18th May 2016: Au revoir again Mathieu

Welcome back. Although there’s been plenty said and written about the departures of Mikel Arteta and Tomas Rosicky in recent days, Mathieu Flamini’s exit from the club has been noticeably low-key in comparison.

Unlike for the former duo, there are no interviews or commemorative compilations on the official site for the Frenchman for instance. But no matter, because TremendArse has a few farewell words for the two-time Gunner. Only a few mind, because it’s getting late and besides, I’m sure the billions Mathieu’s due to pocket from mass-producing levulinic acid will help him to get over the apparent dearth of public appreciation.

Probably the least naturally-gifted with a ball at his feet of our departing trio, Flamini made up for his relative lack of footballing ability through his extraordinary stamina levels, aggressive ball-winning and overall defensive doggedness – mainly in his first spell at the club between 2004 and 2008, admittedly.

In fact, in the 2007-2008 campaign, Flamini was a midfield force to be reckoned with, complimenting Cesc Fabregas’ game-controlling passing to brilliant effect as we led the Premier League table for most of the season and enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, knocking out reigning champions AC Milan along the way.

Thinking back, only a cynical scythe by Steven Gerrard, which ended Flamini’s involvement in the second-leg of the quarter final at Anfield, stopped us from progressing to the semis, after a mesmeric opening 20-minute spell of football by Arsenal was built on the brilliant ball-nicking of the Frenchman. He was everywhere and Liverpool couldn’t handle him, until Gerrard cottoned on and decided to consciously injure a fellow pro. Still, I’ve moved on …

But back to Flamini and perhaps his muted farewell can, in part, be put down to his insistence on leaving the club in 2008 for Milan, after running down his contract having reportedly indicated he would extend his stay. That was seen by many as an unforgivable abandonment and it’s difficult to get away from the feeling his decision was driven by money rather than football. But then he did leave to join one of Europe’s traditional giants and being half-Italian himself must also have been a major motivator for his move to Milan.

Then came the comeback, in the summer of 2013, when most fans had expected a big-money defensive midfield signing to fill the hole left by Alexandre Song’s move to Barcelona, but instead we got Flamini, offered a contract having initially only been granted access to club facilities to work on his fitness after he left Italy as a free agent.

His second debut for Arsenal was memorable for the fact it came against Tottenham at Emirates stadium, and having entered the action as a substitute, he quickly made his presence known in typically robust style, barking orders, cajoling team-mates helping us to see out a narrow win.

Just like in his previous season as an Arsenal player six years earlier, we led the Premier League for long stretches of the season in 2013-14 and Flamini played a bigger part than many expected, diligently deputising for Mikel Arteta in partnering Aaron Ramsey and doing it pretty well in fairness. His goal at Cardiff that season certainly sticks out for me for example.

Then there was the bromance with Mesut Ozil and if nothing else, helping our record signing to settle in London is enough for me to view Flamini’s second spell as worth the wages. His two goals against Tottenham in the league cup this term will probably go down as the highlight of his second spell at the club but his penalty concession against Barcelona having just come on as sub earlier this year must have been the moment any chance of a contract extension disappeared for good.

So Flamini becomes the third experienced pro to part ways with the club this summer and although I think it will be pretty easy to replace their footballing qualities, we might find it a lot trickier to compensate for their character. Let’s hope not.

Until tomorrow.

13th May 2016: Ozil back + Wenger on departing trio and his own future

Happy Friday. Arsene Wenger held his final pre-match press conference of the season this morning as we build-up to the game against Aston Villa on Sunday, and the big news is that Mesut Ozil is back in training after missing last weekend’s draw at Manchester City with a hip injury.

Here’s what the boss said:

Mesut Ozil is back in training. No (nobody else is a doubt). Oxlade-Chamberlain is not back. From Sunday, I think everybody else should be available.

With Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Mathieu Flamini all out of contract and leaving the club this summer, the Villa game offers the trio a last opportunity to don the red and white of Arsenal, if selected. But the boss said he was unsure if any of them would play some part against the Premier League’s bottom side as he discussed their departure. He said:

Mikel Arteta is the captain of the club and has been a great leader. Tomas Rosicky has been with us for 10 years and I think everybody loves him as well. Mathieu Flamini has been an extremely strong leader on the pitch and off the pitch. We lose three big personalities. All of these players will have to decide if they go on in their careers as a football player or a coach. I don’t know yet (if they will be involved against Aston Villa).

