Mathieu Flamini once again put in an abject performance against Chelsea, and while Per Mertesacker’s red card was the catalyst for the loss, Flamini’s display was unquestionably a contributing factor.
The 31-year-old has been handed an extended run in the first-team following an injury to Francis Coquelin, and his displays have highlighted just how much we need his young compatriot in the side.
Coquelin is unquestionably first choice at Arsenal, and with the acquisition of Mohamed Elneny you’d expect Flamini to drop further down the pecking order. Once Coquelin makes his full recovery it would not be surprising to see Flamini pushed to the outskirts, and few Arsenal fans would complain if he didn’t play another game for us this season.
Chelsea was really the last straw, as Flamini seemed to totally ignore his duties in midfield. He was consistently out of position, regularly seen charging into the opposition’s box, and totally neglected his role in front of the back four. He spent far too much time telling others how to do their jobs and not enough time doing his own, which meant Chelsea were allowed too much time and space with the ball – made worse by being a man down.
Part of Flamini’s shortcomings may well be due to his age, with his legs letting him down and the experienced midfielder no longer able to get around the pitch anymore. Because he can no longer keep up with players charging through the middle of the pitch, he either drops too deep and becomes a third (yet totally ineffective) centre-back, or pushes further forward to press higher up the pitch. When the pressing fails and the opposition are able to pass around him, he’s totally taken out of the game and our back four are left with no protection.
Even when he is in the right place, he doesn’t have the same impact Coquelin does. Either he lunges in and gets bypassed, or he stands off and doesn’t apply enough pressure. That was evident in the game against Chelsea, where he not only failed to make a single successful tackle, but also failed to pressure Willian in the build up to the red card – allowing the Brazilian to pick a pass over the head of Mertesacker and put the German in real trouble against Diego Costa.
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You could argue that Flamini shouldn’t even be in the team at all at the moment, despite Coquelin’s injury. Calum Chambers did a superb job in midfield against Bournemouth the other week, and the youngster’s discipline and willingness to sit deep allowed Aaron Ramsey much more freedom. Flamini’s ridiculous marauding runs prevent the Welshman from having the free reign he needs against the bigger teams, which in turn limits our creativity. Why Wenger opted to return Flamini to the side after Chambers’ performance is a bit of a mystery, but we rarely know what’s going on in the manager’s head.
However, assuming no more serious injuries this season, Wenger may no longer have a use for Flamini. Our next game is against Burnley in the FA Cup, which should either provide another opportunity for Chambers to show what he can do in midfield, or allow Wenger the chance to give Elneny his Arsenal debut.
Shortly after that we play host to Southampton, and with reports suggesting Coquelin is already “very close” to a return (via the Metro), the 24-year-old may well be fit in time for our clash with the Saints. The midfield role will then hopefully be shared between Coquelin and Elneny, with Flamini left out in the cold.
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We expect him to be on his way out of the club at the end of the season anyway, so why not get him on his way now?