Forget Ozil, Flamini Could Be Arsenal's Most Important Player If We Keep Him Fit
As the dust settles on a moderately lively transfer deadline day, a number of parties can rejoice, safe in the knowledge they have delivered an array of top, top, top, top performances.
One of those, it has to be said, came via Sky Sports presenter Jim White’s make-up team. Take a bow. Your perfectly applied, sweat-concealing panstick studio skin had all the lifeless perfection of Joan Collins under a layer of factor 30. Or the face of the moon. Or a wheel of camembert. A very excitable wheel of camembert.
Another steely shift that certainly caught the eye was delivered from within the traditionally prudent halls of the Emirates in what is already being touted as the next Bergkamp moment. However true that may be, the wonderfully adrenalising purchase of Mesut Özil, stolen away in a carefully cradled manoeuvre that needed the best part of a week to bring to a conclusion, might not quite represent the most important signing the Gunners have made this summer.
No, for whilst a partisan, yet long-suffering, Gazidis-intolerant crowd descended upon N5 to finally find reason to kiss his gleaming, leathery, corporate crown, the most vital purchase of the window was already one North London Derby into what is his second stint in red and white.
Watching Mathieu Flamini raise the curtain on his Arsenal return with a typically scruffy scuttle across the pitch was, in many supporters’ eyes, a sight to behold.
Better still, little more than half a minute had passed before, now settled in front of the back four and ready to defend a throw in, an older but altogether identically pungent pitbull began to dress down those around him for being out of position.
Although radically different players, Özil is obviously the superior footballer. A true delight. A revolutionary, lock-picking addition to the setup and, as crazy as it sounds in this day and age, something approaching good value for money (although time will be the judge of that).
That said, the young German international embodies more than a purchase. He is a symbol of change at a club that prides itself on an unmovable set of marbled values. He is the emblem of an organisation now arguably more content at a number of levels, from the boardroom to the boozer.
Furthermore, Özil is the player Arsenal needed to be able to attract more talent in January, not to mention the years ahead. He’s also the player they vitally needed to keep 'The Arsenal Way' alive, because up until last season, Sir Alex Ferguson’s United outfit were playing an incisive, dynamic and athletic brand of football Wenger’s team couldn’t touch. The non-truth that Arsenal ooze the elite philosophy of pure and fearless, free-flowing football has long been confined to the archives.
But for this window in particular, a summer of smug and yet terrified dithering, one in which a unsurprisingly bloated market was having a field day with Ivan Gazidis and his claims of extra financial spunk, the most awkward, vulnerable defect in this Arsenal side has finally been addressed.
The warning signs - painfully apparent during the defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season as a modestly but intelligently assembled Paul Lambert squad carved through their backbone-less hosts - are threatening to be nullified. And whilst not a multi-million pound, Geoffrey Kondogbia-shaped solution, this represents a crucial course of action, and one that Wenger inevitably has had to swallow a noticeable amount of pride to make a reality.
And so with Mikel Arteta still defying the odds to look like a natural defensive midfielder, Flamini brings with him not only a versatility that can satisfy the needs of both the Spaniard and an entire back four should they wither at various points of the season, but also an acute awareness of his limitations, limitations which have ultimately defined his identity, and bringing with it a simple, but effective skill-set that ultimately might help a number of other Arsenal players finally define their own.
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