Mathieu Flamini proving the doubters wrong

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Arsenal's 2-1 loss to West Brom was viewed as a huge turning point for their potential title credentials for 2015/16.

In truth, it wasn't really because of the rather shock loss to the Baggies, but more as a result of the knee injury which midfield enforcer Francis Coquelin sustained during proceedings. Many saw his potentially prolonged absence from the lineup as a crucial blow to the Gunners momentum. However, so far these pessimists are being proven wrong.

One man has stepped in from the brink of being cast out of the squad in the summer and is now playing a vital role within their title challenge, Mathieu Flamini. A veteran of Arsenal football club, his recent performances in the heart of Arsene Wenger's midfield have shown that there is still life within this old war horse.


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Thrown in at the deep end

In truth, it is highly unlikely Flamini would even be participating as regularly were it not for yet another injury to club captain Mikel Arteta.

The Spaniard is genuinely viewed as second in command in defensive midfield, but his recent fitness woes have meant the Frenchman has taken the reins. A stroke of luck perhaps for Arsenal but it seems as if Flamini is on a mission to prove his worth within this squad.

What has really struck me in recent weeks is his discipline within midfield. Despite being a player whose emphasis should be on defending, there have been certain times we have seen Flamini breaking from midfield into goal scoring positions.

Take the Tottenham game in the Capital One Cup where he actually scored two goals. While that is an admirable achievement it is not what Arsenal need, they have enough talented technicians in midfield to do this already.

However, since his reintroduction to first team football, Flamini suddenly looks as if he has realised that his defensive skills are imperative. The dirty work he has produced in the last three fixtures should not be underestimated and he seems to have forged a combative and effective duo with Aaron Ramsey.

Proving the doubters wrong

Against Olympiakos, where Arsenal's qualification hopes hung in the balance, Flamini came into his own - thriving in a hostile atmosphere by nullifying the Greek champions, who were being urged to attack by the fans.

However, it must be pointed out that in the game before this crucial tie in Greece against Sunderland, Flamini was in truth, dreadful. Wayward passes and just general neglect of his duties could have cost Arsenal dearly, but they did just enough to come through with a 3-1 win in the end.

That Olympiakos game had a profound effect upon his season, he knew improvement was needed and ever since he has delivered.

The recent victory against Manchester City typified the improvement he has made since that performance versus the Black Cats. Marshalling the space in front of the back four and keeping the mercurial David Silva quiet throughout the match. Rarely did he break forward or try outlandish passes, rather he kept his passing game simple and covered the space City looked to exploit.

His old, frustrating habits seem to be slowly disappearing from his game and if he continues to perform in such a manner, Arsenal will still be title challengers even without Coquelin.

One last thing, in 52 games at the Emirates, Flamini has never lost (W36 D16) - make of that what you will.

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Mathieu Flamini
Thierry Henry
Arsene Wenger
Premier League

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