It’s not often a player comes out and has a bit of a moan, and you end up sympathising with him – usually it’s a petulant gripe, if not at quite the ‘I swerved off the road’ level.
But you have to feel for Mathieu Flamini, who after being frozen out looks to be leaving this summer.
Whether Wenger lacked faith in his ability to perform in the big games, or whether he was just plain unlucky, he makes a good point about the finals he missed. That he played every game in the FA Cup run three years ago, only to miss the final, I wasn’t aware of, but we all know about this one:
“Last year, I played in every match in the Champions league but was left on the bench for the final.”
This was incredibly harsh. We all knew it at the time, it was a matter of debate in the days leading up to the final. Cole had regained fitness, but Flamini had been part of a defence that was ten games unbreached in Europe. Who should play? The choice divided opinion, but what swayed it for me was the attitude of the chosen player.
Had Cole not met Chelsea, had we not already realised he was probably on his way out anyway, then his selection may have been justified. After all, he was at the time bordering on being the best left back in the world (now, it’s debatable whether he’s even the best left back at his club). In a big game, the biggest of all perhaps, you could argue that loyalty comes second to sheer talent.
But that wasn’t the case. We knew it would be Cashley’s last game. He’d been out injured, whinging, meeting Chelsea before a huge league game, complaining about being hung out to dry, and preparing to slate our club in the press. He didn’t deserve his spot. Flamini on the other hand, had shown how a model professional behaves. He’d (at the time) happily played out of position, filling in where needed and when needed, and unfussily gone about his job with the highest workrate and passion he could manage. We loved him – he knew he was up against it and he won battles against some of the best players in the game through sheer determination.
It must’ve been some kick to be left out of the final. It would hurt anyone, especially after the work they’d put in to get you there.
His subsequent request to only play in midfield may not have been the smartest move he made. Perhaps he felt unfulfilled at left back, but he could’ve made that work, and as it is he’s chosen to compete in the most crowded area of the squad. As a result, he is surplus to requirements.
So it’s probably so long to Mathieu, and thanks – there are some great memories along the way, some crucial goals (Liverpool and Chelsea this season spring to mind), some superb performances (alongside Cesc two seasons ago against Chelsea, when predicted to be overrun, is prominent), and some sheer hard work. He’s a credit. Good luck to the goal machine.