Ideally, you’d hope we’re eight-nil up against Villa by half-time and we can sub the three of them on for a final 45 minutes of action in Arsenal colours, but given our third place finish is still not certain and there’s also a slim chance of securing second, any sentimental gestures will have to be carefully timed.

I mean, as much as I’m thankful for Arteta’s overall influence at the club these last five years or so, when he came on against West Brom at the Hawthorns earlier in the season, he looked like a player horribly out of his depth and was largely to blame for our defeat that day I felt. We can all do without a repeat of that situation, last game or not.

Anyway, good luck to the three of them in their future endeavours, whether that’s coaching at Manchester City, ruling over a billion-dollar business, or returning to the club and country where it all began for them.

Arsene’s own future is up in the air of course, with just one more year remaining on his contract. Recent reports have suggested the boss has been offered a new deal by the club, but he was quick to deny the story and insisted he has no definitive plans set in stone yet. He said:

I think about the next game. At my stage you want to do well. I’m committed with integrity and commitment, full commitment to the club as long as I’m under contract, but at the moment that’s all. No (I haven’t decided my future). What I focus on is respecting my contract and then envisage what I will do afterwards. I can understand people are interested in that, but that is not the most important thing. I extended my contract in a period that was vital for the club and after that i will see where I am personally and where the club stands at the end of my contract.

Which is the sensible stance to take of course. Even if he has a new contract on offer, now is certainly not the time to announce it, what with fan-unrest so apparent as the club bring yet another campaign to a close in which we flattered to deceive and saw somebody else lift the Premier League crown.

A bit short this evening I’m afraid but that’s your lot.

See you on Saturday.

21st February 2016: Watford at home if we beat Hull in Cup replay

Welcome back. So the draw for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup was made earlier this evening and we’ve landed another home tie, this time against Watford, providing we can beat Hull in our fifth-round replay.

So if we needed any extra incentive to turn over the Tigers at their place, here it is. Win and then beat the Hornets, and we’re in the semis and back at Wembley for the fifth time in three seasons.

Elsewhere in the draw, Everton drew Chelsea at home after the latter brushed aside Manchester City’s under 9s at Stamford Bridge earlier today, Manchester United or Shrewsbury will host West Ham, and Tottenham, oops, I mean Crystal Palace, will travel to Reading having eliminated Spurs this afternoon. All of which is to say we’re now surely favourites and a hat-trick of consecutive Cup wins really is on. Let’s DO this …

But back to yesterday’s game now and some reaction from a couple of the players. First up it’s Per Mertesacker, who says that though he’s happy with our defensive performance against Steve Bruce’s men, we’ll need to be more composed in front of goal versus Barcelona on Tuesday:

We had a couple of good chances and we couldn’t keep the pressure as high as we wanted, especially in the second half. We had enough chances to win, but we were unlucky at times. Overall it was disappointing, especially our finishing. We allowed [Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic] to make some decent saves because we were not that decisive. It is down to us, we produced a good defensive performance but overall in the final third, that little final pass at the end, we always rushed ourselves at times to finish so we need to learn from that. Overall, we missed a bit of something today and we have to come back quickly in three days time. We have a very important game, the first leg against Barcelona, and we will see the fans again, it will be another buzzing night but it is up to us how we perform.

Which is pretty much spot on. Rushed and a little over-elaborate at times is how I’d sum up our attacking yesterday, that and a little unlucky. Hopefully fortune will favour us a lot more against the Catalans because there’s absolutely no doubt we’ll need a healthy dollop of it to beat them.

One of the positives from the Hull draw I felt was Mohamed Elneny’s display. He’s still some way from being physically prepared to really stake a claim for a start ahead of say, Francis Coquelin, in our first-choice selection and was second best in one-on-one duels too often, but what I did like was his penchant for a first-time pass to the feet of team-mates. That suggests a quick and forward-thinking brain to me and that’s exactly what a pass-and-move style like ours needs from the centre of the pitch.

The Egyptian midfielder, and Alex Iwobi, certainly seem to have impressed the third member of our midfield yesterday, because Mathieu Flamini was full of praise for the pair when he spoke after the game. He said:

I think they both played very well. They were very good in their positions, very good technically and also in transition [both] defensively and offensively. It was a good partnership and I enjoyed it but we have to continue now. It was a very, very frustrating game. We had the opportunity a few times to close the game and win it. Unfortunately we didn’t so I think frustration is the main word of the game today. We were a bit lucky last weekend to score in the last second of the game against Leicester City, but it didn’t happen today. We had many opportunities and chances and this is not the first game that has been like that. Even against Southampton and Leicester it was like that and today we had plenty of opportunities. If you don’t finish it, it is not enough. Now we have to play away and win that game.

