Mathieu Flamini was the shock north London derby hero on Wednesday night, netting both goals in Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur.
The Frenchman was making his first appearance of the season after a summer which saw him linked with a move away from London, and Arsène Wenger hailed the attitude of the midfielder after his brace had sent Arsenal into the fourth round.
“He is a fighter and he is a winner as well,” the Arsenal boss told the media after the game. “I told him at the start of the season it might be difficult for him to be a starter but he decided to stay and he did fight.”
Last season saw the emergence of Francis Coquelin and the use of Santi Cazorla in a deeper role. Even Aaron Ramsey has had to deal with playing out wide, and all this came when Mikel Arteta was injured.
Jack Wilshere is still injured but there is an incredible amount of competition for a place in Arsenal’s midfield. However, that never stopped Wenger from trying to keep Flamini around.
“I fought to keep him but he is at an age where you always consider what it is important at that age, which is to keep focused and stay in the team. If they do not manage to do that it is better you let them go, but he wanted to stay.”
At 31 years old, Flamini is approaching the end of his career. There’s no doubt that most players would focus on playing regularly while they still can but the decision to stay, and the way he celebrated his goals, show how much the club really means to him.
It was a surprise to see Flamini stay during the summer, but thank goodness he did.