Just how much did Arsenal miss Flamini last night?

The French midfielder was unavailable for the Gunners’ clash with Borussia Dortmund, and the north Londoners missed him.

Much has been made of Arsenal’s summer addition of Mesut Ozil, but a player that has had as much of a positive impact to the team is Mathieu Flamini.

The French midfielder returned to the Emirates Stadium after five years playing for AC Milan on a free transfer in the off-season.

Some Gunners fans were skeptical about bringing the enforcer back to the club, but Flamini has quickly won over the north London faithful with commanding performances.

As such, with Flamini as the designated defensive midfielder in Arsene Wenger’s starting XI, it has allowed more attacking-minded players to get forward knowing that the Frenchman will sit in from of the back four.

However, with Flamini missing for Arsenal’s clash with Borussia Dortmund last night, the Gunners were brought back down to earth in a 2-1 defeat.

The north London hosts struggled to get to grips with the Germans’ attacking midfielder players, especially Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus, who both managed to get space in the hole between Arsenal’s defence and midfield.

Mikel Arteta took Flamini’s role in the centre of the Arsenal midfield, and although a fantastic footballer, the Spaniard does not have the same combative qualities that the omitted man does.

Arteta is a deep-lying playmaker with an excellent range of passing, but in no way could he described as a midfield enforcer. Flamini’s leadership skills, ability to co-ordinate the rest of the midfield and win the ball back was missing and a key reason for Dortmund’s victory.

In the second half, with Arsenal in the ascendancy, the hosts needed someone to close out the game and ensure that what happened, didn’t happen. Had Flamini been in the side, Dortmund’s decisive counter-attack may well have been broken up.

There is an argument to suggest that Aaron Ramsey suffered as a result of Flamini’s absence. The Wales international had an ineffective game, which was a surprise given his strong recent form. Ramsey has admitted that he was to blame for Dortmund’s opener and the team lacked concentration for the second strike. If Flamini had been there, the story could have been different.

Meanwhile, Ramsey was caught up in the midfield scrimmage with Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin and was not as effective going forward also. Had Flamini been there to do the dog’s work, it would have allowed Ramsey to be more creative and focus on his actions in the final third.

Almost every side in world football has a designated defensive midfielder and Flamini’s importance to Arsenal became apparent in the side’s defeat to Dortmund.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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