Blog by: North London is Red
When Mathieu Flamini was rumoured to be coming back to Arsenal I had mixed feelings. A year ago I was asked if I would take him back and based on his injury record in Italy I said no but when Arsène Wenger came out and said that his mental state, attitude and physical shaped had convinced him to take him back I felt I had maybe judged a bit soon.
When it comes to football, few things are more important than fitness and endurance. Modern footballers need to be high-performance athletes as well as technically strong. Arsenal supporters know how painful it is to have top quality players like Diaby, and to some extent Jack Wilshere, but not be able to use them as often as we would like because of injury.
Then we have had players like Arshavin, who whilst relatively injury free, never seemed to have the stamina to last a full 90 minutes in the EPL.
It is for this reason why I love players like Aaron Ramsey, why I used to love Flamini and will quickly learn to do so again. Fitness and endurance.
Endurance for a lot of us is working 14 hour days, marathon FIFA sessions, or in my case the Ladbrokes Poker Endurance Challenge. Endurance for a top athlete like a Premier League footballer is running 9-10 miles in one match despite all the stopping and starting and doing that twice a week in some cases.
Football is a high octane sport with little to no rest periods on the pitch which makes the fitness of modern footballers all the more impressive when you compare it to other sports like cricket, NFL and baseball where rest periods are aplenty.
And it’s not just the 1-2 games a week we see in the stadiums, it’s also the intensity of Premier League training routines, ball work, strength work, resistance training, anaerobic fitness and cardio work.
Arsenal players in general are incredibly fit and their fitness levels are one of the reasons Arsenal usually lead the way in late goals scored; other teams often cannot match up to that level of intensity.
Then there are the Mathieu Flamini’s and Aaron Ramsey’s of the squad. These are incredibly fit players, maybe slightly more so than the rest of the squad. One of Ramsey’s biggest attributes is his incredible engine. Ramsey and Flamini may not be as technically good as Wilshere and Arteta but they never seem to drop physically as the match goes on and you cannot underestimate the importance of players like that.
Flamini recently said that he and Tony Colbert joked that he is like a wine, improving with age because his fitness levels are equal to or better than they were when he last played for Arsenal.
I sincerely hope this is the case as with an incredibly streamlined squad, Arsenal are going to need their players to stay fit until at least January if they want to make a serious assault on a trophy this season.