Every game that we endure where we create chances but fail to score does of course add weight to the opinion we need to buy an elite striker, but I don’t know if that’s true and if it is, who that player is. Suggestions welcome …

Right, a brief one tonight but that’s it from me. See you tomorrow, after Arsene’s held his pre-Barca presser.

Laters.

7th February 2016: Quick-fire double sends Gunners joint-second

That’s much more like it. Despite still not being nearly as fluent in our overall play as we were earlier in the season, two goals in two minutes midway through the first half gave Arsenal a 2-0 win at Bournemouth this afternoon, to see us leapfrog Manchester City in the Premier League table and join second-placed Sp*rs on 48 points.

Our first arrived after 23 minutes when Aaron Ramsey’s lofted ball into the box was won in the air by Giroud, who nodded it down for the on-rushing Mesut Ozil to rifle home first-time on the half-volley using his weaker right foot.

Then just 88 seconds later Arsenal broke forward again, Ramsey toed the ball wide to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right of the hosts’ penalty area and the winger took a touch before finding the net via the far post with an unerring low strike.

After three league games without a goal and four without a win, it was a relief to see us score twice in quick succession and settle any nerves we may have had in what was a crucial fixture given our recent poor form and the emergence of an eight-point gap to leaders Leicester City.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one slightly surprised that Arsene Wenger opted to make just one change to his starting line-up from last Tuesday’s draw with Southampton – the Ox replacing Joel Campbell – but he again went with Mathieu Flamini ahead of Francis Coquelin to partner Ramsey in midfield and the former was involved in the first major talking point of the game.

With eight minutes on the clock Flamini went into a challenge two-footed and despite winning the ball, was lucky to escape with just a caution, because on another day with another referee and against an opponent who didn’t half pull out as the Bornemouth player did today, we’d undoubtedly have been down to ten men and facing a much more difficult task.

It was reckless to say the least and also very unnecessary so hopefully Flamini will watch that incident again and try his best not to be so brainless in future. Aggression is fine and indeed very welcome but today he was just plain stupid and we’re lucky we’re not sitting here ruing a defeat because of an early dismissal like we were after the Chelsea game a couple of weeks ago.

As a spectacle, the game was pretty forgettable and but for our two goals, clear-cut chances were few and far between for both sides. Alexis Sanchez had a pretty poor game by his standards in my opinion, yet still created a coupe of moments of danger with one run to the byline and cross across goal deserving better reactions from his team-mates. Considering the Chilean’s still working his way back to peak match sharpness after a two-month injury lay-off, it’s not surprising he looked a bit below-par and I’m sure he’ll be back to his sizzling best soon enough.

On the opposite flank I felt the Ox had probably his best performance of the season and not just because of his expertly-taken goal. I thought he was far more involved and despite giving the ball away a few times, he drifted infield to great effect at times so should gain a lot of confidence from his display today moving forward.

As I mentioned a the start of this post, we didn’t function smoothly as an attacking unit and I think we still have an issue with circulating the ball from the middle of the park. Ozil dropped deeper with greater frequency to spray the ball around than he has to when Cazorla’s playing but that then obviously limits his presence in the final third.

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else suggest this but maybe we ought to consider playing Ozil alongside Coquelin in a two instead of Ramsey. I think it could work if we then restore the Welshman to wide-right and maybe give Campbell or Alex iwobi the central attacking midfield berth. Innovative and perhaps some would say, stupid, but hey, how many of you would have envisaged Santi deeper before Arsene played him there? I think it could work a treat, especially now that Mesut’s muscled-up since first arriving in England and is clearly more than capable of holding his own in this physically-demanding Premier League.

We have a big problem with passing through midfield at the moment which is the main reason we’re struggling attacking-wise in my opinion and I can’t see Ramsey suddenly learning to pass it like Pirlo. Aaron’s got a great engine and many admirable attributes etc etc etc but I thought he looked a much better player once he moved to the right after the introduction from the bench of Coquelin in place of the Ox today.

Sky Sports gave him their man-of-the-match award and I’ve already seen some stats suggesting Ramsey had a high pass completion rate but that’s where stats can be completely deceiving. I mean, if Ramsey plays a pass out to Nacho Monreal for instance and the full-back gains possession, it goes down as a successful pass.

