Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Arsenal midfielder Matthieu Flamini is as important to the side as record ... - Telegraph.co.uk

And even though this was only Flamini's third start since returning to the club after a five-year stint at AC??Milan, he felt confident enough to put a few in their place.

Arsenal's defence, in turn, looked all the healthier for it. With Flamini in the side, they did not face the ugly scenario whereby a huge gap opened up in front of the defence to allow an opponent or two to run at them unchecked. That happened far too regularly in the past when a midfield combination of, say, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey would all get caught ahead of the ball at the same time.

Flamini, it must be said, is not in the same league as those aforementioned players in terms of talent. He is, in reality, a limited footballer who quite often looked out of his depth in the Milan side. But the balance was different there. Perhaps the midfielder felt he had to do more than solely put out fires 30 yards from goal.

That was not the case here. The 29-year-old was in no doubt of the job expected, and it didn't involve trying to be clever in the attacking third. Quite rightly, he was happy to let those far more qualified think up ways to confound the visiting defence.

On the negative side, Flamini can be a bit of a hothead. He was actually quite fortunate not to get sent off for a two-footed lunge shortly after coming off the bench in his first outing against Tottenham. An excitable attitude gets the better of him sometimes. But you can forgive him for that when he puts in a shift like he did on Sunday. Commentating for Sky, I nominated him man-of-the-match because he had made Arsenal so much more solid from a defensive standpoint.

So often, he would be the one to halt an attack, whether it was through a tackle or positional sense. Dropping back in front of his centre-half, Flamini would cut out a cross before it could do any damage (see graphic). A natural nose for danger helped his side no end.

He will not play every game this season. Some occasions, as I said, are better suited than others and this one had his name written all over it. Mikel Arteta's return from injury now gives Wenger a less physical but more thoughtful option at the base of midfield.

Even so, it was a great piece of business snapping up a free transfer who, having been released by Milan, had only returned to Arsenal to keep fit. But when Wenger saw the level of his fitness and the accompanying motivation, it made perfect sense to sign him up.

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