Flamini absence felt in Dortmund defeat

Thursday 24th October 2013 16:02

Mathieu Flamini: Much missed in defeat to Dortmund

Mathieu Flamini: Much missed in defeat to Dortmund

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Arsenal FanZoner JC sees no reason to panic following the defeat to Borussia Dortmund, but has highlighted a few things which need addressing.

When the final whistle blew at the Emirates on Tuesday night, I was left in a sort of bewildered daze.

Despite my best efforts, I had been swept up in the tide of optimism that has gone with our explosive start to the season. "It's still early in season", "don't get ahead of yourselves", "there will be tougher fixtures", all seemed like nothing more than the words of jealous rivals and second-rate pundits. For a moment, I dared to believe.

That was, until Jurgen Klopp and his merry men delivered some realism to the Emirates. 66 days without losing meant that I greeted this defeat firstly with bewilderment, but then, when the sun rose the next morning (I wasn't sure it would for a while there), with acceptance and a sense of realistic optimism for the rest of the season.

Let's be clear, losing 2-1 to last season's beaten Champions League finalists is not a disastrous result by any means. If people said we were getting ahead of ourselves after a few good results, a sense of pessimism following this defeat is very much premature.

But the match did highlight a few key things that must be addressed.

The first is the obvious naivety we displayed at various points in the match, particularly for their two goals. This is not a must-win game for us. A draw would have been a very respectable result, and there was simply no need to commit so many men forward in search of a winner. Dortmund are lethal on the counter attack (much like us really), everybody knows that, and so we really should have been more cautious and not allowed them so much space to exploit so late in the game.

Some may point to the fact that, for large sections of the second half, we looked the more likely to score, but honestly, other than Cazorla's effort that hit the outer side of the crossbar, much of our attacking play was harmlessly done on the edge of their box.

As Arsene said afterwards, "If you cannot win the game, you don't lose it".

I realise that it's not really in our nature to do that, and perhaps it's not the 'Arsenal way', but, frankly, sometimes, it damn well should be. I love our free-flowing, expansive, attacking football as much as any Gooner, but, especially when we're playing the bigger teams, a more realistic approach would not go amiss.

Part of this of course was due to the absence of Flamini. It was obvious, in the moments after his substitution at Norwich, how much this team now relies on Mathieu, and this match only served to emphasise that fact. We desperately missed his grit, dynamism, and the shielding work he does in front of the back four.

What this means going forward is perhaps that Arteta, when everyone is fit, will have to accept a place on the bench. Don't get me wrong, I love Mikel Arteta. I love the work he has done for us in the last two years; I love that he finally brought some sort of defensive positioning to our midfield; I love the leadership he has displayed; I love his lego-man hair, and most of all, I love the passion he displays towards the club. Unfortunately, with realism being the theme, my love for him does mean he should be in the starting XI.

Playing both Flamini and Arteta often means pushing Ramsey out wide and, frankly, that is just a waste of his abilities. Despite the naivety (there's that word again) he showed when trying to dribble out from the edge of his own box, he has undoubtedly been our best player this season. He should be playing in the middle of the park, where he is most effective. Even if this means that people like Arteta and Wilshere have to settle for a place on the bench.

The next point that seemed clear to me from watching this game, and from the season so far is that, when Arsenal resume their search for a striker in January, it should be for cover and not a replacement for Giroud. Despite struggling for service for much of this match, Giroud's all round play has frankly been nothing short of excellent this season. The strength he showed in the move that led to Hummels clearing off the line was also impressive, if not a rare sight these days.

A defeat is hard to take, but, if the lessons are learned, there is still much to be optimistic about.

i>By JC, FanZone's Arsenal blogger. Follow @FanZone on Twitter!

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