|MAN OF THE MATCH
Arsenal 3-1 Stoke City
In transfer window that includes the signing of one of the best playmakers in the world in Mesut Özil, any other transfers would pale in comparison. Mathieu Flamini re-signing for Arsenal was another one such case. Signing a player on the free whom the club contrived to let go back in 2008, was never going to be something that is long-planned. Yet, recent matches will prove how shrewd that move is.
Flamini once again shone in last night’s match against Stoke. It was like the Flamini of old, the Flamini of 2008 who in tandem with Tomas Rosicky, CescFabregas and Alexander Hleb; were the best midfield in the Premiership that season. The players around him this time around might be different but the familiarity with the club has helped eased Flamini back in his second coming as a Gunner.
In many ways, it was a typical performance from Flamini against Stoke. Playing just in front of the defence, Flamini screens the space in front of him and help to limit the number of times that the Arsenal defence is called into action. He completed marked out Stoke’s creative central midfielders in Charlie Adam, then Stephen Ireland. The former French international, was also occasionally found supporting the full backs or dropping in as the third centre back, when required.
More than most, Flamini provides that vocal presence on the pitch. For many seasons, Arsenal has lacked a guidance/leader on the pitch. Someone who would scream at his team mates when they are out of position or when they make a mistake. Someone who would be the first to cajole his team mates as a form of motivation. For a long time, Arsene Wenger has preferred the quiet approach and no doubt would have seen the effect of a louder approach.
MikelArteta returned to the match day squad yesterday and when fully fit, it will not be a surprise to find Flamini being relegated to the bench. When that happens, it would the good type of conundrum for Wenger to have on who to select. For now though, Flamini’s drive and energy has gotten Arsenal to the top of the Premier League. That is worth a lot of praise and admiration.