In 2007-08 Arsenal played the most attractive football in the league. The midfield was full of extraordinary talents – Fabregas, Rosicky and Hleb – that were capable of producing magic on the pitch including one of the greatest magic tricks ever – they convinced the world that Emmanuel Adebayor was actually a world-class striker. Well, they almost did that. However, it should be noted that our magicians in the midfield had a huge help from the man that covered their back and did all that dirty work that usually goes unnoticed. That man was Mathieu Flamini. Arsenal didn’t win any trophies that season, but only because of that horror-tackle of Martin Taylor that practically had ended Eduardo’s promising Arsenal career. Unfortunately, at the end of the season, Flamini left for the greener pastures of AC Milan and our defensive issues multiplied.
Flamini returned to Arsenal against the Spuds and his impact on the pitch was immediate. He is the one that restored the balance in our midfield. With attacking-minded players like Cazorla, Wilshere, Özil, Ramsey and Rosicky at our disposal, Flamini’s presence makes our defense more secure and our creative players can focus on what they do the best (of course, that doesn’t mean they can just neglect their defensive tasks!).
We have lost two games this season and – not surprisingly – in both occasions Flamini wasn’t on the pitch. In both matches our defense had problems caused by a lack of the balance in the team. Arteta – despite his hard-work and professional approach – can’t replace Flamini’s bite and that’s something Arsene Wenger might want to think about before January. Perhaps another prodigal son might return to Emirates in order to revive his own career and help our title bid – Alex Song hasn’t had the best time at Nou Camp.
Another problem that we have witnessed so far is lack of natural wingers in the team. Injuries of Theo Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t leave too much options on the wings so Wenger has to use central midfielders like Wilshere, Özil, Rosicky and Cazorla. All of them are excellent players but none of them are natural wingers. Although some might argue that the lack of wingers is not really a problem for a team like ours, lack of width in the attack produces problems for our defenders as well. Sagna and Gibbs had problems tonight and that’s not the first time it happened against the Germans.
Borussia’s bitter rivals Schalke 04 won at the Emirates last season as well and during that game Andre Santos was constantly targeted on the left flank where Farfan/Afellay had fine help from Uchida’s overlaps. However, during that match, we had a brief spell when Schalke couldn’t attack us through the wing. For a short period of time, Lukas Podolski – who started the game as left winger – and Gervinho – who started the game as central forward – swapped places. Gervinho, a natural winger, forced Uchida to stay on the back foot so he couldn’t overlap during that period. Unfortunately, Podolski and Gervinho returned to their starting positions and the nightmare for Santos continued.
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Gervinho’s spell at Arsenal won’t be remembered as the brilliant one, but his departure left us with problems on the wings given that Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain prefer central positions and Gnabry is yet to become a top-class player. Perhaps we don’t need a striker in January as many of us have written since the end of the summer transfer window, but perhaps a natural winger to add more options to our attack. A player like Nani wouldn’t be a bad purchase.
To lose at the hands of Borussia Dortmund is not a tragedy but we must bounce back quickly and collect all three points against Crystal Palace before The Dirty Dozen Days come!