Where is the Flamster now?

Mathieu Flamini’s emergence at the heart of the Arsenal midfield last season was a revelation. Previously used as a squad player, and with is contract not renewed at the beginning of 07/08 he was available on a Bosman last summer and AC Milan snapped him up.

Image courtesy of tpower1978

This dismayed many Arsenal fans, myself included, and this year, rightly or wrongly, Flamini’s absence has been blamed for some of our inconsistent results.

He did form a great partnership with Fabregas, but don’t forget we also lost Hleb, another key midfielder, to Barca, during the summer – and this has weakened our team further.

Some pundits and many Arsenal fans said he was a fool for leaving, and wouldn’t get games in an AC Milan team with the likes of Gattuso and Pirlo, and he would be playing lowly UEFA Cup  football to boot. I thought the same, and above all I was sad to see him leave Arsenal.

At AC Milan he has had ups and downs, but is starting to look like a real bargain.

Ancelotti, the manager under whom Henry had a miserable time at Juventus before joining Arsenal, is the Milan manager now, and at the beginning of the season he was looking to see if Mathieu Flamini could be pushed into a full-back role. This utility player label was the one he had tried to shake off at Arsenal, and it seemed like he was back to square one at the San Siro:

“I had also played this role a couple of times at Arsenal, but I discussed his matter with Arsene Wenger and told him my natural position is in midfield.”

Flamini has started to get more games in central midfield, after a stint where Gattuso was injured, and is becoming a regular, although he only came off the bench in the 88th minute against Roma at the weekend. He has played in 13 games this season and Milan are 3rd in Serie A, 9 points behind Mourinho’s Inter. Their UEFA Cup campaign is also going well, they face Bremen in the round of 32 in February.

So Flamini isn’t doing badly – he has put in some of his commited performances for Milan – but he has sacrificed Champions League football and a guaranteed first team place. Arsenal’s form has been inconsistent this year, we might not even finish 4th, so although I hate to say it, if Flamini can hold down a place at AC then the move might have benefitted him.

A note: Read Flamini’s stats for AC Milan this season here (i.e. games played etc.!)

Loss to City shows what a bad state Arsenal are in..

Man City 3 – 0 Arsenal: Ireland 45, Robinho 56, Sturridge (pen) 90 Highlights here..

Yesterday we saw a second defeat in a row for an Arsenal side which was very poor. Yes, we had several first teamers out, and yes, Gallas has put the club and captaincy into turmoil, but you would have expected more against a side who have struggled to win games this season.

Almunia was named as captain as Gallas didn’t travel. We conceded 3 relatively soft goals, but it could have been more really. We had one good chance after Ramsey came on and put Bendtner through, but apart from that it was a poor game.

Wenger looked resigned to defeat, and the players just couldn’t get a grip on the game, even Clichy was making uncharacteristic errors, a mix up between him and Silvestre allowing Ireland to get the first goal just before half time.

We might have been better starting Ramsey, because he was the best player in the second half after he came on, and putting Song to CB with Djourou at RB. That might have added some creativity, because for most of the game we had none.

Our squad is threadbare at the moment – Toure, Sagna, Fabregas, Rosicky, Eduardo, Walcott, Adebayor were all unavailable, and they are all first choice players for me, not to mention the fact that Gallas isn’t going to play any more. I applaud Wenger for dealing with Gallas and I think a new captain will do us good but there are some problems in the squad which have been apparent during the building of this new generation.

We don’t have the strength and depth to play at the top at the moment. Our team this season is probably the weakest that we have ever had under Wenger – conceding 18 and losing 5 before December shows you have far we have fallen.

I think the first team would be acceptable if all the injured and suspended players mentioned above were fit and playing, but we still would have very little depth in the squad. Players like Denilson and Song aren’t ready, neither was Hoyte yesterday, and at the moment Bendtner doesn’t have the quality to be a first team player either.

Wenger is a fantastic manager, but he seems to have got himself into a bit of a mess. Losing Flamini, Gilberto, Diarra and Hleb last season was disastrous, and we haven’t got a midfielder who can fit the defensive role.

Leadership is another problem, Gallas has exposed some deeper problems in the team, and I think we need to make a clean start, bring in two or three new faces in January, name a new captain (Fabregas?) and get on with trying to build a successful team.

Obviously we are lacking in confidence, but we have gone from a team which was last year only a few points away from the title, to one which now may struggle to get 4th place.

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Fabregas thinks the squad is a little thin

Hello Gooners. Fabregas has been talking to the press about our threadbare squad and our style of play compared to Spain.

