If someone had told me a year ago that Mathieu Flamini would completely shut down Kaka in two legs of a CL knockout round I would have been amazed that he would be even included in the lineup for the matches. Flamini has been defying the odds all season as he has proven himself an invaluable partner to Fabregas in the middle of the field. The fact that he has been able to keep last years captain Gilberto out of the lineup sums up what he has meant to the team. He has pace and can be disruptive to the oppositions attack but I have been most surprised with his decision making and passing ability which has really matured this season. Flamini is often referred to as the ‘Gattuso’ of the Arsenal midfield which is a great compliment but he has shown so much more to his game this year and should no longer be just viewed as just an enforcer.
I completely enjoyed watching the matches between Arsenal and Milan and was impressed by the skill and sportsmanship displayed by both sides. I knew going in that both sides would be strong defensively but the balance tipped in favor for Arsenal through the play of the midfield. The strength of the Milan team during their CL run last year was made to look old and ordinary by the pace and passing of the Arsenal midfield which at times just took over both matches. Pirlo had no impact in either game and Seedorf in the first leg was totally missing. Gattuso and Ambrosini seemed hard pressed to keep up with the pace and wore down as the games progressed. Kaka was visibly shaken and taken off his game with the constant pressure he absorbed while on the ball. The fact that he could not just use his speed to blow through the midfield had him frustrated both matches.
I realized during these games that watching the duo of Fabregas and Flamini I was possibly seeing a partnership that could be special for years to come. Last year I was not concerned with the future of Flamini as an Arsenal player but now believe signing him to a new contract has to be first priority for the team.