Posts Tagged ‘Flamini

21
May
08

Ole Big Ears

Today’s the big day: the first ever “all English” Champions League final, the Debtor’s Bowl, the Toilet Bowl. Whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying that the Champions League final is a big day. Because, for one lucky team it’s an £85m payday and the right to have their names permanently marked in the book of greatness. For the other team, it’s a paltry £20m payout and the ignominy of the label “runner’s up.” So, for me, it’s not “who do you think will win?” but “who cares who wins? I’ll just be happy that one of these two teams will lose!”

If Man U lose, they’ll have to be seen as one of the greatest failures ever. To walk away with a runner’s up medal with all that debt, with the weight of having had the double in their grasp, and a summer of Real Madrid speculation about their beloved Boy would have to be heart breaking for the world’s most arrogant fans. And what if their Boy Ronaldo fails to deliver on the biggest stage? The bag on him is that he always falls short against the best competition — Arsenal (not even the best competition) routinely shut him down. If he doesn’t deliver he’ll always be remembered as the player that “should have done better.” If he outright stumbles? Oh lord.

If Chelsea lose, it could finally tear the club apart. All season they’ve papered over the cracks and it’s finally looking like the mâché is starting to wilt. After the very public breakup with Jose Mourinho you have to say that Avram Grant’s done about as well as anyone could with the collection of super egos and filthy cheaters that he was handed. Now, inexplicably, Grant’s job security in uncertain, Drogba and Lampard are rumored to be leaving, and some people are saying that Abramovich is looking for a new challenge. As happens so often when the new kid on the block is trying to make a name for themselves, a loss on the highest stage could split this team apart.

I don’t think we have to pick a winner because no matter which team loses, English Football wins. Besides, Wenger already picked the winner: the refs.

In Arsenal news:

Flamini left Arsenal for the UEFA Cup football. Well, not exactly. He says Milan playing in the UEFA cup is a one-off and that their history as the greatest club in all of Europe lured him to them but not the huge contract they gave him. Not that.

The “Aquilani to Arsenal” story is turning out to be a 100% plant by the agent to increase his client’s re-sign value. Moribito, you cad.

Arsenal are set to sign Nasri. They’ve been set to sign him for, what, a month now. Maybe it’s like that moment in a sprint where you get set and the anticipation of the starters gun has your mind racing and it feels like you’ve been in the set position for half an hour and finally the gun goes off, and you run really hard and finish 4th… In other words, I’m waiting for the pictures of Arsene with Nasri before I believe it. Maybe I’m not optimistic about his signing because the last thing Arsenal need is another continental wide player who’s first inclination is the dribble in to the center of the pitch (HLEB).

Robin van Persie is vowing to be ready! For Euro 2008, which means that he’ll be injured for Arsenal. Yay. Another 30 goal season for Adebayor, please, thanks, ok, bye.

And that’s it for today. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go down to the pub and root for one of these two teams to lose.

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17
Apr
08

Fever Flamini

Happy birthday to Nick Hornby who must be Arsenal’s most famous fan. I mean, other than the Queen, her majesty, god save her, and all that. Most of my American readers will know Nick by his movies and books like “High Fidelity” and so on, but not many Americans know that he also wrote a book called Fever Pitch. This book was so good it got made into two different movies. One about Nick’s own life as an Arsenal fan (which is what the books is about) and one about a Red Socks fanatic that starred Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore and sucked huge donkey balls. You would do well to not confuse the two films, unfortunately they are both called “Fever Pitch.”

The 1997 version of Fever Pitch is available via Netflix if you have that service and I highly recommend seeing the movie. For one, you will get a chance to experience what it was like climbing the steps of Highbury, cresting the top and having the old pitch fill your eyes. And for another, you’ll get to sort of see what it was like to be an Arsenal supporter in 1989, when Arsenal won the league, at Anfield, for the first time in 18 years. Us “recent” converts could use a dose of humility in seeing the sheer ecstasy that overcomes the fans when you have to wait 18 years before the team wins something major.

Nick also has a blog in which he occasionally still writes about Arsenal. In fact, the latest entry is a timely little musing on the mentality of some fans, you should check it out.

Anyway, happy birthday old man.

And now on to installment #2 (poop) of the top five Arsenal players of the season: Matthieu Flamini.

it\'s a bird, it\'s a plane!

I kinda went down a rabbit hole this morning looking for some stats that would back me up on this claim of Flamini being one of Arsenal’s top five. When I emerged, I still didn’t have anything and so, I’m going to “make shit up.”

