Why Arsenal star shunned Milan for Wenger

Mathieu Flamini latest player to add praises for Arsene.

When Arsene Wenger first arrived in England to coach Arsenal he was tagged with a multitude of adjectives to describe either his appearance, or tactical preferences: bespectacled Frenchman, professorial, statistician.

The latter may not be one that made widespread commercial circulation but it was the more complete one-word summary of the man who, when looking at replacing influential and intimidating captain Patrick Vieira, sought out Mathieu Flamini on the basis that he filled certain statistical criteria, as initially authored by Christoph Biermann in Die Fussball-Matrix.

In the French Ligue Un, he ran an average of 14km per game. This, coupled with eventual comprehensive scouting reports, told the tale of a player who could play.

The tenacious and hard-working French midfielder was signed on a free in 2004 and became a fundamental part of the club's march to the 2006 Champions League final.

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Flamini has now transferred to Arsenal a second time and again it was on a free deal, however, that is not because of a lack of admirers, particularly from his former employers; AC Milan.

'Milan offered me a two-year contract extension,' recounted Flamini to Evening Standard recently. 'I didn’t agree on it because I wanted a minimum of three years. I am 29 years old, I have three good years in front of me.

'So I came here. It was an important decision for me to decide where I wanted to go. It could have been Italy, Germany or England but I came to Arsenal to work with the fitness coach Tony Colbert. I did that for about a month and day after day I felt better and better and it happened. I am happy I came back. I am happy it is going well and I feel good in the team.'

He added: '[Wenger] played a big role in my decision because he was the one who took me here when I was in France. He introduced me to the top level, to the Premier League and the Champions League so, of course, to have the possibility to work again with him, it was important.

'And also it is important to still have him at the club because the players are behind him, everyone believes in his vision of the game and in the game against Stoke, it proved he was right.'

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When Wenger confirmed the recapture of Flamini, he joked that he was sorry the acquisition did not cost £25m. However, the player is swiftly showing he is worth close to that and it is backed by his statistics.

His passing accuracy is a phenomenon as, against Stoke, he completed 96% of his 70 passes in total, eight of which were in the final third. He tackled thrice, intercepted thrice and recovered the ball six times.

Flamini has admirably stood in for Mikel Arteta and has performed so highly, so quickly, that he poses Wenger a welcome selection problem. Statistics say he should play... regularly.

Do you think Wenger's purchase of Flamini is as important to the club's progress as the super signing of Mesut Ozil? Are both players guaranteed first-team roles? Let us know in the comment section below.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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