Francis Coquelin is back in training and next week’s FA Cup tie with Burnley should provide Arsenal with the perfect chance to give Mohamed Elneny a debut in England.
The Egyptian was signed from FC Basel before the 0-0 draw against Stoke City but, considering the tough nature of that game and Sunday’s match against Chelsea, he hasn’t yet been introduced to the Premier League.
He hasn’t played since 13th December so could be a little rusty, but the usual cup rotation means we’ll see him next Saturday. Meanwhile, Coquelin returned to full training this week and could also make the game.
All that means Mathieu Flamini probably won’t ever have to play for us again, and that’s long overdue. Arsenal’s best midfield of the last few weeks featured Calum Chambers, who impressed in the win against AFC Bournemouth when Flamini was unavailable. However, Arsène Wenger deferred to seniority when his countryman regained fitness and we haven’t looked good since.
The 2-2 draw at Anfield was bad, with Flamini collapsing onto our centre-backs whenever there was a space in the middle of the pitch that had to be filled. He offered no presence in that area as Aaron Ramsey pushed forward to score and create in the early stages of the game and it made Arsenal look bad.
On Sunday it was more of the same. Flamini had more shots than any other player against Chelsea, while winning no tackles despite playing the whole game. Our holding midfielder. He was culpable for the situation which saw Per Mertesacker sent off, allowing Chelsea to break with Willian and putting no pressure on the ball.
It’s this passive style of defending which sees us sacrificing a lot of space to teams, all because Flamini doesn’t engage a player in fear of being dribbled past.
He was also at fault for the goal, taking up silly positions in the box and getting in Laurent Koscielny’s way as the ball came in twice before Diego Costa scored the only goal of the game.
With the options we have at our disposal this was surely Flamini’s last game for the club?