Flattuso” that’s reportedly his nickname and if you watch him for a match, I mean pay attention to what he’s doing on the pitch to the exclusion of everyone else you can see why they call him that. The man is a menace — he’s just everywhere. Wherever the ball is I expect Flamini to either already be there or to pop up at any second. Whenever Arsenal need their opponent’s best player covered, Flamini’s on the job. Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Ronaldo, all have suffered under his ubiquitousness. He’s like a pit bull, once he gets his teeth into you he doesn’t let go.

Many of us saw this in him several years ago when he came on the pitch as a substitute left back — you remember, when Ashley Cole was supposedly injured but was instead meeting Chelsea’s people in hotel rooms? Flamini made me forget all about Cole that year and when Arsenal traded Cole for Gallas I said, “we don’t need him, we’ve got Flamini!”

But then his career took a poor turn. See, he didn’t want to play left back. He fancied himself a holding midfielder and the Rock of Gilberto was in that spot already — how do you unseat the captain of a team, a World Cup winner, and all around one of the most beloved members of the team?

Hard work.

He didn’t go to the press and complain like Lassana Diarra did. He didn’t create unrest in the locker room like Jens Lehmann does. He put his head down and gutted it out. Putting in some impressive performances for the second team in the Carling Cup and generally doing anything the boss asked him to do. Hell, I imagine if Wenger asked, Flamini would carry the team’s water.

And this year, that hard work has paid off. I don’t have any sparkling quantitative data (he only has 3 goals and 3 assists) to show you except one thing: 74 fouls committed. In his case, that’s not a bad number! That’s his job: foul people when needed.

Like here, when Nani did the seal dribble:

That’s a good tackle.

I don’t have the average number of km he runs in a game or the work rate he puts in or whatever you want. But I do have comments from his teammates and I think those will have to do.

Wenger:

Mathieu is mentally strong and is a winner. Players who never give up mentally always improve. He’s responsible for the tempo in our game.

Cesc has a lot to say about his midfield partner:

He was amazing, not just tonight but he has been amazing all season. I’m a big fan of his. He’s hyperactive, on and off the pitch. I don’t know how he does it but he has so much power. With his encouragement we play better. He has so much passion for the game. He enjoys it and he hates losing

And yes, even the press says nice things about him, like when he ran circles around Milan at the San Siro:

In Mathieu Flamini, the Arsenal manager has found a midfielder who is willing to share the workload.

They smothered Milan, snuffed out that genius Kaka, and then pulled off one of the most jaw-dropping results in the history of the European Cup. Milan’s supporters even clapped them off the pitch.

Yes, they were that impressive.

Flamini has proven to be the perfect foil for Fabregas this season; protecting the defense, allowing Cesc to attack, and covering for him when he makes mistakes. Yes, he has been impressive. So much so that the rumors are flying that he will make a move to Juve or somewhere. But only at Arsenal does he have the chance to really build a long term partnership with a player who could be one of the best ever. So, please sign the deal Matthieu, obviously Arsenal need you.

Until tomorrow.

17
Mar
08

Have no fear, Captain Gallas is here!

William Gallas is ready to get down to business and he’s doing it in the one way that most makes sense during a title run-in; by making a press statement. Here’s his statement in full:

I’ll tell you why there was a difference between the win in Milan and our next game. It was in the head. It is human nature that after a huge game in Europe it is difficult to find the same level of motivation for the following game. The fact is, what we needed was an even higher level than we had in Milan. We all have to understand that and we have to understand it quickly — because time is running out for us this season.

We need to understand what it takes to become champions if we want that trophy. I’m not saying we’re in trouble but we have lost our lead. So from now on we just have to think about ourselves, not look at the table any more. And we have to win every game. We need to have a high level of motivation from now until the end of the season. We have to give 200 per cent.

YES! I knew Gallas would be a great captain…

Two weeks too late.

I suspect that Wenger gave Gallas the captaincy in order to tame a problem child. And in some ways it worked: he brought the team together in a way that Gilberto couldn’t do. As he grew into that position he seemed to be a real leader on and off the pitch.

But as the pressure mounted, he seemed to lose his way. He started lashing out at players (I have noticed several arguments with Flamini over the last few weeks), then he threw a huge, public tantrum. That tantrum represents the nadir of the season for the club and the captain. Since then he seems to have gone into a shell: and the last two weeks, I have to say, Flamini looked to be motivating this team. In fact, Flamini said almost the exact same things in Gallas’ quote from yesterday — LAST WEEK.

