Mathieu Flamini: The Pros and Cons of Signing the Tenacious Midfielder
When the Gunners swooped for Sol Campbell in 2010 after he walked out of his Notts County contract, his arrival was met with mixed emotions as the Gunners wondered why the manager couldn’t go into the market to get a more decent central defender. In fairness to the fans’ pleas, Campbell was in his twilight years and he had little left in the tank.
In his second stint with the club, he made 14 appearances and scored a goal against FC Porto. He then went to Newcastle for a short spell before finally hanging his boots.
Following a long-term shoulder injury to Lukasz Fabianski, another mysterious finger injury to Wojciech Szczesny in 2011 as well as some shambolic performances for Manuel Almunia made Arsene Wenger rolls back the years to sign Mad Jens Lehmann, and was he the custodian between the sticks in Arsenal’s away victory against Blackpool. Szczesny recovered afterwards and continued in goal till the campaign finished.
A year after Lehmann finished his stint at the club, Arsenal required protective cover in attack (2011/12 season) when Gervinho departed to represent his nation in the 2012 AFCON. With the boss clearly having no faith in panic buy, Park Chu-Young, and certainly not ready to splurge on a striker, the manager shocked the world when he managed to coax the King of Arsenal, Thierry Henry, to return for a second spell.
The immortalized Gunner relished the opportunity and solidified his immortal status with a peach of a finish against Sunderland, rolling back the years and adding another goal to his long-standing goalscoring records at Arsenal as they are yet to be broken. The only player with the potential of breaking that record had already scored 132 goals in a frantic pace, but he and the little boy inside him, departed for Arsenal’s eternal rivals and he can only be a part of the club’s history.
Following the debacle against Aston Villa, the fans voiced their sheer frustration over the club’s inability to spend some cash. There were reports of a failed bid for Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye (via ESPN), and it seems as if Arsene Wenger has found that defensive midfielder he always wanted.
It's taken Arsenal five years to replace Flamini, but they've finally done it…by signing Flamini.—
Iain Macintosh (@iainmacintosh) August 22, 2013
After keeping his fitness levels in check and training extensively with the Gunners, the Guardian, like many other sports columns, has reported that Arsenal is set to re-sign tenacious midfielder, Mathieu Flamini, as a free agent following his contract expiration with AC Milan, the team he left Arsenal to join in 2008.
The 29-year-old holding midfielder spent four years with Arsenal from 2004 to 2008, making a total of 153 appearances scoring eight goals. After arriving as a free agent from Marseille, he found himself on the fringes at Arsenal but got an extended run of games, albeit in an unfamiliar left back position, following injuries to Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy.
He rose to prominence in the 2007/08 campaign, where he forged a telepathic understanding with Cesc Fabregas in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield, with Tomas Rosicky and Aliaksandr Hleb providing width through the flanks.
After his amazing performances that season, Flamini ditched the Gunners for more money to join AC Milan, making 122 apps in five seasons with the club. Despite the fact that he was synonymous with first-team action at Arsenal, he failed to command a starting berth in Italy and even featured as a fullback more times than he expected.
Flamini’s potential return to Arsenal has been met with mixed emotions as some faction of the fans are very happy about his second coming while others have been unimpressed with the fact that the Gunners don’t want to invest in quality talent out there.
Without further ado, here are the pros and cons of signing Mathieu Flamini, from my own perspective.
He’ll Provide Adequate Cover in Midfield
This is the primary reason why Arsenal needs his services.
Abou Diaby has been injured for as long as I can remember and Arsenal’s chief enforcer, Mikel Arteta, is also nursing a thigh injury. With Francis Coquelin shipped out on loan, the Gunners are desperately light in midfield and can only call on the services of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere to play as the double pivot, two players with injury records of their own.
Flamini is a natural defensive midfield with vast Premier League experience so he won’t be expected to go through any adaptation period of any sort. He will provide depth and making things simpler, he has been there and done that. I certainly won’t mind more piledrivers from long distance like his surface-to-goal missile against Newcastle.
His Versatility Can Come in Handy
In Arsenal’s run to the Champions League final in 2006, Arsene Wenger placed his faith on Flamini to do a job for his team at left back. The Flanimal embraced his new role and excelled admirably before losing his place to Ashley Cole in the final at Paris. In his days at AC Milan, he was used as an emergency right back and even though he lacked the attacking instincts and crossing ability of a full back, there were no issues with his defensive side, as he ravaged opposition wingers in his spells as a make-shift fullback.
At Arsenal, the injuries keep ramping up in several position and that trend hasn’t stopped this season. Flamini will be a perfect cover in midfield as well as the full back positions. I even believe that he can do a good job as a center back if given the chance.
As the saying goes, all the best things in life are free.
A player of Flamini’s quality would arrive at the Emirates for nothing and Arsene Wenger has to be heralded for convincing him to make a second spell at the club. He would not expect to walk into the first team but he arrives as a free agent, which is good for the club’s coffers, as they wouldn’t be touched yet again.
As if the club was planning to…
He Would Want to Pay the Fan’s Back With More Stellar Performances
Flamini was a fan favorite in the 2007/08 season and was undoubtedly one of the finest holding midfielders in the business at that point in time. However, many Gooners were shocked to see the Frenchman jump ship after AC Milan offered him a higher salary than Arsenal, which ultimately meant that his four year stint was over.
Now that he’s returning to the club, some fans would be happy to see him strut his stuff but he would be on a personal mission to win the fans back and he can only do that with some stellar performances on the pitch. Let’s hope to see the Flamini of old that was a thorn in the flesh of opposition attackers.
There are Better Defensive Midfielders Out There
If you’re left with a choice to purchase one defensive midfielder from a list containing Asier Illarramendi, Luiz Gustavo, Mathieu Flamini, Lars Bender, Ilkay Gundogan and Marouane Fellaini, the Frenchman would be the last player you would probably consider, which clearly means that a club like Arsenal with the resources at their disposal, should be going for the other available players in this aforementioned list.
Illarramendi and Luiz Gustavo currently have new employers but the Bender twins are still available and there’s also a man-mountain in the form of Fellaini that is yet to be snapped up by the European predators of football.
Flamini is clearly a cheap option but Arsenal can really afford to sign any top player they want. This is the same team that had a 40m + 1 deal rejected for Luis Suarez. With 40m, the Gunners can buy any midfielder in that list, and there will be excess change left.
A Sign of Desperation
Arsene Wenger had the entire summer to find a defensive midfielder but he chose to fold his arms as many players slipped past him. Following a shocking home defeat to Aston Villa, the manager is now on a trolley dash to sign talent from Europe.
It’s a shame to see that he has gone for another cheap option like Flamini.
His Arrival Doesn’t Justify Francis Coquelin’s Loan Move to Freiburg
Arsene Wenger had accessed his squad for the 2013/14 season and decided that Francis Coquelin wasn’t going to be a part of it so he consiously decided to let him out on loan to Freiburg.
Signing Flamini clearly means that shipping Le Coq out was a poor piece of judgment from the boss, as it was glaring that Mikel Arteta would need cover in the wake of any injury but he never did that.
Now he has rolled back the years to sign Flamini, when he should have left Coquelin in the squad all along.
Flamini’s Injury Record
Despite the fact that Flamini is meant to be an adequate cover in the wake of any injuries, he’s a player with an extensive injury record of his own. Since his move to Milan, he has been plagued with a series of muscular injuries and one can only hope that he doesn’t come to the club to add to Arsenal’s injury woes as well.
I feel that signing Flamini on loan might turn out to be a good piece of business but in all honesty, there are better options out there.
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