A hard-fought 2-0 win at Crystal Palace maintained Arsenal’s excellent start to the Premier League, with the Gunners top of the pile and 5/1 to still be there come the end of the season.
However, the injury sustained by Mathieu Flamini has come ahead of a crucial run of games for the Gunners and there are worrying signs that they will be unable to cope without the Gallic anchorman.
Arsenal have not lost with Flamini in the side
Despite their flying start, Arsene Wenger’s side have had their wings clipped on a couple of occasions in this campaign and notably Flamini has not been on the pitch for either of their defeats.
The space in front of the back four provided by his absence in the home losses to Aston Villa and Borussia Dortmund was ruthlessly exposed by two counter-attacking sides.
Arsenal have won all but one of the games that Flamini has played a part in, but just four of the seven when he has not been present to bolster their defences.
Arsene Wenger has crucial games at home and abroad coming up
Arsenal’s serene progress thus far has been aided by a friendly run of fixtures, especially in the league where they have actually taken fewer points than in the equivalent games last year.
That is all about to change as they play Chelsea, Liverpool, Dortmund and Manchester United in their next four matches in all competitions.
Dortmund have shown how the north Londoners struggle against top teams without Flamini and Arsenal could find themselves out of the Capital One Cup, off the top of the league and struggling to qualify from their Champions League group in the space of four matches in his absence.
A lack of other options will see Arsenal start without an outright defensive midfielder
Arsenal have a wealth of options in their attacking midfield, but a dearth in the deeper positions in front of the back four.
Perennial physio-botherer Abou Diaby is out for the long-term, Mikel Arteta does not have the same steely qualities of Flamini and is suspended for the Chelsea match, while their other midfielders are all more fancy-dan than hardman.
Aaron Ramsey’s mistake for Dortmund’s opener demonstrated the difference between what he and Flamini bring to a side and without the frill-free Frenchman in front of them Arsenal’s defence will be quaking in their boots.