01 October 2015

Could Flamini upend Man U just as he did Tottenham?

Jonathan Roberts returns with a provocative look at whether we can and should turn to Flamini against Man U, needing as we do fresh legs and fighting spirit after Tuesday's demoralising loss. Welcome back, Jonathan; what's on your mind?

The battle for a place in Arsenal’s central midfield is fierce. Coquelin, Cazorla, Arteta and Ramsey are stellar names most managers would yearn for. And, if you put aside the consistent injuries, there’s Jack Wilshere also vying for a start in the centre of the park. The last post I wrote was all about how Arsenal needed to sign a new sign a new defensive midfielder. To everyone’s dismay it didn’t happen. After two dismal Champions league performances, the obvious has become somewhat more obvious to everyone—everyone except Arsène, that is.
But what about poor old Mathieu Flamini? Dropped from his favoured holding midfield role and replaced by the impressive Francis Coquelin, the former Milan star has spent more time warming the bench this season than ensuring Arsenal’s midfield remains a supporting force for their defence. However, Coquelin's nagging injury and poor form against Olympiacos have to raise fresh concerns. Any player who takes to a pair of scissors in order to convert his long-sleeved shirt into a short-sleeved version deserves a second chance, in mybook. But do recent events mean the charismatic Frenchman has finally done enough to earn himself a starting role? Quite possibly. He’s still only 31 and has a lot to offer. On September 23rd, he scored twice to give Arsenal victory in their League Cup third-round tie at White Hart Lane, home of fierce London rivals, Spurs. It was his first double for the Gunners, and it’s hard to think of a more appropriate component against which to bag a brace. More than anyone else in the squad, after all, Flamini knows the importance of matches against big rivals, and we have a barn-burner coming up on Sunday. Football is a fickle game, but that very trait can be exploited by players like Flamini. Imagine spending weeks on the bench before being given the chance to prove yourself (again) against your club’s arch-enemy. You’d go for it, wouldn’t you? And go for it Flamini did. “I had a point to prove,” he told BBC Sport after the game. On the 78th minute, having already scored the opener and with the game leveled, the Frenchman scored a stunning, nearly-perfect volley from the edge of the Tottenham penalty box. That goal surely silenced his own fans, many of whom had earlier taken to Twitter to express their delight at Flamini having scored the first. Not in the truest sense of the word, though. No, these fans cruelly used the opportunity to poke fun at Arsenal; “Spurs gotta be embarrassed” one fan tweeted. Flamini went on to win man of the match, capping off a fairy tale evening and, one would think, eliciting a wry glimmer in the eyes of Gunners’ fans. After all, here’s a guy who has been dropped time after time, yet, when it mattered, showed exactly what he was made of. Despite being cast aside, he never left the club; he's waited, presumably like a caged animal. His return was Roy of the Rovers stuff, and it isn’t something Gunners fans will forget; everyone loves an underdog turned hero. Against Man U's attack, we're going to need fresh legs and a fierce heart. Flamini has both. Will he be back in favour with Arsène? It may not happen instantly, but at a club forever battling with unfavourable headlines, such heroics could be very timely indeed.

Interesting ideas, there. Coquelin's injury does remind us of how thin we are as we face off against the club that snatched Schneiderlin. Here's hoping Flamini, if given the chance, can do to Man U what he did to Tottenham! Before you go, give Jonathan a follow at @missingstuds and find more of his writing at Missing Studs Football.