Goodbye and Good Luck Mathieu!

Mathieu Flamini has decided to sign for AC Milan, in a move that will satisfy his economic demands. Yet, while we Arsenal fans scream blue murder, we must realise that this Frenchman is calculating and clearly intelligent. Learned in the legalities of football, Flamini caused a similar uproar in the not to distant past, when he joined us from Marseille, having impressed in a run to the UEFA Cup final the previous (his first as a professional) season.
As Jose Anigo bemoaned of the loss of his midfield prospect claiming: ‘He’s intelligent and he knows the system’, Flamini committed what the former Marseille boss would later call ‘beautiful treason’ in joining Arsenal for wages higher than those his trainee’s contract entitled him to. In a similar manner, Flamini angled for another pay-rise and has now eventually joined the World Club Cup Champions, a side destined for a remodelling, having struggled to qualify for the Champions League (although they lie in 4th spot having triumphed in the Milan derby, this weekend).
We, as fans must respect Flamini for not making quite a scene this season, despite his constant manipulation of this issue in the Italian, German and Spanish press last summer as he tried to force his manager’s hand in either selling him or playing him in his preferred position in the centre of midfield. He managed the latter and made the position his own, but the demand for more money, with Wenger not making an exception considering the wage structure, eventually causing him to leave. It was clear to see his friendship with his fellow midfielders Fabregas, Hleb and Rosicky, yet even this could not compare to money. Football is a materialistic world where the power of the coin takes over any other. Flamini could be afforded to be paid huge wages in Italy as his ‘transfer fee’ is included in his deal.
With the Wenger ‘curse’ evident in several past players unable to adapt to their new clubs, the style of play and footballing culture. Thierry Henry despite scoring a beautiful brace this weekend has struggled greatly, as has Edu, with horrific injuries. Patrick Vieira has only recently come into some sort of form, and is likely to win the Scudetto, despite his error practically assisting a Milan win in the Derby Della Madonnina. Robert Pires and Pascal Cygan are probably the only exceptions, with others such as Petit and Overmars also struggling. Personally, as a question mark hangs over Gattuso’s future, I believe Flamini will be blossom into a world class player for Milan, and a worthy European adversary in the following years (that is, if he doesn’t get a better contract offer in a few years time and joins Real or Barca!).
As Mathieu leaves with a sole FA cup winner’s medal and unfortunately a number of runner’s up medals, Arsenal will remain and progress into the image of side that is ingrained in Wenger’s imagination. Here are a few players that could replace the French maestro:
Hernanes – An elegant ‘volante’, this 22 year old is blessed with a fine long range strike and impressive dribbling skills. As mentioned in the Official Arsenal programme, he surged past three Cruzeiro defenders with a stunning dribble, before lashing the ball into the top corner from fully 30 yards, in what was one of the goals of 2007. More similar to Gilberto’s expert marking skills instead of Flamini’s lung bursting style, he has an attacking edge that would complement the side well. He has the stature of Edu and sees playing in this league as a ‘great honour’. Whether he could adapt is another question, but he certainly has the talent.
Loïc Perrin – a combative player similar to his departing countryman, with a range of passing skills and decent stamina. This 22 year old has been linked in the past and could play with Cesc next season. Recently out for 8 months with an injury, he shows he has traits similar to many current Arsenal players.
Lorik Cana – he certainly has the energy and aggression of Mathieu (this can be seen just on the basis of a Youtube video!), yet in being captain of Marseille and Albania, he has leadership too. Linked to us in the past, Cana would be a typical Wenger signing, with decent passing and ability to maintain a high tempo.
Ognjen Vukojevi? – Dubbed the Croatian ‘Gattuso’, this holding midfielder has been linked to Bayern, Espanyol, Celtic as well as us in the past year. His uncompromising style of play was prominent in matches for country during qualification for Euro 2008. With Wenger using the previous interest in Modric (now at Spurs) to disguise his interest in Vukojevi?, and the Arsenal manager very familiar with his playing stats for Dinamo Zagreb, this 6 foot + tall player is another candidate to replace Flamini. Finally, his value is seen as £2 million, well within whatever budget the manager has.
Naturally there is a list of players being linked to the club, with most links the work of agents looking to generate interest in their players. For this read Jean II Makoun, Mark Milligan, Stephane Sessegnon. Even Yaya Toure has been linked to the side where his brother plays. Whoever Wenger chooses to buy, with perhaps Song proving to be a fine talent and even a replacement (for he has physical strength, great technique and is schooled in the Arsenal style). We would like to wish Flamini all the best in his Milanese future.

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