Thursday, 10 October 2013

Mathieu Flamini: The Unsung Hero

When Arsene Wenger re-signed the French midfielder who fell out of favour at AC Milan, many people - myself included - rose up in anger and frustration against this deal. While a defensive midfielder was required, many wanted the manager to buy proven quality like Fellaini, Bender or Yann M'Vila. The signing of Mathieu Flamini was a symbol to everything all the Gooners were against. A free transfer taken at an opportunity rather than buying proven world class talent was not what any Arsenal supporter wanted. Arsene said of the deal:

"We’re very pleased Mathieu has agreed to re-join us. He is a player of real quality, with a fantastic work rate and great mentality. As we know, Mathieu is a strong midfielder, but is also is comfortable playing in defence too. He is a very good addition to our squad."

After Yaya Sanogo, when the club were expecting Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez or Luiz Gustavo to join the club, signing a 29 year old free Frenchman was a slap in the face. No one really gave him a chance to prove his worth. However, after he had an excellent debut against the Spuds, his influence is slowly growing on the squad, leaving me impressed at how much I underestimated this player.

Replicating the form he showed when he was previously at Arsenal back in 2007 was a big ask, and he hasn't lived up to the expectations.

This Flamini is better.

I remember the brilliant partnership and understanding he had with a certain Cesc Fabregas, and how lethal they were together. I can't wait to see what will happen once he links up with Mesut Ozil. With Ozil, Cazorla, Wilshere and Ramsey, we already have one of the best midfields in Europe. Adding genuine steel and aggression in the form of Flamini adds another dimension to this midfield - rough housing.

I remember in the Arsenal vs Stoke match earlier this season, Wilson had stopped committing repeated fouls on Wilshere after Flamini said, "Do it again and I will blind you". Our Arsenal squad never had that kind of aggression since Patrick Vieira was replaced by Cesc Fabregas, and I feel that Flamini can be a short term (if not long term) replacement for the captain of the Invincibles squad.

The arrival of Ozil and the electrifying form of Ramsey and Giroud meant that Flamini's constant communication and leadership went unnoticed. However, I might go one step further to say that in the long run, Flamini's signing may prove to yield better results than Ozil's. If (god forbid) Ozil does pick up a knock during matches for club and country, we have sufficient creativity to replace him in the form of Cazorla, Rosicky and even Wilshere. However, if Flamini ever gets injured or suspended (the latter seems likelier), who can replace his leadership, commitment, determination and desire? Jack Wilshere maybe, but that's about it.

Arsene agrees that Flamini might prove to be the signing of the season by saying:

"Mathieu Flamini has given us a balance between attacking and defending. He is someone who accepts the 'dark' role in the team. Before, in big games, we looked frail defensively sometimes and he gives us more in that sense. I don't know if he will turn out to be one of the most important signings I have ever made. But I think it was 'an' important signing."  

I'll be honest - I was expecting Fellaini or Bender to come into this Arsenal squad instead of Flamini. However, Flamini, who had publicly stated in the past that leaving Arsenal was a mistake, has made good on his second chance at this club. Evolving from a mere squad player to being the person to fill Vieira's shoes is a huge development for any player, but Flamini seems like a man possessed in his second stint to do that. His direct, physical and aggressive approach is making Mikel Arteta's style of play a liability for the club. His arrival gives Arsenal the don't-mess-with-us kind of look, something which was absent even when Alex Song was at the club. Plus, by the looks of his performances, he badly wants to win trophies and propel this club forward.

I think it's a blessing in disguise that Flamini's contribution is not being acknowledged by the press. Look at Ramsey and Giroud, who were praised by the media. They seemed to be buckling a bit under the pressure of expectation, which resulted in a dip in their performances against West Brom. Flamini is rapidly becoming one of my favourite players at this club, and I would hate to see something as trivial as media pressure affecting his performances. Mark my words, Flamini is the only one-of-a-kind player at this club, and that alone could make him the signing of the season.

For heavens sake, Arsene, give that man the captain's armband.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )
w if he will turn out to be one of the most important signings I have ever made. But I think it was ‘an’ important signing.” - See more at: