Mathieu Flamini was 20 when he stepped into the red and white at Arsenal and was adored by the Gunners' faithful.
His tenacious work ethic and desire to win was something that every football fan wanted their players to possess. Although at the start of his career he described himself as a 'utility player', Arsene Wenger was soon able to create the Flamini role.
Because of his ability to break up oppositions attacks, he was positioned alongside Cesc Fabregas in the 2007/08 campaign. This gave Cesc Fabregas the opportunity to promote himself to the likes of Barcelona in which he was sold for £35m.
The 5ft 10in French international had been drawn to the Arsenal way and completing 102 games for the club showed the success and ability that he could supply to the club. However, this was not enough, and with AC Milan interested in the Frenchman and Flamini demanding to leave, Wenger had no choice but to let him go.
Since May 2008 Arsenal have struggled to fill the role in front of the back four, with players such as Abou Diaby, Alex Song and Denilson managing to create some of the desire that Flamini showed; however none were able to stay at the club long enough to gain the recognition that their abilities would have achieved had they made the position their own.
Flamini struggled at AC Milan and although completed 96 games scoring seven goals, he was never truly accepted in the San Siro.
His return to Arsenal was in the midst of intense Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain and Wayne Rooney speculation and seemed a strange decision from Wenger after money was deemed available.
Flamini, however, described his relationship with Arsenal as being 'in his heart forever' and this was expressed in his 'second debut' in the north London derby.
It was obvious from the start that the tenacious work ethic was still a quality that he possessed and was also able to relax because of the warmth shown from the fans. He was able to cut out intricate passing from Tottenham and was resolute in front of the back four.
Wenger described gaining the services of Flamini as 'a risk' but although it is early days in his second Arsenal career, he will always be a Gunner and will always obtain the 'Flamini role'.
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