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Flamini more than a grafter for Gunners

The return of Mathieu Flamini has brought more than just steel to the Arsenal midfield, according to WhoScored's Martin Laurence.

Last Updated: 30/10/13 at 12:29 Post Comment

Mathieu Flamini: Has been pivotal to Arsenal's fine start

Mathieu Flamini: Has been pivotal to Arsenal's fine start

When Arsenal re-signed Flamini this summer it was met with widespread ridicule, as the Gunners were deemed to be panicking over the lack of new arrivals. Many found the idea that the Frenchman could be the Londoners' only 'big name' signing in the summer rather amusing, and then Arsene Wenger went and bought Mesut Özil.

Although the German has hit the ground running and received the majority of the plaudits thus far, it's fair to say that those who doubted Flamini's credentials following his bit-part role at AC Milan have had to backtrack, for the time being at least.

The workhorse midfielder had his fair share of injury problems in Serie A, and has been forced off in Arsenal's last two matches due to concussion and a groin strain, with Wenger admitting that the player's fitness was his only concern when making the decision whether to bring him back to the club.

The reason for welcoming back a man he once named 'the little corporal' was pretty obvious though. Much had been said about Arsenal's lack of bite in recent years, particularly in central midfield, with the Gunners having failed to really replicate the success of Gilberto Silva in defensive midfield. Flamini was supposed to be that holding man, and faced a challenge to win back over the fans after many believe he quit the club to line his pockets in Italy.

Upon his return he was immediately barking out orders in Arsenal's victory over Tottenham, coming on as a substitute for the equally injury-prone Jack Wilshere. It took the 29-year old just 12 minutes to go into the referee's book, and Flamini has gone on to pick up three more bookings in his seven Premier League appearances this season.

It may come as a surprise then that the former France international has committed just seven fouls in the league, being cautioned in all but one of his 90-minute displays. It's just as surprising, given the spicy rivalry between the two sides, that the match in which Flamini avoided a booking was against Stoke.

The influence he has on the side can't be highlighted in stats alone, but during his time on the pitch in his nine appearances in all competitions thus far, Arsenal have conceded just five times, and never more than once in a game. However, Flamini doesn't stand out in a number of statistics that you might expect.

His average of 1.6 tackles per game is exactly that. Average. It's significantly lower than both Aaron Ramsey (4.4) and Mikel Arteta (2.6), with Özil's figure of 1.5 per game only just behind. Meanwhile, though an average of 1.4 interceptions per match is the best in Arsenal's midfield and highlights an astute reading of the game, it's significantly down on the leading Premier League players, with Michael Carrick (4.3) top of that pile.

It's the organisation Flamini brings to a midfield that showed naivety in the season opener against Villa that has seen him become an important player for Arsenal once again. His ability to keep possession ticking over and feed the more creative players in the side is also invaluable.

Indeed, of all players to start at least five Premier League matches, Flamini has the best pass accuracy (93.2%) and while he does keep things simple in the most part, an ability to stretch the play when needed suits Arsenal's strength on the counter. He has misplaced just one of 32 attempted long balls and, in a side that often has an overcrowded physio room, his availability to operate in a role that few others at the club can fulfil may well be crucial to any sustained title challenge.

Martin Laurence - follow him on Twitter.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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