This season has seen a resurgence in Arsenal's form, bringing delight to all football fans who are love to see the beautiful game played the Arsenal way once again.
Many people have credited this success to manager Arsene Wenger's signing of Mesut Ozil, believing that the German talisman has propelled Arsenal to another level. Ozil has indeed brought real world-class talent into the squad, but the glue in this Arsenal team is the man who has flown in under the radar, Mathieu Flamini.
Signed on a free transfer this summer, the 29-year-old has probably been the signing of the season so far, but has not been given the credit he deserves. Put under no pressure or speculation by the media as the attention has been directed on the big money signing Ozil, Flamini has been free to go about his business bossing the Arsenal midfield.
While lacking the creativity and flair that so many of his midfield teammates at Arsenal possess, Flamini can provide the one thing Arsenal have been desperately crying out for in recent times, defensive stability.
Blessed with a gifted football mind, the grossly underrated Frenchman can read the game brilliantly, positioning himself perfectly time after time. He slows down counter-attacks, helps the defence out with his positioning and is excellent in the tackle. He also dictates the pace of the game at will, knowing exactly when to speed things up and slow things down.
His skills often go unnoticed as they are very simple and many are off the ball, but they are invaluable to this Arsenal team and are what make them click. He has allowed Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to show off their class and has given the attacking minded players the freedom to express their talent, leading to the incredible rises of the likes of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud.
Ever since Flamini picked up a thigh injury in the past weeks, Arsenal's form has hit a bump. This is no coincidence. They missed him badly in the losses against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea and struggled without him against Crystal Palace, scraping through what should have been an easy victory.
Mikel Arteta is a very good player, but he can't provide the same qualities that Flamini can to this Arsenal team, the ones they need the most. The attacking game looks much less fluid when the players know that they don't have the rock of Flamini behind them.
In the coming weeks, Arsenal have a very tough schedule, and we are going to find out just how good this team is without arguably their most important player.
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