What Have Arsenal Landed in the Form of Mathieu Flamini Mark II?
Arsene Wenger has made his second signing of the summer, securing the signature of Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer.
This is not the big-money signing the fans craved, but it's a good (re)acquisition and there's no doubt it puts the starting XI in a stronger position.
What sort of player has returned to the Emirates?
Flamini at Milan
Flamini played out the last year of his Arsenal contract in style and earned a Bosman move to Milan in 2008.
He was expected to slot into Carlo Ancelotti's midfield and add some bite alongside Massimo Ambrosini, but failed to settle due to repetitive injuries and setbacks.
He never broke the 30-appearance barrier at the San Siro, despite spending five seasons there, with his 2011-12 season representing a certifiable rock bottom.
The 2012-13 campaign was arguably his most meaningful in a Rossoneri shirt, starting 21 games and scoring four goals to reward Massimiliano Allegri's faith.
Playing primarily on the left side of a 4-3-3/4-3-1-2 in central midfield, he rediscovered his confidence, goalscoring touch and aggression.
Released at the end of the season unceremoniously, there are few who truly know what shape the Frenchman is in.
Flamini at Arsenal, Part 2
The Gunners have been crying out for a holding midfielder to screen their defence effectively and the opening-day loss to Aston Villa only served to highlight the deficiencies in the squad for all to see.
Even Mikel Arteta would have been powerless to stop Paul Lambert's men running riot and fans could only point to the pictures of Luiz Gustavo holding a Wolfsburg shirt aloft with their mouths agape with confusion.
Considering Wenger believes Flamini is in peak condition—and that Arsenal's footballing principles have barely changed since he left for Italy—you can expect him to feature immediately.
He'll take the deepest role in central midfield and release Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere to attack more freely.
His presence gives Wenger more flexibility in resting Ramsey, Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky—three players with established medical concerns.
He can also fill in at full-back—and did so during his initial stint with the club—and that will come in handy, considering how much football Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna have been playing early on.
Flamini upgrades the first XI right now, but would likely drop out/rotate when Arteta regains fitness. He's not the player who carried the Gunners in 2008, but he's no slouch either.
His versatility is a major plus point and if he stays fit, he'll turn out to be one of the best-value deals of the summer.
It's a good start for Wenger in what is a critical five-day period for the club, but he needs to use it as a springboard to secure more deals that actually cost money.
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