Thursday, 24 September 2015

Ladies And Gentleman It's The Mathieu Flamini Show

Mathieu Flamini hadn't got a look in so far this season for Arsenal, but he was one of 10 changes Arsene Wenger made to the team which lost to Chelsea last Saturday. The only player who remained from the starting 11 in that game was Aaron Ramsey who got to play just behind Olivier Giroud. I can't say I was overly impressed with the team and I worried about the outcome of the game, but Spurs made eight changes to the team which beat Palace on Sunday.

The boss did at least decide to go with a double defensive axis of Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta to protect the back four. That looked like a wise move after Arteta struggled so badly in the defeat away to Dinamo Zagreb last week. The choice of Flanini turned out to be an inspired one as it was his contributions which ultimately won the game for Arsenal.

The first half was going nowhere until Flamini stepped in to bury the rebound from an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the roof of the net and give Arsenal the lead. The game got better after that goal with Spurs offering more out of necessity and the makeshift Arsenal team finding some belief. There were no more goals in the first half, but there was still plenty of drama to come after the break.

There was a marked difference in Spurs after the break and they gradually got on top of the game. Even though they were on top Spurs still struggled to make real chances and needed a lot of help to get their equaliser. Calum Chambers inexplicably stuck his foot out at a ball which was bound for David Ospina in the Arsenal goal and deflected it past him into an empty net. I can only assume Ospina called for a ball which was his all the way, but Chambers couldn't help himself.  

The goal had been coming for a while as Arsenal kept giving the ball away and were offering next to nothing in attack. Spurs continued to dominate after their equaliser and it took a fantastic goal line clearance from Kieran Gibbs to keep the scores level. The game was only going one way at that stage, but the boss brought Alexis Sanchez on for Joel Campbell and Arsenal found their feet again.

They made a couple of decent chances but nothing came of them until that man Flamini intervened again. With just over 10 minutes to go he ran on to a ball which had been deflected high into the air. He shifted his feet brilliantly and hit a first time volley from outside the box past the despairing dive of Michelle Vorm. 

The goal was a thing of beauty and it was richly deserved by a player who showed he still has something to offer the team. With performances like last night he has to be considered to play alongside Francis Coquelin in games where the team needs a more defensive formation. The trip to Bayern Munich springs to mind and maybe even a few of the games away to some of the better teams in the Premier League.

Spurs tried to get back into the game in the remaining time, but it was Arsenal who had the best of the chances. The game finished with an Arsenal victory and first blood in their local rivalry for this season. It put an end to a run of successive defeats and most of the first choice 11 were able to sit the game out. 

Some of the performances weren't the best though and I thought Mathieu Debuchey didn't have a good night. Danny Rose gave him a rough ride all night long and it was no surprise when the goal came from his side. He hasn't had many chances since Hector Bellerin made the right back slot his own during Debuchey's injuries last season, but he will have to do an awful lot better if he is to have any hope of regaining his place in the team.

Campbell gave it his all for the time he was on the pitch, but nothing he did worked out for him. He just doesn't look good enough to play at this level to me and maybe he might be better suited to a team who play a different style of football. I couldn't fault his effort, but it takes more than effort to play at the top.

I wasn't too impressed with Arteta again, but he was better than his performance against Dinamo at least. The more I see of him the more I am convinced he's past his sell by date. I hope I'm wrong and he can find some form and make a telling contribution this season.

The difference in the team play when Alexis came on for Campbell was amazing. He came close to his first goal of the season and it surely can't be too far away. 

The real star of the show was Flamini and his performance was s reminder to the boss that he still has something to offer and that he wants to play. You want players to do well when they get their chance and he did just that besides his two goals. Those goals were the icing on the cake though and I have no doubt he will remember them for a long time to come.

The draw for the fourth round was made after the game and Arsenal were drawn away to Sheffield Wednesday. The game brings back memories of two Cup Finals in 1993 which both went Arsenal's way even if they weren't classic games. The game will be played in five weeks time with the winners going through to the quarter finals.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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