But he may have played it behind him, or to feet, when a far better pass would have been to play it into his path ahead of him to set us on the attack. That kind of scenario is exactly what I’m talking about when I use the word fluency – a completed pass can still be an infuriatingly move-hampering one.

Still, it’s job very well done for today at least and now we can start looking ahead to next weekend’s visit of leaders Leicester.

See you next week.

5th January 2016: Coquelin on the Cup

Welcome back.  We begin our defence of the FA Cup on Saturday of course, when we welcome Sunderland to Emirates stadium, and as we build up to the game, Francis Coquelin has been discussing the competition with the Arsenal Weekly podcast.

Amongst other things, our tough-tackling midfielder revealed he was hungry for more silverware, having won his first major honour when we lifted the FA Cup back in May. He said:

It was my first major trophy with the club so I don’t want to sleep on this. I’m still hungry, even hungrier, and I want more, like everyone else at the club. The players are really stepping up and really want this silverware. It was a great moment but you need a little bit of the magic of the FA Cup to come back before the memories come back. When it does start, people will be looking at the pictures of themselves with the trophies and thinking that we need to hold it for a third time. What is nice is that the first round of the competition is at home and that’s great for the fans. It’s always going to be tough against Sunderland. They gave us a difficult game a couple of weeks ago, so we know it will be tough. They’re going to want to beat the champions as well, so they will be really, really motivated and beating us could give them a boost in their season as well. Everyone will be prepared for it. I don’t know if anyone’s ever held the FA Cup three times in a row before but it would mean something big for the club. We want to win any trophy so if we can get this one, we will.

Meanwhile, Mathieu Flamini has been praising team-mate – and BFF – Mesut Ozil, calling the German ‘easily one of the best’ players he’s ever played with. He said:

We all knew he was a top player but I’m glad he’s proving it every game. It’s very important to have him on our side because, as you can all see, he can make the difference at any time. He has been giving so many assists and has been making so much difference in the past few games, so it’s a pleasure to play next to him and it’s also a pleasure to watch him on the pitch. His vision is something that you don’t find very often, so he’s easily one of the best players I’ve ever played with. We are close friends and we have a good time on and off the pitch. That’s very important because, if you want to be able to perform, you have to feel happy in your head and feel confident off the pitch. I believe he is [happy] here and we have such a great atmosphere here that it makes it very easy for him to feel comfortable.

And finally for today it’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has been speaking to Arsenal Player about the importance of versatility in a footballer, saying:

Versatility is an extra string to a player’s bow. Look at someone like Philipp Lahm, who is one of the best right backs in the world but can go into midfield and play as if he’s one of the best midfielders in the world. All through your career you will be asked to play in different positions here and there and obviously the needs of the team come first, so if you have to fill in in a different role, you will be expected to do that. If you look at our midfielders, they are often asked to play in different positions. Aaron has played out wide and he goes out there and puts his own spin on it and does a good job. Over the years I can remember Tomas Rosicky playing out wide as well. If people play in another position, maybe they will play it slightly differently to someone else but they will put their own spin on the game. So for everyone it is important to have a versatile side to your game.

Now normally, after a a quote, I’ll share my thoughts on what’s been said, agree or disagree etc etc. But today, I can’t be asked.

So I’ll see you tomorrow.

Adios.

8th December 2015: Wenger and Flamini chat Champions League

Hello again. So Arsene Wenger was joined by Mathieu Flamini when he faced the media at a press conference this evening, ahead of tomorrow evening’s game against Olympiacos.

The boss seemed in relaxed mood and expressed his belief that should Arsenal manage to progress to the last 16 this season, we’d be a threat to any of the other qualifiers. He said:

We can be dangerous if we go through because we come from far. Overall if you look at the numbers since the start of the Champions League group stage, we have played with 10 men in Zagreb, we scored an own goal at home to Olympiacos, every single game we were a bit unlucky but if we get through we will be dangerous that is for sure. At the moment we have two or three super-favourites [for the competition] and whoever gets through will have to chase them. As long as you don’t win the competition – at any stage to go out is bad. That is basically it. On the other hand, we have gone 15 times out of the group consecutively so you could say that is a good habit.

The ‘super-favourites’ Arsene refers to are obviously the holders Barcelona, Bayern Munich and possibly Real Madrid – on their day – but given we can’t draw the Germans in the first knock-out round, as long as we avoided Barca, I’d take anyone.

