signed a new defensive midfielder, it will leave us with 4 players fighting for one spot. Flamini, Arteta, Coquelin & the new defensive midfielder. 4 into 1 does not go. And for the same reasons I would pick Arteta over Rosicky, I would also pick Arteta over Flamini.

For all intents and purposes, Flamini has already been replaced by Coquelin in the squad, meaning that we do not need to sign a replacement. Although we should be looking to get in a front line defensive midfielder.

Abou Diaby

Goodbye Abou Diaby. I mean you no ill well, and actually for sorry for you. You are 29 today, and your career has been stolen from you. You should have been one of the best central midfielders to grace our game. You would have been up their alongside Yaya Toure and Paul Pogba as the best power midfielders in world football. He would probably also be Arsenal captain.

He has had his career robbed from him. From Dan Smith to Paul Robinson, and a few others in between, I do not think there has been a single player in the history of our club who has had so many horrendous, gut wrenching, sickening tackles

Yes, he has earned himself millions, but I am sure that is scant consolation for his ruined career. I am also sure the mental damage he has suffered has been grand. It can not be easy, wanting to play, but continually being in the treatment. Hours, weeks, years, getting fit, only to break down again. And I wonder how much damage, both physically and mentally, has been done to him.

Personally, I think he should retire. He has made enough money out of the game to not need to work again. He is 29 now, why go through the mental and physical heartbreak of trying to get fit again. Cal lit a day Abou, put yourself out of your misery.

In the last 2 years, he has played just 1 Premier League match, the final game of last season against Norwich. He will not need to be replaced.

Damien Martinez

Our third choice goal keeper is also set to leave the club this summer. Some people will say he is talented enough to keep, and this is true, however, this will more likely be player driven than Arsenal’s choice.

As a 2nd choice GK, you can go years without playing a 1st team game. As a 3rd choice GK, you can go a career without playing. Like with Vito Mannone before him, he has managed to play a few games in his last season at the club. And like Mannone, that would have wetted his appetite to play more.

Now 22, 23 in September, he now needs to start to play games. He would have seen Mannone go to Sunderland and become 1st choice keeper last season. Whilst he might not yet be ready to play in a 1st team for another Premier League side, he has the talent to either step down to the Championship, or be 2nd choice at a Premier League side. Liverpool are rumoured to be interested in him replacing Brad Jones as 2nd choice goal keeper.

From Arsenal’s point of view, there is also no point keeping Martinez. From next season, he would take up a squad place. Is it worthwhile Arsenal using a squad place on a 3rd choice GK who would barely play?

Martinez will be wished well, and his place in the first team squad taken by either Dejan Iliev or Matt Macey, both under the age of 21.

 

The key factor of these four players leaving is that they do not need to be replaced. Between the 4 of them, they take up around £10.5m a year in wages. That equates to around £200k per week. That is a lot of money being freed up. It would basically give the club the ability to sign a world class player, without seeing an increase in wage bill. A good position to be in.

I wish the 4 players good luck. I will applaud each and every one of them if they ever return to the club as an opponent. They are part of Arsenal’s past, not part of the present or future.

Keenos

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