Last week I wrote about Flamini’s huge impact as a result of the instillment of fighting spirit. This week I look to address the tactical dilemma that has arisen now that Arteta, who previously occupied the defensive midfield/pivot role, is back to full fitness. I want to look at whether it is necessary for both players to be on the pitch every game or whether one of Arteta/Flamini may suit certain games individually, leaving room for other gaps to be filled further up the pitch.
Ever since joining the Arsenal, Mikel Arteta has been a hugely influential player both on and off the field of play. His experience, leadership and ability to dictate the play have proved vital in the past couple of seasons. In The Man With The Perfect Hair’s absence the Arsenal faithful have (quite rightly) warmed to the returning French enforcer that is Mathieu Flamini, who has occupied the very same role that Arteta usually does. This warming, however, evolved into, in some cases, getting carried away and simply forgetting or blindly disregarding the fact that Arteta still does one hell of a job, albeit a little less extravagant.
Let’s not forget that last season Mikel Arteta was statistically a better player than the much-praised, media darling – Michael Carrick, who played an integral role in a title winning squad. Furthermore, many seem to have overlooked the fact that Arteta (6) actually made 5 more tackles than Flamini (1) in our last outing at West Brom. But don’t assume I’m trying to convince you that Arteta is the better player, that is simply not the argument I intend to make. I am rather reminding everyone that we shouldn’t get too intoxicated on the French fine wine or we may lose the ability to 1) remember and 2) sample the Spanish Rioja in sobriety again.
Arteta and Flamini are similar yet different at the same time. They are both great leaders that bark orders on the pitch, but Flamini gets in both the referee’s and opposition’s face more which we most definitely need sometimes. They are both accurate passers of the ball, but Arteta passes much more and is therefore maybe a little more impressive in that respect. They both tackle well, but Flamini’s man is less likely to try and take on the Frenchman again afterwards. Flamini is a mad dog, whereas Arteta is a more of a sly cat. In my opinion, they suit both different types of games and different stages during a game. I know that Wenger has been deploying them beside one another of late, but one of them alongside a Ramsey or Wilshere may be more suitable for certain matches by allowing room for more options in the attacking third.
In the two games that they have played along side one another there seems to be an inconsistency in the patterns that emerge. They either both sit and let the attacking 4 do their business, or it’ll be one sitting and allowing the other to join in. On one hand, this relaxed, fluid approach can be more conducive to confusion and ultimately bad positioning. On the other, it gives the team an extra man in attacking situations. Two games isn’t a lot to judge upon, but I’d assume that because they are both big talkers they are capable of organising themselves well enough for this approach to be effective. This is especially useful in games against teams who have dangerous midfield players, such as Napoli.
However, against a team like West Brom where the threat is not as big, it might be worth playing just one of the two so that another attacking player can play higher up the pitch whilst a midfielder who is more adept to and therefore better at attacking sits in the hole instead. An example of this is dropping a player like Ramsey or Wilshere from the wing back into the deep-lying two with one of Arteta or Flamini. Of course, this is makes more sense when we are lacking our regular wide players as we were against West Brom. Although, it still makes sense and may even become a necessity to do this against sides who pose less of a threat or who have less numbers in midfield, even when these wide players are fit. When I speak of necessity, I refer to the fact that when players like Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski and eventually Oxlade-Chamberlain return, it will be difficult to fit even two of them into one starting XI. Therefore, when it is appropriate to do so, I believe one of Arteta or Flamini must be sacrificed in order to both maximise and optimise our attacking options on the field.
So if we do choose to stick with one, is it Arteta or Flamini? Well this brings me back to my point earlier that each have certain qualities which suit different types of games. I’d say that Arteta is built for games against the less physical sides, but then it is arguable that Flamini may be of better use as he would simply bully them into submission, a la Viera. On the flip side, it makes sense to me that Flamini plays against the more physical teams as he is more robust and tough-tackling, however Arteta may well offer a calmness that is needed in such an environment. A truly tricky decision.
My conclusion is that first and foremost we should appreciate how lucky we are to have both players in our squad. They are both great leaders and both good at the job they’re told to do. In my opinion, we shouldn’t pair them up too often, but rather only when we really need extra cover as afore mentioned. Instead, we should utilise them individually in the games that suit one or the other more and this will in turn allow us to include a very healthy number of creative, attacking players capable of tearing opposition defenses to shreds!
I guess this is what it feels like to have strength in depth!
Thanks for reading,