After last night’s Champions League victory over Marseille, Arsenal should be celebrating reaching the verge of qualification for the knockout stage. Instead, Gunners fans have woken up to a clutch of headlines rebuking Mathieu Flamini for his decision to insist upon shortening his sleeves.
It’s a long-standing Arsenal tradition that the captain decides on the sleeve length for each particular game, and all outfield players subsequently follow suit. Flamini, however, prefers to wear short sleeves. Defying tradition, he has opted to cut off his long sleeves in each of his last two appearances for the club.
Flamini’s defence is simple: It’s a matter of personal preference. Last night, he told The Mirror: "I've been playing at top level for 10 years, I like to wear short sleeves - that's what I like to do."
However, Arsenal is a club where tradition is held dear. Flamini could have imitated Olivier Giroud and simply rolled his sleeves up, which would have spared him any public outcry.
Instead, he displeased Arsene Wenger enough that his manager commented on the issue publicly.
Asked about the situation by The Mirror’s John Cross, Wenger replied: "I do not like that and he will not do it again. I was surprised, and we don't want that."
That should be the end of the matter. A public dressing down from Wenger will surely put an end to Flamini’s divisive tailoring.
Hopefully the media’s focus will also shift towards the more important matter of Flamini’s performances on the pitch. The Frenchman has far more up his sleeve than controversy.
Recalled to the team last night after missing the Southampton game through suspension, Flamini was outstanding. Facing former club Marseille seemed to inspire the midfielder to put in an all-action display.
According to Arsenal.com’s Stats Centre, Flamini won 100 percent of his tackles and made two crucial interceptions.
However, his game is not purely destructive. In the Arsenal midfield, only Aaron Ramsey made more passes than Flamini. No Arsenal player had a better pass completion rate than the Frenchman, though, who found the target with 91.8 percent of his 98 passes.
Flamini makes certain that Arsenal win the ball back, and then ensures they keep it. He played a huge role in the Gunners’ dominance of the play. Thanks to Flamini’s exertions, Arsenal enjoyed a massive 67.3 percent of possession.
Acquiring Flamini on a free transfer increasingly looks like one of the smartest signings of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal career. Despite his unhappiness with Flamini’s sartorial stylings, he remains essential on the field of play.