Mathieu Flamini fighting to be fit for Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that Mathieu Flamini is in contention for a return to his squad for Saturday's showdown with Tottenham Hotspur, but none of his other sidelined stars will be fit for the first North London derby of the season.

Flamini has missed Arsenal's last three games with a dead leg, joining a growing injury list which already includes long-term absentees Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy plus Nacho Monreal.

Youngsters Yaya Sanogo and Serge Gnabry are also sidelined to leave Wenger with problems, particularly with options in defensive positions, but the Gunners boss could have the versatile Flamini back in time for their biggest match of the campaign to date.

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Finally some positive injury news

Wenger told the club's official website: "The only difference compared to Villa and Southampton is that Mathieu Flamini might be available again.

"He had a dead leg. I feel he should be back."

The 30-year-old is an important option for Wenger, although barring any further injury disasters at London Colney over the next 48 hours the experienced Frenchman will probably be on the bench this weekend.

First North London derby looming large

Wenger desperately needs to make sure Arsenal look a more cohesive defensive unit for a must-win match though, which could yet mean if anywhere near full fitness Flamini earns a surprise recall.

Flamini was terrific from the bench in the corresponding fixture at the Emirates last weekend, replacing Jack Wilshere just before the break and tackling everything that moved to help Arsenal maintain a narrow 1-0 advantage.

It's a scoreline Arsenal enjoyed in both games against their bitter local rivals last season, although they will need to improve on their efforts on the whole so far this term to enjoy a repeat performance.

The Gunners have only kept a solitary clean sheet in the Premier League, which came in last weekend's morale-boosting 3-0 victory at the Emirates.

Midfield options are plentiful for Wenger, but who starts?

Wenger will definitely leave one or two of his big players disappointed when he hands in his team sheet on Saturday evening, with picking a starting midfield the most pressing selection dilemma.

Mikel Arteta partnered Aaron Ramsey in that position against Villa last weekend, with Jack Wilshere rested and then surprisingly used from the start against Southampton in Tuesday's Capital One Cup defeat.

Wilshere with Arteta in the centre didn't work against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, while Mesut Ozil shone in his favoured number 10 role at Villa Park and looks well placed to stay there for the Spurs clash.

It's definitely a tough tactical dilemma for Wenger, as he bids to get the most from a tremendous attacking line-up without compromising the balance of side which has looked vulnerable in the big matches.

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Mathieu Flamini
Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League

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