And I have to say, coming from a man who plays every match 200%, who leaves everything on the pitch, I feel reassured. But when William Gallas repeats the same thing a week later, and after several poor displays on his part, I feel 100% less reassured.

I’m this [] close to calling for stripping Gallas of his captaincy: damn the consequences.

Anyway, enough of that.

Good News Everyone! Barcelona wants Eboue! I say yes, but only in a straight up exchange for Lionel Messi. What? That has as much chance of happening as any team taking Eboue off our hands so why not?

Also Good News! Martin Taylor is back! You might remember him, he’s the stand-up young man who had his career threatened when Eduardo’s leg broke itself on Taylor’s foot. If only Eduardo hadn’t been so quick… or on the pitch at all… this tragedy to Taylor could have been avoided. I mean, look at him, he’s not even starting for Birmingham, he’s playing for their reserves squad. Meanwhile that attention whore Eduardo showed up at the Middlesbrough match in crutches and a little pink outfit. How dare he mock Taylor like that while he’s still serving his 3 MATCH BAN??? God, Arsenal are such, such, cunts.

Sunday is being billed as “super Sunday” as Man U and Liverpool face off and Chelsea and Arsenal, erm, face off too. Yay! Another round of 1-1 draws that are hyped to the gills!

Oh yeah, is it St. Patrick’s day or not? I really don’t care since I’m not Irish, Catholic, an American who claims to be Irish, or an amateur alcoholic (I’m a professional alcoholic thank you very much) but I heard some crapola about it being moved to Saturday, so I’m just wondering. I suspect that was just a marketing ploy by the Guinness brewing company but I wanted to be sure I was wishing folks happy day on the actual day of the happiness.

So… uhh… anyway, happy Nationalist Saint’s day for a nation of people that America despised for hundreds of years but who we pretend to embrace with fake holidays and non-traditional food!

Americans are funny about this stuff. For example, I identify as 1/2 Scottish, 1/4 English and 1/4 French. Why does it matter to Americans? I suspect that since we have no real history and are a nation of immigrants we like to glom on to something larger than ourselves. I say that we should just enjoy being Americans. Which means celebrating St. Patrick’s day by packing yourself into the local Irish pub and drinking green beer with a bunch of other amateurs until you start puking. Also, eat some corned beef, it’s “traditional.”

That’s all I can stomach. Until tomorrow.

11
Mar
08

tired

I write these blogs before 7am on most mornings, you know.  And days like today are really difficult.  First off, the time change is kicking my ass.  For some unknown reason I wanted to go to bed at 8pm last night and when the alarm went off at 5, I didn’t want to get up.  It’s 4am for fuck’s sake… Plus, it’s Tuesday and Arsenal don’t have a mid-week match and no one was tackled to death on Sunday so there’s not even any controversy to report.

I guess there’s some controversy.  Coming of the high of their famous win at Newcastle, Fernando Torres reckons that Steven Gerrard is “the best player in the world.” I realize that you are contractually required to jerk him off in public, Torres, but can you do it in a little subtler way?  No one seriously thinks he’s the best player on Liverpool, much less the EPL and the world.  Steven Gerrard returned the favor replying that “Torres is correct… I am the best player in the world, because foreigners suck.”

Arseblog is reporting that AC Milan want Flamini.  No.  Nothing more than a rumor.  I doubt that Wenger is going to break up what he’s hailed, just today, as the best midfield partnership he’s ever worked with.  Plus, at some point my kit buying curse has to be lifted.  What better time than now?

Speaking of Cesc, he wants to face Barcelona in the Champions League final.  Cool.  First we have to get past Man U.  I just know that Arsenal are drawing them.  I roasted a whole chicken last week and Man U was in the bones.  Yes, it was a sour chicken that complained about the overly physical way that I treated it.  In fact, it compared me to Martin Taylor.  “The real victim?” I said.

And finally, Wenger hails the return of van Persie.  Me too.  Now get a goal — or eleventy.

And that’s that.  Hey look, I turned that sows ear into a purse!  Ok, now it’s time to go to work.  Until tomorrow.

20
Feb
08

Arsenal v. AC Milan

Sorry about yesterday, after the weekend I simply forgot to turn on the alarm and slept until right before work. So, a quick rush into work followed by a full day of actual work (the audacity!) and I was unable to put together a blog in a timely manner.

Thankfully, nothing huge happened like getting 6 of our key figures back, or Gallas “escaping” action from the FA over his petulant kick, or Wenger hailing Flamini as the engine of the team. Yeah, thankfully nothing happened yesterday!