But before we get carried away, there’s the small matter of winning for the first time against Olympiacos on Greek soil, and winning by the necessary scoreline of course (anything bar 1-0 and 2-1 will do), but the boss was quick to highlight his team would be mentally prepared to deal with any course tomorrow night’s game might take, saying:

We have to put every scenario in our head, it is important we focus on the performance. The results come if we play well so let’s focus on that. When the goal comes I don’t know, but if we play well we have a chance to score. Mentally, you prepare yourself to adapt to every situation and give the right response to every situation you face. We will have to adapt to what is happening on the pitch and to all of the scenarios, accept them and respond. Ideally, you would like to not have to be patient but we might need to be. What is important is that basically the same for every game in Champions League you attack well and defend well, that is the best way, go into the game with a desire to win it and knowing you need to do both sides of the game well. Of course, we have a history where we have positive results. We know we can do it so the best way to do it is with a top-quality performance and that is what we want to focus on.

Meanwhile, Flamini says Arsenal’s vast experience in the competition can help us progress. He said:

Of course this is an important competition for me personally and for the club. We have a good test to prove we have the quality to go through and continue our adventure. Everyone is focused and I will try to help my partners. We are experienced for the big games and I believe we can progress.

I suppose the biggest concern about potentially exiting Europe’s premier competition isn’t that we’ll be out for another year, but the fact we’ll have to play in the Europa League and the adverse effect that competition may have on our domestic title chase.

I think we have to give it our all tomorrow and the team should be focused on scoring at least three goals. Obviously 2-0 would suffice but if we can get three, we’d have room to concede twice and still be in with a chance.

Back with a preview tomorrow.

Until then.

24th September 2015: Forgotten man Flamini fires us into fourth round

I’ll hold my hands up and admit I wanted Mathieu Flamini to be sold by Arsenal this past summer.

Not because I have any special dislike of the Frenchman, far from it. For instance, I fondly remember his contribution at left back in the run to the Champions League Final in 2006 and his superb partnership with Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park a couple of seasons later.

And despite leaving the club on a Bosman free in the summer of 2008 when we clearly wanted him to stay, I didn’t begrudge him a move to one of the traditional giants of the European club game, AC Milan, particularly considering he’s half Italian and had very likely held a long-term ambition to try out Serie A.

But my reasoning was that if he stayed this summer, we wouldn’t sign somebody like Grzegorz Krychowiak to be a competitor with, or deputy for, Francis Coquelin in the defensive midfield role, and that we needed a younger and to be blunt, better model than Flamini is right now at the age of 31.

That stance hasn’t changed and an upgrade for one or both of Flamini and Mikel Arteta should still be a priority signing in my opinion. Yet last night, Flamini started our game at Tottenham in the third round of the Capital One Cup and came up with two goals – the second as well executed a finish as you could hope to see  – to win us the game. Ben fatto Flamster – that was some strike.

The team in the end was not far off the one The Mirror had predicted and I had relayed here yesterday, with the one alteration being Aaron Ramsey starting, not Alex Iwobi, which meant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played wide left, with Ramsey in the middle, Campbell on the right and Flamini and Arteta anchoring the team behind them. Olivier Giroud led the line as expected but in truth, and far from unexpectedly, we failed to really find any kind attacking rhythm in a first half that was played at a pretty frenetic pace but had few phases of fluent football from either side.

The fact Tottenham also made changes – not as many as our ten alterations – but enough to disrupt any momentum three wins in a row had given them prior to last night, meant neither team looked a likely winner throughout the contest. But Flamini broke the deadlock after 26 minutes, expertly guiding the ball into the roof of the net after their ‘keeper had parried a stinging, low strike by the Ox from the edge of the box into his path.

The hosts leveled the contest 11 minutes after the restart though, when Nacer Chadli’s low cross from the left was diverted past David Ospina and into his own net by Calum Chambers. With Chelsea’s second goal last Saturday now also confirmed as a Chambers own goal, the former Southampton man rather unfortunately has two own goals in two games to his name.

Yet his performance alongside the returning Per Mertesacker in the centre of our defence last night was pretty impressive on the whole I thought, and at just 20 years of age, he still has plenty of time to improve and make the position his own in the the years to come.

But it was all about Flamini last night and after Kieran Gibbs had produced a brilliant, Ashley Cole-esque, goal-line clearance to deny Arsenal fan Harry Kane a first club goal of the season, Mathieu spotted a stray ball lumped high into the air by a Tottenham defender, decided he would decide this north London derby, strode forward with purpose and just the perfect number of steps, all the while with eyes fixed on the prize and produced a technically perfect first-time volley in the bottom corner. What. A. Finish.

