Category Archives: Matthieu Flamini

Gonzalo finally arrives at the Emirates…for real, this time.

After a long, drawn-out saga that came as close as agreeing to personal terms and setting up a physical, Perez went and pulled the plug on the deal and Higuaín finds himself in Italy, and we had to settle for some German punk instead. So it goes. Given

the choice between Mesut Özil or Gonzalo Higuaín (assuming I had to pick one or other other with “both” not an option), honestly, I’d plump for Özil every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I know that we’re going to worry about Olivier Giroud’s fitness and form as the season progresses, and we may have to rely on some make-shift solutions until January should Giroud suffer an injury, but Özil is a unique talent and the kind of player who can make everyone around him better. Higuaín, for as good as he is and may become, will only be as good as the service he receives. The service that Giroud receives from Özil, the mentoring and demonstrating that Ramsey and Wilshere will get, and (dare I say it) the inspiration Özil can give to the entire squad tip the scales in his favor.

This is not to say that we would have been fools to sign Higuaín. He’s going to do well for Napoli, and we would have been much improved with him. However, we saw how the saga unfolded, and rather than rue what could have been, we have much to savor. Over at Napoli, I’m sure they’re satisifed, but I almost wonder if they saw our deal with Özil and aren’t sucking their teeth just a little. It’s not that Higuaín has failed to deliver—far from it. He’s scored four goals in six matches for Napoli and has put in a number of strong showings. The squad itself is off to a very good start, going for six wins in seven matches, dropping just two points in a draw with Sassuolo and sitting second behind Roma. This is especially impressive given the number of new players (eight) that they’ve added and had to bed-in.  Speaking of several of these new players, Arsène had this to say:

Napoli’s counter-attacking style struck me in the Emirates Cup…When they win the ball they come out very quickly with Callejón, [Marek] Hamsik, Insigne and Higuaín—they all come out like bombs every time they win the ball. This means that the transition from our team from offence to defence will have to be very quick.

It’s therefore important that we field a squad capable of blunting those counters. Frankly, with our injuries, there’s not a whole lot to debater. I’d like to see Wilshere rested, if not because he’s still working his way back after surgery, then because he tends to neglect his defensive responsibilities. We may get away with that against Stoke or Sunderland, but we can ill-afford against a squad like Napoli’s. With Hamsik and Insigne on the left, Wilshere will have to track back so that he doesn’t leave Gibbs isolated. If Wilshere can’t be trusted to do this, it may be necessary to play Monreal, who is less attack-oriented than Gibbs is. In either case, we’ll need to play tighter defense than we’ve done so far. We haven’t kept a clean sheet since the North London Derby, a stretch of five matches or almost 500 minutes of football (including the overtime against West Brom). I’m not suggesting we need a clean sheet on Tuesday, but we can’t expect to concede goals and win. That’s just common sense.

For as well as we’e played to start the season, this will be the first time we’re up against a truly in-form and potentially elite squad. Nothing against our other opponents to date, but Napoli are in fine form and, on paper, look capable of beating most teams they face. They beat Dortmund, for one, something that only a few teams can lay claim to doing in the last thirteen months. I won’t make much of our Emirates Cup clash because it was a friendly and both squads have changed considerably since then. Having said of all this, I find it hard to argue against the form we’re in and the fact that we’re playing at home.

The last time Matthieu Flamini faced Napoli was in April, and he scored in a 1-1 draw that helped AC Milan qualify for this year’s UCL playoff-round. Then again, he also got sent off for a reckless tackle. I’ll use that as a spring-board for predicting that he’ll score, as will Özil, in a 2-1 win for us. 

Flamini’s signed: Podolski’s injury fits Arsène’s transfer-policy perfectly

Pity poor Arsène. For the first time in years, he hasn’t had to face the prospect of losing key players (with apologies to Gervinho, Arshavin, Squillaci, and all the rest) and so hasn’t had any “real” reason to go out and spend in the transfer-market. In years past, we could count on a player having the good taste and upbringing to announce his future

unavailability; van Persie or Fabregas or Touré understood their manager’s need for time to prepare (even though 75% of all business happens in the last days. Or something). They gave their manager ample warning, never once muddying the waters with passive-aggressive contradictions or ambiguity, so that he would have the maximum amount of time to find suitable, one-for-one replacements. Those were the good old days, when nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. “Give me five bees for a quarter,” you’d say. Now, where was I?

Oh yeah, Podolski. Clearly lacking good parentage, Mr. Podolski has decided it was appropriate to get himself injured for up to 10 weeks, failing to provide his employer proper notice or to leave behind contingency plans for his absence. All we need now is for someone to contract acute radiation poisoning or get arrested for every unsolved murder in our fair city. Three misfortunes? That’s possible. Seven? There’s an outside chance. But nine? I digress.

We’ve lost to Villa at home, and we’ve lost four players to long-term injury (Diaby, Arteta, the Ox, and Poldi). By my count, we’ve already lost 22.06 player-games to injury, and we’re only four games into a season that could, if we’re lucky, offer 50+ matches. None of these setbacks, in and of themselves, seems like it has been enough to force Arsène’s hand. In past years, we could come to count on the departure of a key player just as we could look forward to the falling of autumn leaves. Old men in retirement homes had learned to predict the severity of the coming winter based on who was leaving Arsenal. “Van Persie’s leavin’,” they’d say, “could be as cold as it was in ’37”. This year, however, we’ve had no such single crisis to respond to; it’s been the proverbial death by a thousand paper-cuts. Diaby went down in late March, but all was well from that point, for the most part, until major injuries to Arteta, and then Ox, and now Podolski. The various “minor” injuries to Monreal or Vermaelen have been disconcerting, but, again, none of this apparently adds up to a crisis large enough to respond to through signing a top-shelf player or two.

This is made all the more clear by the re-signing of Flamini. French and available for a free transfer, Flamini does, we must admit, add some depth, flexibility, and grit to the midfield and defense. He’s a shrewd signing, to be sure, but even he would have to admit that he’s not the game-changing or season-redefining player we’ve clamored for. He’ll do well for us, and it will be valuable to have some cover for Ramsey until Arteta comes back. Presumably, he’ll be available for the derby on Sunday.

However, we still wait with bated breath for a true signing. With Podolski and Ox out, we are now down to Giroud, Walcott, and Cazorla as out-and-out attackers—with Sanogo as the only sub available. If we could perhaps convince Giroud to pretend that his knee has gone akimbo for a day or so, this might finally force Arsène’s hand. With no experienced striker left in the squad, he’d have to splurge on a striker, although all of the talk lately has been of midfielders: Özil, Di María, Cabaye, and so on. Then again, for all we know, Arsène has already gone ahead and signed one or two and is just reveling in the rumor-maelstrom, waiting until the last possible moment to surprise us all.

I’m sure that’s it. Please let that be it…