The latest news from the bluegrass state.
THIS season has given us lots of new reasons to love the Arsenal - and as we move into one of the more difficult stretches of the season, I think we're approaching it from a position of interest and genuine confidence rather than dread. Rather than looking at the fixture list and saying, "well I'd be happy with a point here, or if we got anything from this game," I'm looking at it and saying all of these fixtures are very winnable, which is refreshing.
Just a couple things - Matthieu Flamini is out for the next three weeks which will see him miss Chelsea in the Capital One Cup, Liverpool and Manchester United in the Premier League, as well as Borussia Dortmund on the away side of our Champion's League fixture. Flamini was a free transfer immediately before the record signing of Mesut Özil over the summer. Admittedly, I saw the signing as typical Wenger - we were calling for a big midfield presence and were looking at Luis Gustavo. Even Ilkay Gündogan's name was being thrown around as a possible candidate to replace the position Flamini himself vacated in the summer of 2008. That position wasn't ever adequately filled, though we used Alex Song, Abou Diaby, Francis Coquelin, and Emmanuel Frimpong in that position they were never the same quality, and some would argue not even enough quality to be in the team. One player that has had a lot of success in that position since leaving Arsenal is Håvard Nordtveit - but thats a story for another time. It's been an interesting position for Arsenal philosophically - it was often argued that a central midfielder with a job of shielding the back four and breaking up the oppositions midfield was simply old fashioned and unnecessary in today's more cerebral game with fluid "pivot" midfielders that would alternate between going forward, shielding the back four, and closing down passing lanes in the middle of the park. While there is a case for that, and Mikel Arteta did a fantastic job with that paired alongside Aaron Ramsey in last season's post Bayern Munich resurgence, Matthieu Flamini has stated his case that a no non-sense physical midfield presence was what we were missing in our midfield for the past few years. He's arguably made more of an impact with his presence than our new midfield magician - though admittedly the career of the young German is still very young - and this is Flamini's second stint in the Premier League. Point is - yes, I initially dismissed the signing of Flamini, and now he's making all of the doubters (of which I was not alone) eat our words. Now, though, we realize his importance in the team, and he's out for a few of the most important games of the season.
We've got a fantastic, in form Aaron Ramsey, we've got Jack Wilshere who has a point to prove, and the obvious quality of Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, and Thomas Rosicky - we've got plenty to trouble Chelsea, Liverpool, and United with, and I'm fairly optimistic with the options we've got.
Branch Manager of Arsenal Kentucky.