Tottenham tried to muster a response and we should have done better with a couple of late counter-attacks but in the end, Flamini’s second goal of the night was enough to secure us a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in the fourth round of the competition. Afterwards, the obvious man-of-the-match made his feelings clear to his detractors in the press and dedicated his goals to the Arsenal fans:

I’m very happy for the team because it was a difficult and tough game. Personally I am happy because I scored two goals. I have heard many things in the press, many people have been talking about me but I have proved everyone wrong. I’ve been working hard and I was ready for the game. The two goals were for them (the fans).They’ve always supported me, they’ve all been behind me and they’ve played a big role in my career. It was important for me to celebrate with them and nobody else. It was the first time I’ve scored two times in a game. [It’s good] to score against Tottenham in a derby in such an important game for Arsenal and the fans.

Even if I remain unconvinced by Flamini as an adequate deputy for Coquelin this season, one thing beyond debate is the man’s character in the heat of battle. He showed in his very first game for us after returning from Milan, incidentally against Spurs at Emirates stadium, that he had the stomach for a fight and although his body may not allow him to zip in on opponents and nick the ball away like in his prime, he can, at times, prove both a decent defensive midfielder and as last night showed, an expert goal poacher.

Till Friday.

9th September 2015: Mikel’s getting his mojo back

Welcome to Wednesday on TremendArse. The internationals are all done and dusted and with with a bit of luck, we’ll hear from Arsene Wenger tomorrow as he usually provides the official site with the latest injury news on a Thursday.

Having had a quick look around, I can’t see any obvious injury concerns being reported for those who’ve been away with their countries. And of course, Jack Wilshere is due back any time now, so we’ll have one more option available for us to freshen up a side which has been struggling to spark in to life so far this season.

Whether Jack’s ready for this weekend is doubtful but with Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky our only other long-term absentees, we can at least be thankful of a squad in pretty good health overall.

One man who hasn’t been away and is just glad to be fully fit after an injury-plagued campaign last time around is club captain Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard has been speaking to Arsenal Player and expressing his joy at being back among his colleagues, saying:

I really missed it [when I was out]. I had a really tough period last year after my last game in November and I went through some really difficult moments with my surgery. For me it is the frustration [that is the hardest thing] because there is always pain and you are trying to get back everyday and you spend a lot of time doing rehabilitation. When the players go outside for a training session, you feel wasted. They come back, they travel, they have different times to you and you don’t spend much time with them. Personally I don’t feel productive. I’m here because I want to play games, make this team more successful and be a part of it. When I’m not able to do that I still have to contribute, be positive, be good around the other players, give advice and try to help my team-mates. But it is not the same. But I worked really hard and tried to stay positive, do my best and here I am again now, earning my place in the squad and ready to help the team.

And the former Everton man also explained how he’s used his time on the sidelines to analyse games in greater depth, and said his focus now is on being in the best possible shape to aid the team’s cause when called upon:

I just watch the game and things come to my head naturally – things that I believe we can do better or things we are having trouble with, weaknesses of the other team or if we are having a few problems. You are excited but nervous as you don’t know when you are going to get thrown in. When you get thrown in you want to be ready for it with a good warm-up and ready to make an impact to help the team achieve the win.

Although no longer first-choice when everyone is fit, Arteta is clearly a great influence around the squad. He speaks well, by all accounts in a model professional and as he’s shown in cameos this season, can add another layer of protection for the defence when we need to close games out.

What I would point out, is that we also have Mathieu Flamini for that role and I don’t think we need both in all honesty. Arteta is clearly the more cultured in possession of the two but I really think at least one of them should have made way for a younger, better model this summer.

That’s not to say both can’t do a job because I think they can. But sentimentality can be costly and if I’m being blunt, shouldn’t be influential in top level sport decision-making. It’s sport after all, and regardless of how much you’ve done for a club or how long you’ve been there, if there’s somebody out there better and available, I’m afraid that’s tough luck.

Luckily for the likes of Arteta and Flamini, they have a boss who isn’t as ruthless and cold as many others but then perhaps that is one of Arsene’s great weaknesses. It can be a fine line between belief in your players, and blindness to their limitations.

It goes without saying that I hope they both prove me wrong over the course of this campaign, and we don’t rue the refusal, or failure, to bring in another defensively-minded central midfielder before the deadline passed last week.

Til Thursday.