For me, the most important news of the last two days is the return of Clichy and Sagna. I don’t want to “slag off” Hoyte and Traore because I think the loss to Man U was more of a problem with the wing players defending from the front than a severe lack of talent at the back. Actually, the problem with Man U was the whole team didn’t seem to give a crap. So, all I’ll say is that Clichy and Sagna provide just a little bit more cover at the fullback spot and thus give the whole team more confidence in the context of Wenger’s attacking football style. Having them back is a great boost to the team.

And Wenger is following suit and talking the team up as he is well known to do. Here he hits all the high points saying:

I’m highly confident in the quality and the mental strength of this team, and the ambition of this team. Many people have written us off from the start of the season up to now and we always responded well.

I’d much rather have that be the manager’s talking points than some “hairdryer” manager who tell you what shite you are and then say “now go out there and prove me wrong!”  Maybe that’s why Wenger develops talent and Man U just buys it. But, enough Man U talk, Arsenal are playing AC Milan!  That match is dead and forgotten and it’s time to look forward.

I have to say that as a fan, I actually wanted this match when the draw was held.  Sure… at the time Milan was looking a bit dogged following their Team World Cup Vanity Cup.  But more importantly, I argued, they play the kind of football that Arsenal can exploit;  open, attacking football.  At the time of the draw I was one of those people who thought Arsenal only play a certain type of football.  But since then they have shown us a lot of grit, they have shown us many different styles of winning, and they have shown us some bizzare cup losses.  So, if you ask me today, I can honestly say that I don’t know what kind of game Arsenal are going to play.

What I do know is that more than any match, this one will be the pivotal match of the season.  Last year, they crashed out of all three cup competitions in two weeks and a poor performance today would pretty much seal their fate for this season as well.  Leaving them battered and bruised and fighting only for the Premier League.  Wenger called it the Crossroads and I agree: I’m pretty sure that this round of Cesc v. Kaka and Flamini v. Gattuso battles will define these players for the rest of their careers.  Cesc wants to be considered the best footballer in the world?  First you have to take that title from Kaka, just as you took our breath against Vieira in this same competition.  Flamini fancies himself as a “Flattuso?” (Obvious flatulence joke here please) Now is your chance to go one further and make people forget about that no talent ass clown.  Now is both of these players’ chance to make people compare others to them and not the other way around.

Here you are boys, down at the crossroads, no where left to run.
The team is at the crossroads, don’t get caught by the setting sun.

That’s what I’m looking for today.  Sure, a win say 2-0 against the best team in the world would be really nice.  But more importantly, I want to see Cesc and Flamini put their mark on this game.  I want to see these two players show the world how good they really are.  Now’s the chance.  The fans believe in you.  Wenger believes in you.  You believe in you.  Now get out there and do it.

Until tomorrow… up the Arse!

30
Jan
08

Diarrwho?

Early blog today because the central air was set 14 degrees above it’s normal setting and kicked in at 1:45am with a long and strong gust of hot air.  Well, actually I’m not sure it was the central air, it could have been the bloviating over at Arsenal America that raised the temperature in my house.

I especially love that some people are claiming “no one could have seen that Flamini would be this good.”  Yes, yes indeed, some people did see it.  Some people commented on it last year when he selflessly played utility man.  Some of us commented on it when he had a brilliant Champions League run.  Some of us have been singing his praises now for two years.  But don’t let that cloud your fantasy!

Irregardless of all that, it is now abundantly clear to everyone that he is a very important part of Arsenal’s success this season.  And I’m not even talking about his goal and his assist.  I’m talking about the fact that he was tireless; defending, attacking, holding, passing, tackling, and leading.  The goal and the assist were just icing on the cake.

Wenger sees it too and seems eager to sign him.

I feel we have a few who have improved but he is one of them. His work-rate is tremendous, his run on the first goal was great, the timings of his runs are good and his composure with the final ball is great. That was not the case in the years before. On top of that he scored a great goal tonight. We are talking [about a contract]. I’m hoping to finalise it, he wants to stay, I want him to stay, so we should find an agreement. I’m not especially concerned because I believe what he tells me.

Yes, let’s all collectively relax and trust that Wenger is doing his best to sign Flamini to a new deal.

As for the game — it was altogether a great match, controlled from whistle to whistle by Arsenal.  This was probably not the most welcoming way for Kevin Keegan to start his third stint at Newcastle.  Which is kind of sad, because the reality there is that Fat Sam created a team of talentless assholes and against an open, fit, and talented team like Arsenal you can’t really expect to play anything other than crunch and hoof football that is the hallmark of Sam’s coaching career.  So, Keegan’s valiant attempt to play attacking football is destined to fail against Arsenal: he just doesn’t have the talent. The 6-0 scoreline over two matches should draw a bright red line under that.  Unsurprisingly, three matches in and the British press is already spelling his downfall.   Amazing.