He raises some quite worrying points about our potential for this season, but he is positive:

“We have a short squad and we are very young, behind me Denilson and Song play, and they are 20. Walcott is 19 and Nasri is 21. Can you imagine I’m the oldest midfielder? Winning will be tough for us because we are not experienced.

“Last season I scored a lot because I had Rosicky, and Flamini who used to run all over the pitch. Hleb as well, who is like my brother. They have gone now and I feel weird. We are more conservative and strong, but with less touches.”

It seems like Fabregas is all too aware of our problems in the squad, and I think he might feel a little more comfortable with some more experienced players challenging for places. Certainly we are lacking cover in midfield right now. He explained Wenger’s policy to the press:

“Arsene Wenger has crystal clear ideas, there aren’t two like him. He doesn’t want to spend money as he prefers to trust youngsters. His idea is that Walcott can’t develop if you sign Cristiano [Ronaldo].”

He was questioned about his differing roles for club and country – the fact that he isn’t an automatic starter for Spain was mentioned:

“To me it is not an issue because I’m aware I’m young, I play differently and must adapt. I’m not an attacker that plays with his back to goal because I haven’t got the body neither the agility to do it. I need to watch what’s happening because I’m not quick neither agile. I rely on my passes and my vision.

“Nowadays we play in 5-4-1 with Spain and at Arsenal it’s always 4-4-2. At Arsenal I can move, do what I think I must do. The gaffer doesn’t make me to do anything. I feel free. With Spain it is different, you touch the ball, make lots of controls. There (in England) it’s more about counter attacks and going as quickly as possible in front of the goal.

“I know who I am. I notice a change when I’m with Spain but it’s normal – I don’t play (in La Liga) and people don’t see me. I am 21 and have so much to learn. I feel so important in England, but you should remain humble when you play football.”

When he plays for Spain he obviously feels like a young boy with a lot to learn, and at Arsenal I think he has some responsibility resting on his shoulders. Maybe it isn’t so good for him to have to be the main player in the squad at such a young age.

On scoring the last gasp header against Sunderland:

“It’s rare because I’m used to scoring set pieces including corners, and I’m not good at headers. But I’d like to improve because a midfielder that can head the ball is more efficient.

“Most of all I must improve defensively. I always want to attack, to score, to deliver, it’s my dream.”

I think Cesc is possibly the best player at Arsenal, without him we don’t tick, but he needs to feel that the club is matching his ambitions, and losing players like Hleb and Flamini has obviously affected him.

He doesn’t know if we can win the league this year with our current squad and that worries me.

The Arsenal Curse – back in action? – David Bentley, Flamini, Hleb..

Bentley needs to eat something
Bentley needs to eat something

Arsenal Insider runs a nice piece here, basically saying – lets all laugh at David Bentley.

The guy has become a hated figure at Arsenal with all his bitter comments about the club and Wenger since he left. After signing for Spurs this summer for about £15 million he is now part of Spurs worst ever start to a season.

They are bottom of the league – of course we have only played 3 games, but it’s still funny!

It is even sweeter because Bentley has made a lot of comments about how we don’t bring through English talent, that’s why he moved. But Theo just scored a hattrick for England, maybe Bentley’s failure at Arsenal is more because of his lack of talent than Arsenal’s policies!

The Spolier also lists some more unfortunate Arsenal leavers – Hleb was injured on his home debut for Barca – out for 4 weeks, they drew 1-1 against Santander.

Flamini isn’t doing great at AC Milan either – 100% loss rate in their games so far, and no Champions League this week, just a UEFA Cup tie on Thrusday!!

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Who will partner Fabregas next season – Gilberto, Diaby, Ramsey?

The departure of Flamini to AC Milan eariler this summer was undoubtedly a blow for Arsenal FC. Last season he went from being a squad player, to one of the most influential figures in midfield and forged an excellent partnership with Fabregas.

Now he has left the void has to be filled. Gooners were probably hoping Arsenal would sign a new defensive midfielder to partner Cesc, but that’s not likely now, Wenger seems to be focusing more on the wings, which were a problem area for us last season.

In the centre of we have the option of Gilberto or Diaby, and also Song, Denilson or even Ramsey. The best defensive candidates are Gilberto and Diaby.

Gilberto – already having played the role for a few years prior to Flamini’s emergence has the experience and quality. The problem is he looked poor last season when he did get a few chances to impress, and his passing is always up to scratch. He plays a diffferent game to that of Flamini, tending to hold back, whereas Flamini is always in the oppositions faces.

Gilberto would be a sensible choice to start with as a defensive midfielder, but I don’t think he is good enough anymore to warrant a staring place.

Abou Diaby is my choice. He is a strong and fast player, with a lot of height. We used him on the wing last season, and he got a few goals. The main problem with him is that he is inconsistent – and can be lazy.

