Arsene Wenger says Mathieu Flamini will be key to Arsenal's chances of success this season.
The French midfielder re-signed for the Gunners this summer having initially left the club to join AC Milan in 2008.
While fans were initially less than impressed when the 29-year-old rejoined the club, fine performances against Tottenham and Sunderland in the Premier League have helped win the Emirates Stadium faithful round.
Wenger believes that despite his low-key status the defensive midfielder is vital to his team's fortunes.
“[He is] absolutely crucial to the balance of the team,” he told Arsenal Player.
“He has done very well. He had not played since May and when you see how well he came in, it shows you how well, how focused and how dedicated he was in his preparation.
“He’s got what is needed in every team. I wouldn’t say we lacked that as much as people say but he is of course important for the balance of the team that we have players with his qualities.”
Flamini will have the chance to turn out against the side that gave him his big break, Marseille, in the Champions League tomorrow.
Having made the return to Arsenal this summer, he hasn't ruled out returning to his old stomping ground in the future.
"When asked about going back to Marseille one day, Flamini said: “You should never say never," he said. "I did my apprenticeship there. Of course it’s the club of my heart.
“I’ve always stayed close to it, because I’m in contact with Jose Anigo, someone who knows me very well.
“There has never been anything concrete and I have some good years ahead me.”
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