Speaking of amazing!  Adebayor now has 20 goals in all competitions, 17 goals in the Premiership, and10 goals in the last 7 games, scoring at least one goal in each of those matches consecutively.  In fact, and I had forgotten about this because of the black cloud that hung over the match, up until the Tottenham match Arsenal had never lost a match in which Adebayor had scored.  And he’s reclaimed the top goal scoring spot (because of his alphabetical dominance over Winky-Divey) and is at third place in the Actim stats table.  He also tops my stats as the number one reason people travel to my blog.  But perhaps the most amazing thing is that all of the negative chatter about him has almost completely died off.  Good.  Long may it rest.

As the Adebayor phenomenon has taken off, the Gael Clichy phenomenon has been happy running all over the pitch in Ade’s shadow.  But make no mistake, Clichy is the real deal and while he’s being overshadowed by Adebayor in the eyes of some people, the guys who matter see performances like last night and recognize him for his brilliance.  Just see what Cesc said:

Mathieu has stepped up this year as have Adebayor and Gael [Clichy] and all these kind of players. We need them so badly.

And that about sums up yesterday’s match doesn’t it?  “We need them so badly.”  Indeed.

OK, that’s all, I’ve combed through the RSS feeds and shared a bunch of stuff that I think is funny or interesting (like Moyes calling for an ACN “break” to the Premiership or The Sun reporting that Woodgate is injured already).  If you’re interested you should check out my shared feed.  There’s just so much stuff going on right now, this blog could literally take almost any direction.  If it seems a bit confusing right now, stick in there, I’m sure a way out will present itself.

Until tomorrow!

26
Jan
08

What a morning

I put the blog down with 20 minutes left to get to Doyle’s.  Then I started searching for my wallet and keys.  Nothing… nope, not here… shit, where did it go?  Not in the car, not on the mantle, not in the kitchen, WHERE THE FUCK IS MY WALLET?

Fortunately my girlfriend is a saint.  She got up, dug around and got me $20.  I grabbed my passport and drove out to catch the first half.  I’ll worry about the wallet after the match.

The first half saw Arsenal playing very well, moving the ball, opening up Newcastle’s defense, keeping possession, and shooting on goal.  Given was having a whale of a first half so nothing was going to go in.    But Arsenal looked great in the first half.  Even Diaby was having a decent half — sure he turned the ball over a lot and dribbled too much but at some point he stopped trying to be too intricate and started passing and even had a great shot on goal well saved by Given.  Not too sure about some of the commentary saying that Newcastle “regularly worried” Arsenal in the first half: I’d hardly call two shots on goal “regular worry.”

The second half saw Arsenal rip Newcastle to shreds.  The first goal came when the ball fell to Adebayor after an Eduardo rocket that hit the post and Ade left footed past everyone and into the corner of the net.  Say what you will about him, he is pure talent in front of the goal in my mind.

For the next 30 minutes, Newcastle bumbled around toothlessly attacking and Arsenal  looked like to score.  Then Wenger subbed in Hleb and Gilberto for Diaby and Theo and the match opened up significantly.  Within minutes, Flamini had won the ball and it was moved to Ade who held off two defenders and fired home a powerful side foot past Given that bounced in off some Newcastle defender.

The third goal was an own goal off Butt and well, just icing on the cake.  Arsenal looked like to score anyway so it’s not like the goal was undeserved.

Afterwards Keegan claimed that Newcastle outplayed Arsenal in the first half and even Wenger saw that to some extent, but really only very early in the match.  By the time I got there (12th minute) Arsenal looked the dominant side and I found myself saying that if every team played Arsenal in this open and attacking style, it seems they would win nearly every match.  Since Newcastle came to actually play football instead of act like a bunch of shit-kicking cunts, there was so much space for Cesc to play in, Flamini was allowed to work the midfield and the wing players were given space to run.  This in turn opened spaces for the forwards and that led to chances on goal.

Credit to Newcastle, then, for coming to play.  Credit to Arsenal for taking advantage of it.  Credit to Adebayor for playing at the highest level.  And credit to Flamini for providing the engine to the midfield.  An all around enjoyable match to watch.

Oh, and afterwards, I found my wallet in the car.  So, the whole day is coming up aces.  Have a great night!




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