After listening to Arsene Wenger speak to the collected royalty of the broadcast media and press I had the ability to watch a few minutes of the players warming up for training. There was, as you would expect no shortage of smiles and a general feeling of positivity emanating from the group and it was a delight to see Bobby Pires joining the first team. I gathered from an official that he works with the players returning to fitness in training but there was also a general feeling that ‘Its Robert Pires and he can train with the team whenever he feels like it and that is most to the time’
After the 15/20 minutes of the players being gently warned up it was back to the Media Centre to chat amongst ourselves waiting to hear the pre Cup Final views of three of the first team squad, Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey as a group of the journalist both UK and from abroad asked the questions. The views at embargoed over the next few days so my general impressions and synopsis from each player will appear in the coming days. My take on Flamini now, Ramsey Friday morning and those of our Club Captain, Arteta on the day of the final.
If perhaps I was a little disappointed to have ‘Flame’ put in front of us, any such sentiment soon dissipated. Mathieu arrived in the press room direct from the training pitch still perspiring but I soon warmed to a confident, articulate man, who despite past decisions obviously feels himself still very much an ‘Arsenal Man.’
Whilst primarily there to answer questions about this Saturday he was asked early on about his own future and whether he would consider his future in the summer. His retort without hesitation was “I have one more year at the club.” When pushed on the fact that he could not be content having not started a match since February he was clear that fighting for your places was part and parcel of being at a big club looking to win honours. He went on to say that he was playing and that on returning from injury the team was on a winning streak and he would not have expected the Manager to necessarily change a winning team “When the team is winning, there is not much to say but I still look forward.”
He was adamant that the collective is more important than him or any one individual and he wants to be part of a winning team and considers himself a winner. He explained that he always wanted to win and had done since childhood. When asked about the FA Cup last season the impression he gives, although one cannot say how much he truly feels it, was that he considered himself an FA Cup winner. Having been on the bench in 2005 and 2014 in fact he declared himself a twice Cup winner with Arsenal and that he hoped to win a third.
He also reminded us that he had played in big games and wanted to play in more having played in a Champions League Final. I thought this has been for Milan after he left us the first time but a colleague reminded me that he had come on for Fabregas against Barca in Paris in 2006
He insisted that he works hard every day in training and along with all his colleagues still hopes to prove to Arsene Wenger that he merits being involved on Saturday. It was also clear at least outwardly that he would respect the decision if he was not involved. It was a theme that ran through the day set early on by Wenger that this final was about the team and not about any individuals and it was about Arsenal winning on Saturday. Flamini had clearly read the script but my overwhelming impression of the man was extremely positive and his desire for the team success over that if the individual was rammed home with his parting gift.
When asked about the success of Francis Coquelin by James Olly of the Standard I though his immediate answer both gracious and pertinent for the summer ahead perhaps. The question was ‘Do you think he (Coquelin) can be a top class defensive midfielder?’ – Mathieu’s answer with no hesitation……
“ Of course he is proving it every week?”
THE FLAME MAY STILL BURNING BUT THE COQ IS CROWING LOUDEST!