Mathieu Flamini And Arsenal's Subtle Squad Depth
A sense of optimism has returned to Arsenal. As they sit top of the Premier League table, today Jim Campbell tells us why there's plenty to like about the current squad.
How different the mood is at Arsenal compared with that of a few weeks ago. Back then some fans were so frustrated that their virginities were growing back. Not so any more. The arrival of Mesut Özil re-popped those cherries and has excited Arsenal fans more than any signing since Dennis Bergkamp. Both the club and supporters have had a huge lift and while Özil has dazzled in his displays so far the returning Mathieu Flamini has also had an instant impact.
If Arsene Wenger signing Özil was out of character to the point of seeming almost surreal, the re-addition of his former charge was classic. As Flamini stepped back onto the pitch in the North London derby he immediately flew into a robust and ferocious tackle as if he'd never been away. In a moment he reminded the fans of exactly what they'd lost the first time around.
So many high profile players have departed the Emirates in recent years that the importance of the role Flamini played in the Gunners' midfield in his final season seemed to have been forgotten. He and Cesc Fabregas formed a highly effective partnership and the now older and wiser Frenchman had become a firm favourite at the club.
His return is a significant one as his versatility widely increases Arsenal's squad depth, especially given that he can also play at full back. Even after the initial Özilgasm of transfer deadline day many fans were still baffled as to why the club hadn't signed a defender but with Bacary Sagna putting in solid displays after adapting to the position like a modern Lillian Thuram and Flamini able to play at right back if the ever-improving Carl Jenkinson is unavailable even this problem is overcome by the man's versatility. It's unusual that one player can bring so much balance to a squad but Flamini is like a footballing spirit level.
In midfield he's the perfect kind of grafter to have in behind Özil and his presence, the addition of the German international, the form of Aaron Ramsey and the return of Mikel Arteta make for a plethora of dynamic midfield options. Arteta is 31 and may soon need to be rotated if he is to play at his highest level on a consistent basis over a whole season. Flamini allows for this with no dip in quality.
While the club were inactive in terms of player acquisition for most of the summer the decks were cleared of the majority of the players who weren't pulling their weight and now - for the first time in a long time - Arsenal fans can enjoy a first team that doesn't obviously pick itself.
When the squad is fully fit it's an exciting one. The prospect of Özil and Santi Cazorla combining is mouthwatering, Olivier Giroud is playing with confidence and though currently sidelined Lukas Podolski looked sharp at the start of the season and should no longer be carrying an injury to his podankle, as he did for the entirety of the last campaign. On top of this Laurent Koscielny still looks like a dinosaur, which is always exciting.
The mood of the fans has been lifted and that in turn has boosted the team on the pitch. It's been a long time since such togetherness has been felt at Arsenal, be that in how happy the team look or in how few fans are typing abuse at each other on the internet. I can't remember a time during the barren, trophyless wasteland of the past 8 years that there was such relentless positivity from all aspects of the club. Makes a nice change, doesn't it?
Current Arsenal Odds - Odds as at 27th September 2013.
|To Win Premier League||12.00||7.00||7.00||8.00||7.50||7.00|
|Top 4 Finish||1.67||1.53||1.53||1.50||1.57||1.57|
|To Win Champions League||34.00||23.00||21.00||26.00||26.00||26.00|
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