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The former Gunners midfielder believes the Frenchman has been integral to the side's rise to the top of the Premier League table, bringing greater defensive strength

Arsenal legend Ray Parlour has hailed the return of midfielder Mathieu Flamini and believes the Frenchman is playing a key role for the table-topping north Londoners.

The Gunners have not lost any of the seven matches the 29-year-old has been involved in, and Parlour credits the former AC Milan man with galvanising the Arsenal squad and providing much-needed balance and solidity.

"Flamini has been very important," Parlour told the club's official website.

"At times over the last few seasons when Arsenal have broke forward they look great but when they lose the ball they have been very open in midfield. Good teams will exploit that.

"He's always in those areas where the ball breaks loose and is always trying to win the ball back. He then moves it quickly to the likes of Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil who can really do something with the ball.

"He did that really well before he left. Now he's doing exactly the same and he's a very important player to have in there because you can see [Per] Mertesacker and [Laurent] Koscielny really enjoying their football because they have got Flamini in front of them.

"He's doing a great job shielding them because at times they do look a bit open when they play with all the attacking players they have got."

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