By Vikram Vijaay (@VVijaay)
The end of last season saw a lot of debate amongst Arsenal fans over which of the linked players would be best for Arsenal. Higuain or Jovetic (remember when he was having his “medical”?). Luis Gustavo or Bender and so on. Would a defensive rock be better than a DLP in the mould of Arteta? Fast forward a few months and this is the debate I find myself seeing everywhere.
I just never thought that the choice would be Flamini or Arteta. Flamini’s career path isn’t one I need to remind you off, he left on a free essentially because he wanted more money. Arsene Wenger picked him up on a free when there was huge levels of discontent among the fans. He has, however, been a major but “underrated” part of our early season form.
On a side note, how many times do you have to be called “underrated” before it no longer applies?- Whatever the answer, Flamini has reached it, so can we please stop with it!?
Arteta and Flamini are two completely different players. One is a converted attacking midfielder who spent the majority of his career in a creative capacity. The other you sense would rather lunge two footed at whichever unfortunate player happens to be dribbling towards him.
The obvious answer, and the consensus is to play Flamini against tougher opponents/away from home, Arteta when we have the majority of the possession and both in situations like Napoli away. Let’s consider this solution for a second. The logic behind this is that Flamini- the more defensive minded of thetwo, would be beneficial in away games where we find ourselves under the cosh. At home, Arteta’s superior passing allows us to keep possession and build attacks.
Arteta however, to my mind has one major defensive flaw- fouling. While we all joke about the Flamini yellow card sweepstake, the simple fact is that if a man looks to have beaten him at the half way line and has a clear run at the defence, he will bring him down. Arteta is far more likely to keep chasing and then bring him down, conceding a FK in a far more dangerous position.
Considering that these counter attacks are far more likely to occur against weaker teams or at home when we’redominating, Flamini seems the more astute pick. The second consideration is that Arteta will allow us to build attacks better through his superior passing ability. While it is glaringly obvious that Arteta is superior in this aspect, Flamini is aware of his limitations, he plays it off to a teammate instead of trying to play an incisive pass.
Additionally, he is far more content to sit back and thus allow the others to play with greater freedom. At a time when Aaron Ramsey is in the form of his life, and Mesut Özil just wanders around standing is space higher up the pitch, Flamini’s defensive minded approach has proved hugely beneficial to Arsenal. On the other hand, in away games when we’re playing on the counter to a larger extent, Arteta’s greater passing range would be better suited, allowing us to transition better and break with greater speed.
In games such as this where the need for him to sit is much more clear cut, he is unlikely to be caught out higher up the pitch. His tackling and intercepting ability is, to my mind, on a par, if not better than Flamini in these situations.
In truth, I have a little bias towards Flamini. I really think he’s a fantastic player and suits us down to the ground, I wouldn’t be against the notion of making him the first choice in that position. His leadership on the pitch when we are without the ball is refreshing and decisive.
Arteta has been vital to Arsenal for the last couple of years; that is not up for debate. I would never suggest casting him out. He can clearly offer a lot, and the thing which is often over looked in these debates is that any team that seriously wants to challenge must rotate.However, if you really pushed me to give an answer in absolute terms to “Arteta or Flamini?”, I would have to side with Flamini.
Follow me on Twitter : Vikram Vijaay (@VVijaay)