Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday January 30 2008
This month has probably presented me with the toughest choice for a player of the month all season. December was a humdinger as nobody stood out in particular, but this month sees a choice that I have agonised over for the last week. As usual, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna were very much in the running, the pair just seem incapable of playing badly. If you look up 'consistency' in the dictionary, there will be a picture of Clichy and Sagna teasing speed cameras around Archway. Probably. Willy Gallas has once again looked his assured, consistent self, leading the team with a calm assurance. His captaincy skills were really put to the test following the defeat to the Spuds (getcha DVD and commemorative mug), and this week he has passed with flying colours. Eduardo has really risen to prominence, whilst Hleb and Fabregas seem to have shaken off spells of indifferent Christmas form following injury.
But really this month's player of the month was a straight race between two. Emmanuel Adebayor has hit nine goals in his last seven games, the goals at White Hart Lane and against West Ham really stand out amongst his literati of headers. Aside from his goalscoring antics, he has become so intrinsic to the way we play. Given that he has yet to snafoo one of my prestigious monthly awards, I was sorely tempted to hand our top scorer January's player of the month. However, the form of Mathieu Flamini this month has been utterly irresistable, a close contender for man of the match in every game he has played this month, he has also become rigidly entrenched within our style of play for slightly different reasons to Adebayor. Even given Flamini's extraordinary effort and assist last night, this was not the deciding factor in awarding him a second player of the month this season. I toiled with it, unable to sleep I deconstructed their every performance this month, muttering to myself in the dark about their various merits, eyes wracked red with fatigue, fingernails now crude stubs of enammel. But the over riding reason the Flamster nicks it ahead of Adebayor, Matty didn't headbutt one of his own team mates in January!
Adebayor's act of lunacy has been forgiven after two match winning displays against the Barcodes, but it still prevents him picking up this prestigious prize. I bet he's gutted. Seldom have I witnessed a transformation in a player as complete as that of Flamini. At the beginning of the campaign, he looked to have channeled his energy correctly and displayed all the attributes of the consummate defensive midfielder. Running tirelessly to retrieve the ball, before redistributing to Rosicky, Hleb or Fabregas and allowing them free reign to dazzle all with their cultured play. In the ensuing months, Flamini has dismissed any doubts that his form this campaign has been a glitch on his otherwise pretty ordinary Arsenal career. With Gilberto Silva looking to have inversely correlated Flamini's fortunes by producing performances the diametric opposite of his pomp last season and Diarra proving that his large head accomodates a lot of empty space, Flamini has made a place in the team his own.
Even a short absence from the team through injury, in which I strongly thought Diarra and Gilberto would really stake a claim for his place (in fairness Diarra was excellent when he played, but could not dislodge the Flanimal, further testament to Matty's form) Flamini could not be moved. His performances against Birmingham, Fulham and in both Newcastle matches were nothing short of inspired. Diarra was already convinced he could not impeach Mattuso and toddled off to the South Coast in January. (Ironically, so that he can further his international career. In the current French squad, he vies for a spot with, you guessed it, Flamini). But Flam has far from taken a quiet, unassuming role in the Arsenal side. As his confidence has grown, he can oft be seen barking out instructions to his team mates, cajoling his colleagues with regard to their positioning. He has seemingly added a creative string to his bow, no longer content with shuffling the ball off to Cesc before toddling back off into the background, he has taken to being the springboard for attack. He capped another fine month off with a sterling assist from Adebayor and a stunning strike from thirty yards which would have left Given with a sense of deja vu, having conceded a similar goal to Elano at Citeh in December. If ever a game chrystalized the emergence of a player, last night epitomised the delightful metamorphosis of Mathieu Flamini. If Gilberto is the invisible wall, then Matty Flamini is the proverbial ton of bricks making his mark on the opposition. Now, for goodness sake, somebody get the man a pen.LD.
Date:Wednesday January 30 2008
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