If Ozil can provide the absolute icing on the cake of the current Arsenal team, it will be Mathieu Flamini who can give us the much needed robustness, passion and never say die attitude the Gunners have often lacked in recent seasons. Flamini is the UMF: the ultimate midfield force.
Flamini is not the best DM in the world; far from it; but neither was Van Bommel, and yet he brought something to every team he played for that was invaluable: hunger, passion, aggression, presence!, leadership, believe! In a nutshell: a winner’s attitude. A Dutch friend of mine summarised it perfectly recently: ‘Van Bommel wins you things’. The hard as nails former PSV, Bayern, Barcelona, Milan player won eight league titles (at least one with each club) and once the CL, and a lot of this was down to his deep desire to win for his team – whoever he plays for – AND his ability to influence others to follow his lead.
Flamini has been in the shadow of Van Bommel, Ambrosini and Gattuso at Milan in recent years, and this will have frustrated him no end. During his last three seasons, Flamini only managed an average of 14 League games for Milan, although injury had a big part to play in this as well. The good thing is that Mathieu has been able to learn from the masters of DM (dark) arts, and not having played so much in recent years should mean there is plenty left in the 29 year old. We just have to hope he will stay fit and not suffer another bad (knee) injury.
I like Flamini, always have. When he came on against the brand new Spuds team, he brought something old fashioned to our team from the moment he ran on to the pitch. It brought tears of joy to see him directing his colleagues, waving his arms like a nutter and sticking his Gallic chest out, bursting with pride. Here is a player who left and was given an unexpected chance to come back, to make amends, and a last opportunity to become an immortal Gunner; and it is clear he will do anything in his power to make his second stint at Arsenal a successful, and unforgettable one.
I made a prediction this week:
IF Flamini can stay fit for most of the season, he will make as much, if not more, difference to the team as/than Ozil will.
Here are the reasons why:
- Flamini knows how to tackle and how to win aerial battles (despite his lack of great height at 1.78 meters), and he also knows how to get under the skin of opponents. As jgc likes to put it: he brings that bit of Adamsesque mongrel to the team. He loves to put his foot in but seldom does he cross the line. This is a skill we have been missing, and if and when we play the more physical/robust teams, our very own UMF will make a great difference this season;
- Mathieu will protect the likes of Ramsey, Wilshere and Ozil better than anybody else. The way Jack has been targeted and having to fend for himself against the thugs of Villa and against Fenerbahce recently – something he is very good at doing btw – without getting much support from his team mates, is unacceptable. With Flamini on the team this is very likely to change. Like Van Bommel, Flamini knows how to protect his colleagues and how to boss a midfield. His Presence! and street wisdom will see to that! I predict a huge difference in this area;
- Flamini will protect the defence with incredible zeal: he will bring passion AND focus to our defensive midfield play. He is not as good a reader of the game as Arteta, but he knows how to guard a defence behind him and he will scare opponents with his tackling ability;
- Leadership – he might not become our captain but the Flame is an extrovert and born leader: he just cannot help himself – he needs to lead and he needs to make himself heard. This is something we have been missing in the team, as many of our midfielders are less vocal and focus more on the technical/tactical aspects of the game. Flamini will be a great support to Wilshere, who is also a born leader but needs to develop further in the next few years;
- Because of his natural DM skills and focus, he will allow us to have a more committed box to box midfielder in the team: this is great news for the likes of Ramsey, Ox and Wilshere, who will be able to go forward without having to worry constantly for leaving the defence exposed.
Despite my optimism that Flamini will make a big difference this season, I am not (yet) entirely sure whether Wenger will give his fellow countryman a pivotal role this season. My gut feeling tells me Wenger’s plans to play Flamini occasionally rather than making him a first team choice. If everybody is fit, his double DM pivot is likely to be occupied by two out of Arteta, Ramsey and Wilshere; the likes of Flamini, Ox and Rosicky could become second/third choice for the DM positions (although they might be used elsewhere as well). Wenger likes his ‘DMs’ to be multi-skilled, all-round midfielders who can play football as well, and it remains to be seen whether he regards Flamini’s skill set as good enough for a constant first team role.
But I reckon Flamini will work incredibly hard and show his worth to the team once more, both in terms of technical/defensive skills as well as his ability to lead and drive the team, that within no time he will become a regular first-teamer.
And what a difference he can make to Arsenal this season; let’s enjoy the Flamini ride. 🙂
Written by: TotalArsenal.
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