"When I play with any of the boys in midfield I have to sit in front of the defence and do the dirty work but I enjoy doing it. My pleasure is to give them the possibility to attack and, when we lose the ball, to get it back as quickly as possible.”
You would think in light of those quotes from Mathieu Flamini made last week that a match at the Britannia was made for him.
A contest in which it was clear ahead of the game Arsenal would have to dig in and battle, yet the player who would relish the duel the most was left as an unused substitute.
Flamini's being left out backfired as Arsenal lost 1-0, with Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen describing their performance as 'abysmal'.
The Frenchman was sorely missed, as as the statistics show from their last encounter, Flamini performed well against Stoke.
|Player||Match||Matchday||Ball Recovery||Interception Won||Won Tackle||Mins|
|Mathieu Flamini||Arsenal vs Stoke||05||6||3||2||90|
With a rest from last month behind him, courtesy of his three-game suspension - he should have been fresher than some of his teammates when it came to selection.
Given how Arsenal went down with a whimper at Liverpool in their last Premier League away game, without Flamini, leaving him out was a risk against Stoke - and it backfired.
While it's unlikely from an attacking point of view he would have contributed individually, Flamini's talent is helping his side win and keep possession, and enabling his teammates to flourish.
Jack Wilshere did not create a single goalscoring opportunity for his side and nor did Mesut Ozil in his time on the pitch. With Flamini's support - the duo may just have been able to make the difference.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald