Arsenal: Mathieu Flamini Played Crucial Role Against Manchester City

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By Copyright © 2013 Goonerhead - All Rights Reserved Powered by WordPress & Atahualpa [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons /

Arsenal avoided damage from two of City’s stars, Sergio Aguero and David Silva in their 2-1 victory. Was City’s Spanish playmaker stymied by Mathieu Flamini?

Arsenal may have performed brilliantly at times in their 2-1 victory over Manchester City, but some of the Citizens’ stars under-performed and the game might not have been the same with an in-form David Silva and a fully fit Sergio Aguero attacking the Gunners back four.

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Sergio Aguero will not be analyzed as much, because he is not entirely at fault for his lack of activity against Arsenal. With Ivorian striker Wilfried Bony up front during Kun Aguero’s absence, Manchester City’s playmakers had to make different plays to utilize Bony’s strengths. Once the Argentine forward returned to City’s lineup they were required to switch back again. Having that adjustment game come against Arsenal might have been poor planning on behalf of Manuel Pellegrini.

David Silva is a different case. The Spaniard went down in September and was injured for seven or eight weeks, but he returned at the end of November and has still not regained his old form. Since his return on November 28th against Southampton, he has not registered a goal or an assist. Against a weak midfield (like Arsenal’s has been in the past) Silva might have been able to get on track. This time, the opposite happened.

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The Spaniard was substituted in the 73rd minute by Manuel Pellegrini. There are some standout statistics of Silva’s during those minutes. He made zero take-ons, registered zero shots on target, won zero tackles and made only one key pass, which did not end in a goal (via What threw him off?

David Silva was rendered inactive by a combination of Arsene Wenger’s tactical awareness and Mathieu Flamini’s ability to listen to his manager. From the start of the game, the French tactician assigned his compatriot Flamini to follow David Silva around the pitch, almost wherever he went.

Arsenal employed their big-game tactic of sitting back in banks of four and defending resolutely, breaking when they saw adequate opportunities. However, the bank of four was altered to deal with the roaming playmaker role Silva plays in a brilliant way. Instead of a second flat central midfielder, there was a unique roaming defensive midfielder that often sat behind the midfield three, constantly blocking the passing lanes.

Flamini also did not have a huge game statistically, only making one tackle and three interceptions throughout the game. However, his role did not involve a ton of on-the-ball action. The reason he only had the opportunity to make one tackle is that he stopped his target from getting the ball.

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That lack of an option in the center of the pitch proved disastrous for Manchester City’s offensive game plan. Firstly, without a playmaker able to roam in the No. 10 hole Manchester City were consigned to passing between their center backs and on the flanks of the pitch. That was far from what Manuel Pellegrini had planned for, and the Citizens’ passing looked vagrant unimaginative as a result.

Secondly, David Silva became extremely frustrated with his minimal impact on the match, and after fifty or sixty minutes his work rate dwindled. Once Silva was walking around the midfield without much purpose, Flamini was able to restore more shape to Arsenal’s midfield four. Had the Spaniard put in more effort in the second 45 minutes, Flamini could have been forced into an error or fatigued into letting Silva dominate him. Instead, Silva gave up on the central midfield battle, which, in turn, lost Manchester City the game.

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Regardless of how inconsistent defensively Mathieu Flamini has been in the past, he shut down one of the best playmaking midfielders in Europe and was instrumental in making sure Arsenal went into halftime 2-0 up. Hopefully against a better No. 10 like Lionel Messi, he will produce again.