The frown of the eye-brows that has been synonymous with Arsenal's French manager Arsene Wenger in recent seasons has temporarily gone. What we see today pacing the touchline is a gently clapping, air-punching happy man.
Forget about the grass grabbing, bottle punching, heavily jacketed, crestfallen man that had become an ever present feature on the Gunners' bench. An ear to ear smile is what he now cuts in the press conferences, and its easy to understand why.
The team is in incredible form playing the brand of football that is therapeutic for heart diseases and, most importantly, the goals are coming in. Every segment of this Arsenal team is functioning pretty well. The defence is stone firm, the forward line as deadly as they come and the midfield fully galvanised.
Central to all of this is Mathieu Flamini, the prodigal son. I was vehement in my anguish at the news of a possible return of this holding midfield player. While it was well documented that Arsenal desperately needed a player of his kind, I had strong reservations about the quality of a player who, for the past five seasons, had failed to tie down a place in a Milan team that for the most part had over aged midfield players.
He got back and, in just a couple of games, he showed glances of his old self. That meteoric performance against Spurs in the north London derby stands out. He marshalled the midfield expertly, releasing the creative players at the first time of asking while nullifying not one but a horde of Tottenham's moves towards the Gunners' goal.
His presence ensured that all the other midfielders were solely concerned with the task of taking the game to the opponent, a privilege that Arsenal had last enjoyed with the likes of Ray Parlour still in the fold.
The return of Mikel Arteta, the club's vice-captain and one of Arsenal's stand out players over the past two seasons poses a number of questions to this newly found privilege. Wenger had discovered a gem in Arteta in the holding department of the midfield.
He plays the position so tactfully. He not only balances the tempo of the game but also threads incisive passes to the attackers further up field and, on a few good days, makes productive forays up field that climax in goals.
The pair of Flamini and Arteta bring two very important qualities to the side because of the nature of their games. But having them both on the field at the same time cuts the team's creativity short to say the least, a fact we experienced in the first half of Norwich vs Arsenal.
Up until the time the concussed Flamini went off and Aaron Ramsey came on, the midfield play was a tad gluey. Against Borrusia Dortmund, Arteta started alone but he was not as protective as his French counterpart has been to the defence. Dortmund were having a rather easy encounter in the middle.
Wenger finds himself in a position where he needs to make very tactical choices when it comes to playing these two midfield gurus. For games where the defence ought to be ultra thick, Flamini is a good option, for games against teams that are not as athletic as they are technical then Arteta can have a good outing.
This is the headache that the professor is nursing at the moment, but one that is positive. If he can get this formula right and his pair remain relatively injury free, then he can be sure of retaining that smile come December.
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