For many Arsenal fans, Mathieu Flamini’s Arsenal career was all too short.
Having signed from Marseille in 2004, the busy French midfielder spent most of the next two years as something of a bit-part player. His versatility was an asset to Arsene Wenger who used Mathieu at right-back, left-back and in midfield.
During the 2006/07 campaign the midfielder began to really stake his claim for a regular starting berth in his preferred defensive midfield role but it wasn’t until the next season that he would really make his breakthrough.
With Gilberto Silva on international duty at the Copa America, Flamini got the nod alongside Cesc Fabregas in Arsenal’s engine room. It was to be the beginning of a superb midfield partnership as the Frenchman’s tigerish qualities allowed Fabregas to push forward and support the attack.
But Flamini was not averse to attacking either and his long-range strike against Newcastle United in January 2008 was voted Arsenal’s 49th greatest goal of all time.
His emergence as one of Europe’s most effective defensive midfielders left Flamini in high demand and, with his contract due to expire in the summer of 2008, the Frenchman decided to explore his options.
He opted for Milan - the team he helped Arsenal overcome in the San Siro when Flamini and Fabregas negated the celebrated midfield triumvirate of Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini. No wonder Milan were keen to secure the Frenchman's services.
Arsenal’s Champions League defeat against Liverpool on April 8, 2008 would be Flamini’s final match for the Club and he signed for the Serie A giants in May.
WHAT THE FANS SAID:My first memory of Flamini (which turned me into a big fan of his) was his superb performance against Chelsea in the 2004/05 season. It was his his first start as a result of suspension to Vieira and injuries to Edu and Gilberto. I ws shocked because he was only 20 and Fabregas, who paired him on the day, was 17. I'll never forget that day even though the match ended 2-2. Secondly, who would forget Flam at left back in our run to the Champions League final? He was phenomenal. Thirdly, what a season he had in 2007/08! His work rate was unbelievable. He covered more ground than any Arsenal player in most of the matches I have seen. His pass completion rate was in the top 5 in the premiership. He threw his body around to get the ball. He was my player of the season. His best moments? I'll pick two 1. Totally nullifying Kaka in Milan and 2. His goal against Newcastle in the Premiership 2007/08.Tsokan Ebami, Nigeria