I don’t keep a diary of each game I watch, so when thinking of past games I have to rely on memory – which can be notoriously false.
But having given that proviso, I am not sure that Flamini was as good as he is now made out to be.
Certainly his games before the 2007/8 season were ok, but I would never have said he was stunning, and I do remember conversations with friends in the summer of 2007 where we wondered if he was going to leave or not, and the answer generally was “I don’t really mind”. When he was injured we never seemed to mind too much – or miss him too much.
Last season was different, I admit, but was he that good, that special, that important?
In one sense I’ll agree he was: he was the balance and support that Fabregas needed, and which allowed him to develop his game and during that process move forward to score more goals. Beyond that, he ran about a lot (I think there is a stat to say he ran about more than anyone else last year) and he tackled hard. All good stuff.
But, Cesc has now developed a stage further, and there is a greater sense of completeness both to his game, and to the team as a whole, in my opinion, which makes it look more like the earlier Wenger teams – the teams that for many years included Gilberto.
Gilberto was an utterly different player from Flamini, and one who, for part of his time at Highbury was not appreciated by all the crowd – despite the credentials of being a world cup winner and ultimately captain of Brazil. Only when out for a year did we really see what we had been missing.
But the point I am drifting towards is that with Gilberto we won stuff, which we didn’t with Flamini. Of course one player does not explain what we won and didn’t, but it does make the point that the various Wenger teams that have achieved greatness have not done so by being mirror images of each other. We don’t replace Bergkamp, Henry, Pires and Vieira, because they are unique players, and when they go, a new approach is evolved around the new star players. We build the team around the brilliance of Fabregas, and that brilliance includes his flexibility – which gives us flexibility in terms of who plays next to him, and how the pair of them then play.
So what I am saying is that we should not get fixated on the need for a Flamini II – we could have an utterly different system, as we did with Gilberto. Fabregas / Denilson works, Fabregas / Song works, and I suspect Denilson / Song will work too. (Incidentally if it does turn out that Denilson is a really excellent player, then this current extended run can only help him – and help the club for when Cesc can’t play.)
Vieira + Petit was not in any way the same as Vieira + Gilberto, but both worked, and that is what we have to remember. Wenger is not a one-dimensional coach.
Wenger has a style, true, but it is not fixed. Thus our thinking about what is needed and who is needed should not be fixed to saying “oh this is what we had last year, we had better have that again”.
Personally I think the current combination will work – although I will be fascinated to see how Bischoff fits into the system
Final thought: the story that Gaz “Gazza” Gascoigne has been found dead in a Newcastle hotel is just a rumour. Everyone should have known that from the start: there are no hotels in Newcastle.
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