Only two topics to discuss today – Mathieu Flamini and the first of the trio of matches against Liverpool.
First up we have the Frenchman, whose relentless energy was recognised by the Sport Relief challenge, where he ran further than any other Premiership player in the weekend of the draw with Middlesbrough, but who still hasn’t signed the contract offer on the table, despite persistent claims that he wants to stay, both from the player:
“I am talking with the club and we’ll see what happens. But I hope to stay at Arsenal.”
And Wenger a week ago:
“We are on course there, negotiations are going well and we hope to sort that out in April.”
Flamini’s quote doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, it is almost as if he is hoping for a better offer, without being confident it’ll arrive. Whether this was taken out of context isn’t clear, but his future seems far from certain. To me, it’d be unwise for him to leave – he may be having a superb season, but he is in a system that suits him and has a partner he clicks with. The green almost certainly isn’t greener over the fence. The loss would be mutual – he has been outstanding this season and to see him leave now would be a serious blow.
Progression is unlikely for the next week, as everyone is busy with the small matter of playing Liverpool three times in six days. Tomorrow is home leg of the Champions League quarter final, and Liverpool are likely to sit back and keep the game exceptionally tight, much like Milan did in the last round. Phil Thompson believes Liverpool have the edge due to the draw:
“Liverpool have the return leg at Anfield – and that is why I think they are in the box-seat to overcome Arsenal over two legs.”
Of course, both teams knocked out strong Milanese opposition in the last round having played the first leg at home, so this seems to be a moot point.
Much as Liverpool will look for a clean sheet, the same for Arsenal would be a massive boost ahead of the return leg next week. These players can score anywhere, and as Milan found to their cost in the last round, conceding an away goal when you haven’t scored one can kill the tie in an instant. But Liverpool have been experts at this in recent years, and with Arsenal having conceded only twelve goals in the last 32 European ties, a scoreless draw is far from unlikely.
And I’m not sure Liverpool sitting back suits them right now. Torres is in electric form, and must fancy his chances of pinching that all important away goal. 0-0 might not be the great result they think it is.
But that’s how I can see it finishing. We’ll see. Tomorrow, I’ll preview the game a little more, as team details begin to surface.