Whisper it quietly but there is something going on in North London at the moment. Arsenal are currently sitting on top of the Premier League table after the opening seven games and confidence is sky high. Following a pre season where confidence appeared at an all time low their manager Arsene Wenger has lead his side to nine victories in the club’s first dozen games.
Much of the credit and adulation has been attributed to their new star signing Mesut Ozil who appears to have settled seamlessly into his new environment. However, whilst watching them closely in their last two games it is another player who has really stood out; Mathieu Flamini. The defensive midfielder has been almost solely responsible for his side becoming more robust and compact.
It is of course the Frenchman’s second spell at the club following a rather uninspiring five years playing in Italy for AC Milan. He moved on a free transfer at the end of his last contract after failing to negotiate a new deal. Before his departure he had been instrumental alongside his great friend Cesc Fabregas and had established himself as a fan’s favourite.
It remains eight years since Arsenal last won a major trophy and one of the many accusations that have been thrown at them is that they are mentally weak and physically unimposing. Despite Flamini’s rather diminutive stature the work rate and desire he shows whenever he plays appears to galvanise all those around him.
What he has also brought back to the club is organisation. I spoke to an Arsenal fan earlier this week who said Flamini is the first person he can remember since Tony Adams to be seen screaming and shouting at his team mates. The cajoling and constant attention he has paid his team mates has been instrumental this season. One of the main issues with Arsenal’s game in recent years has been how they cope without the ball. One of the previous incumbents was Alex Song, who despite being a good player has little to no positional sense which resulted in them being exposed far too often.
In a good football side someone who can get stuck in and distribute well is essential. Most of the successful sides in history have had a ‘less flashy’ player in midfield who can help to defend. Last season Mikel Arteta played in front of the back four and despite his wonderful passing ability he lacks the physical bite that Flamini provides Arsenal with. With the two now operating as a partnership the more creative players can focus on their task and not be quite as worried about getting back.
Whilst players such as Giroud and Ozil have taken the plaudits for their respective starts to the season Mathieu Flamini’s impact should not be over looked. The forward players have been allowed to flourish thus far and the Frenchman’s hard work and desire has been integral to this.
(Photo credit: Ronnie Macdonald via Flickr)