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Arsenal: Why Mathieu Flamini Could Be the Ideal Foil for Mesut Ozil

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Arsenal: Why Mathieu Flamini Could Be the Ideal Foil for Mesut Ozil
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Mesut Ozil and Mathieu Flamini were arguably both opportunistic signings by Arsenal.

Ozil only became available on the final weekend of the transfer window following Gareth Bale's arrival at Real Madrid. Flamini, meanwhile, was signed on a free transfer after impressing during a spell training with Arsenal at their London Colney base.

Arsene Wenger has admitted that Flamini was never part of any grand plan. He told the club's official website:

At the start I didn't want to sign him - I am completely honest about it. I didn't envisage doing it. Circumstances and his attitude convinced me to do it.

It sounds as if even Wenger is slightly surprised to see Flamini back at Arsenal. However, having made his return after five years with AC Milan, the feisty midfielder is determined to make up for lost time. In an interview with Arsenal.com, Flamini said:

I feel like I never left. There are players I played with before, and even staff, there are a lot of people still here that I knew before and the [relationship] with the fans was just amazing.

Flamini and Ozil are polar opposites in many respects. Their playing styles are as different as their price-tags.

However, both players could be integral to Arsenal's fortunes in the 2013/14 season.

Heading in to the summer, Arsenal's midfield required strengthening in two key areas. They needed a player who could rotate with Mikel Arteta in the holding role and someone to take the burden of Tomas Rosicky as a central creative playmaker. In short, they required both more fight and more flair.

Ozil brings the flair. Flamini brings the fight.

That much was immediately clear when Flamini returned to the Arsenal team in the recent North London derby. Jack Wilshere was forced off by illness, and there was a palpable concern among the Arsenal fans that losing their midfield talisman could turn the tide in Tottenham's favour.

Flamini immediately quashed those fears. Within seconds he was tearing in to tackles and preventing the Tottenham midfield from establishing any kind of rhythm.

What Flamini lacks in technique he makes up for in tenacity. It wasn't just his hassling and harrying that helped shore up the Arsenal midfield: Flamini is 29 now and developing in to a leader. He was gesticulating furiously, motivating and organising those around him. Flamini left Arsenal as Cesc Fabregas' lieutenant, but he has returned as a bona fide midfield general.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Ozil has added to Arsenal's impressive stable of creative midfielders, but any midfield relies upon balance. The invaluable work of the likes of Flamini allow the Ozils and Cazorlas time to express their considerable talent.

The outstanding form of Aaron Ramsey means that Flamini is unlikely to be a regular right away. Similarly, when Mikel Arteta returns from injury, the vice-captain is all but certain to reclaim the holding role.

However, Flamini will doubtless prove to be a vital squad member throughout the season. He may well find himself called upon for specific tactical roles, closing out the midfield in crucial away games or tight European ties.

Arsenal may have smashed their transfer record to sign Ozil, but in recruiting Flamini they bagged a bargain. In the North London derby, Spurs unveiled almost £100 million's worth of new talent. Despite that vast outlay, the most impressive new signing on the field was Flamini: a free transfer with a point to prove.

Arsenal fans are delighted to have him back.

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