The Myth of Flamini
Arsenal’s failure this season has been claimed by many to be because we failed to replace Flamini. This is over-simplifying the problem and also placing too great an emphasis upon the role played by Mathieu Flamini.
If we look back at Flamini’s time at Arsenal we will see a player who was a squad player. He came to prominence in the 2005/06 when he deputised for Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy playing in an unfamiliar left-back role. His appearance before that season and in the subsequent season was mainly coming on as a substitute.
Flamini took his chance last season with Gilberto on international duty and Diaby injured, Flamini was Arsene’s first choice. But how instrumental was Flamini in our season last season?
At the back we had a settled back four, Sagna had a tremendous first season and Clichy was solid until his Birmingham moment. In midfield Fabregas was on fire, Hleb and Rosicky were direct attacking players, always tormenting their opponents and capable of scoring and creating goals. In attack, Adebayor player out of his skin. He was assisted by van Persie and latterly by Eduardo.
All in all we had a very good unit all over the pitch. So how much did Flamini really contribute and was he really the cog that we have been missing? Flamini was an industrious player, but he was not the catalyst. Flamini did the simple things, and as we have seen with the likes of Park and Fletcher at Manchester United, if you surround good players with great players they will raise their game.
Flamini’s role could have been performed by Gilberto, in fact in the previous season it can be argued that Gilberto played better than Flamini and saved us on several occasions. A player who would have played as good as Flamini and in fact would have excelled at the club was Diarra.
The key to the central midfield role are the players around you and how they perform. This is where having fallen down this season, the strikers have blown hot and cold, Cesc has not reached anywhere the heights of last season whilst our wide players, until the arrival of Arshavin, have not performed. Had Flamini stayed last summer, I doubt that the end result would have been any different.