Arsene Wenger hailed the fighting spirit of Mathieu Flamini after the midfielder came out of the cold to net a decisive brace against Sp*rs in last night’s 2-1 Capital One Cup victory.
The 31-year-old, playing in his first game of the season, chanelled his inner Ian Wright to give the Gunners a first half lead before smashing home a glorious volleyed winner twelve minutes from time that had the travelling fans in raptures and the scorer pounding his chest in excitable defiance.
“You do not expect Mathieu Flamini to score two goals,” noted the boss afterwards, seemingly in awe as much as the rest of the football fraternity.
“He was certainly frustrated for a long time and he went for it. He scored two good goals, especially the second one. I think on the second one he made an early decision to go for it and just focused and finished with a great goal.”
Flamini was one of a number of changes from Saturday’s defeat to Chelsea and the boss was full of praise for the way his compatriot took to the task of muzzling his opponents.
“First of all I wanted to rotate the team a little bit,” explained Wenger.
“He had worked very [hard] recently. I saw in training he was focused and had come back to a good level and I also thought I wanted to strengthen a bit the midfield with Arteta who had not played in a long time.
“I wanted a second player to strengthen a bit defensively and that meant Flamini and Arteta together gave some defensive guarantees.”
Given Flamini had been tipped to leave the Emirates in the summer, last night’s goals – which undoubtedly sealed him a place in North London derby folklore – were all the more surprising. On the subject of keeping a player he’s signed twice, Wenger said:
“He is a fighter and he is a winner as well. I told him at the start of the season it might be difficult for him to be a starter but he decided to stay and he did fight.
“I fought to keep him but he is at an age where you always consider what it is important at that age, which is to keep focused and stay in the team. If they do not manage to do that it is better you let them go, but he wanted to stay.”