Diaby has great qualities for the role though, he is defensive, but very good going forward – his pace, passing and ball control mean that he would be a great partner for Cesc, and he is a long term option.

If he can up his work rate and consistency then he could have a chance, I would love to see Wenger try him out next season.

There are other contenders – Denilson, I think isn’t ready for that sort of role. Ramsey – more suited to the wings, and Song – Wenger thinks that he will better used in defence.

So we start the season with a first team spot up for grabs, we just need to see who takes it.

What do you think – is there anyone I’ve missed – or do you think we should be signing a new central midfielder?

UPDATE 11 JULY 2008: Is Gilberto going? Rumours are he is going to Panathaniakos…

Gilberto warns players about leaving + Song gets a new deal.

Gilberto, ever the model professional last season, has warned the Arsenal players against leaving the club. This is something I have always empasized, why leave when our current team has such great potential, the players are likely to regret it.

He had this to say about players leaving:

“I don’t know what they have in mind but they should stay a little bit longer, maybe they want to try something different, but they could develop themselves and achieve big things at Arsenal.

“The team is young and getting better. It could be really special if the players all stay. What is important is to keep everyone at the club, for them to stay long-term at the club.

“I haven’t spoken to them since the end of the season but in my opinion Arsenal is still a great, great club and fantastic for any player in the world.

It would be a good thing for them to stay at the club because they know each other very well. They have a better situation than last season and could use the feeling of disappointment as an inspiration for next season.

Well said Bert, you know what you are talking about. A lot of people are suprised with how well Gilberto has taken his demotion to the bench during the last season, and now how he speaks about the club with such passion. This is real devotion if you ask me, and I think Gilberto really wants to make something good at Arsenal, thats why he’s saying this.

Gilberto goes on to make a very rational point about contracts, this is so relevant in the current climate, where everyone seems to be demanding that Arsenal pay players whatever they want.

When you win things you achieve more than anybody else. It follows that you get better contracts and more money,”

“Most of the players who leave miss the club for lots of reasons. The lifestyle at Arsenal is fantastic. You get so well looked after.”

Basically he is saying, you don’t know how good you have it, so stay and make something good of your career, you don’t want to end up like Anelka, who says he regrets leaving Arsenal a lot… 

Looking forward to next season Gilberto wants to stay and help win something with us:

“Next season will be very important for the club and the players. They must win something to keep the ambition of everybody and to maintain the hope of every player.

“If we don’t win anything next year it will be difficult to keep everybody happy. If you don’t see any possibility of winning the title they will change their minds.

“I do want to stay. It depends when I come back if Arsene wants me to stay. I still have one year left on my contract. I’m happy to stay at the club. I will wait until I return to London and pre-season training on 21 July and then I will sit down and talk about it.”

In other contract news, Alex Song has signed a new long term deal with Arsenal, which will prompt people to believe he has a chance at becoming our next defensive midfielder, or a long term option at centre back.

Hill-Wood slams greed while Sagna signs on like a good boy

Arsenal have rewarded Bacary Sagna with a new contract until 2014. The news came out a few days ago but we now know the length of the deal.

“I love Arsenal, they are a great club. The manager is also very good and next season we will be fighting for all the trophies.”

Sagna is definitely the best right-back in the Premiership and was our top signing last summer. In typical Wenger style, he arrived with little furore and proceeded to play amzingly all season.

The fact that we have renewed his contract after just one season at the club is good, it means we can hold onto a top player, but it also reveals the state of the transfer system at the moment.

With players like Hleb being linked away from the club with this Webster Clause and others like Flamini leaving, it seems that we are putting in a concerted effort to keep the team together and happy in their contracts. I have no problem with this, but it does show that the club is a bit more wary of loyalty issues now.

Peter Hill-Wood made comments about the same issue, speaking harshly about the lack of loyalty which is present in football these days:

“Nowadays, a lot of people sign four-year contracts and you heave a sigh of relief. Six months later they come marching in saying they want double the wages.
“The only answer is to tell them they are on that contract and that’s it. Unless you do that, the game will become chaotic and descend into anarchy.

“I think there are very few people who have really got the tradition of the club at heart. You can name them on one hand. Actually I can’t name them on one hand and that’s a great pity.”

“In the old days money was not the big driving force. Nobody was greedy. People didn’t come marching in for pay rises, be they executives, senior managers, players, whatever. People weren’t motivated by the money. They liked the job, they liked the club and they wanted to go to work in the morning. Everyone has become much more materialistic.

“I think that is one of the reasons why Arsene [Wenger] signs younger players. OK, they will probably walk out in five years but at least he has the opportunity to mould them. But some of the so-called stars have got their own ideas about what should happen and don’t always agree with what we think.”

“We are going to go on this way. We are not going to be diverted. We are not going to spend £100 million,”

This is apparent in players like Flamini and possibly Hleb. I am all for sticking to our guns and doing things the way we have been doing them. Arsenal as a club know that we are not like the Chelseas of this world and we don’t have to spend oceans of money to be the best in the league.

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Wenger linked to PSG & he thinks transfer system is dead!

If you looked at Arsenal’s transfers out this summer, you would see Flamini, and that would be it. For all the gossip and rumour very little has happened. Last summer that wouldn’t have bothered anyone.

But with the saga of Hleb, which started with one fateful ice cream in February we have seen a whole heap of talk about Webster clauses and the like, and when Flamini left on a free it brought up a lot of issues about how players leave clubs and how our transfer system works.

Thw ‘Webster Clause’ allows players under the age of 28 to hand in their notice after three years of a four or five-year contract. If they are over 28 they can hand in notice after just two years. This is what Hleb was supposed to be trying to invoke.

Wenger thinks this will spell the end of the transfer system as we know it, unless it is sorted out:

“At the moment it’s either three years or two but believe me, soon someone will challenge that and ask why at 28 years old and not, say, at 27,”

“And then it will be why after two years and not one? Once you get to that stage, the transfer system is dead. You’d have a team built for a year – then you are in big trouble.”

This is a valid point, but the authorities in football should move to simplify the transfer system and regulate it a little better.

People might have said the same thing about Bosmans, but they have blended into the transfer market. Wenger has a point though, this might just be a step too far, and it could bring the football industry crashing down if players get too greedy.

Also Wenger was linked to PSG, purely because his mate has become president there. Why does the Telegraph write such crap?

Do you think Wenger will finish his career at Arsenal?

Van Persie wants extra wages to keep Arsenal together

Last night Robin Van Persie came out saying that Arsenal need to break their wage strcuture if they want to keep their squad together.

Already having lost Flamini, and now facing losing Hleb, Van Persie put further pressure on the club to revaluate the contracts of players like Fabregas and Adebayor. He said:

“They should make sure that these players stay”

“Arsenal have a policy in which they will not go over a specific amount of money when agreeing the salary of a player. They won’t pay enormous amounts of money. I think that they should go to a higher level of salary.

“If you want to keep the group together, you have to keep them happy. If you are 27 or 28 I can understand that you would make the decision to go elsewhere if you can earn three or four times as much. If that sort of money was also paid at Arsenal I’m sure that person would stay.”

“It is very important that Arsenal keep these guys. This group is unique. If a number of them leave it will be different. I think of myself as an Arsenal man but Arsenal should also try to make sure that we all grow together.”

The issue of wages has been hotly debated ever since Flamini left for AC.

I think that RVP does have a point, the club can’t just be naive and hope that players will just stay at Arsenal even when they are offered fat contracts elsewhere.

This is sad, but it is how modern football works. I don’t think that we need to raise salaries greatly though. The best course fo action would be to reassess the wage structure, but the club doesn’t have to go crazy in raises.

We don’t want a system which will spiral out of control and leave us in huge debt. Because of this I do still have sympathy with the club.

It would be even better is if we could just sign some guys who won’t fuck off as soon as they see some extra cash, but instead want to work in a great team at a great club.

What do you think? Should the wage structure be thrown out the window?

UEFA Cup for Flamini and Diarra

Mathieu Flamini left Arsenal for Milan because they are a big club, and they are paying him loads of money. He won’t be in the Champions League next season though!

If anything though he seems to have taken a step back right now. He is not guaranteed first team football there, Gattuso the fans’ favourite plays the same role, and when Fiorentina won 1-0 they sealed fourth place, leaving Milan in fifth.

This means that next year the ‘big club’ will be playing in Europe’s second tier. Who would you rather play for, the third placed team in England, with a young squad full of hope, or an aging fifth placed Italian team?

Diarra, another ex-Arsenal central midfielder will also be playing UEFA Cup football next season with Pompey after winning the FA Cup.

There’s no doubt this guy has talent, but he has to be one of the most obnoxious players to have ever played for us.

He is already looking to use Pompey as a stepping stone after leaving Chelsea and Arsenal because the competition for places was too intense.

Tony Adams had this to say:

“I know why Arsène let him go but I’m not going to say, have you asked Lassana?”

“You have to think outside the box”

This suggests that there were other reasons for Diarra’s departure other than a lack of games, maybe the fact he is a bit of a shit-stirrer. Good riddance Arsene!