‘I am still here’ declares Mathieu Flamini, angling to increase influence on Arsenal

With Francis Coquelin still a doubt for Arsenal, Mathieu Flamini's aim is now to take the form he showed in Wednesday's cup win and translate it into all-important league play.

Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini celebrates his second goal against Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup on Wednesday night. Ian Walton / Getty Images / September 23, 2015
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Mathieu Flamini hopes his memorable contribution to Arsenal's triumph at Tottenham Hotspur will spark an individual and collective revival from the club as they head to Leicester City on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger's side slipped to fifth place in the Premier League following their controversial 2-0 defeat against champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend.

That disappointment came on the back of a surprise Champions League loss against Dinamo Zagreb, but Arsenal responded well to those setbacks by beating Tottenham 2-1 in the League Cup third round at White Hart Lane on Wednesday.

Read more: Will Leicester trouble Arsenal? Thomas Woods has his say in the week's Premier League predictions

The win against their fierce local rivals will undoubtedly strengthen belief ahead of the trip to face Claudio Ranieri’s side, who unexpectedly find themselves in fourth spot with the last unbeaten record in the top tier.

Crucially for Arsenal, the performance of French midfielder Flamini on his first start of the season provided a major bonus in the absence of Francis Coquelin.

Coquelin picked up a knee injury against Chelsea and while Wenger has not given up hope of the 24-year-old making the trip to the King Power Stadium, he was relieved to see Flamini step in so convincingly with his first goals since March.

If Flamini does feature against Leicester, it will be the 31-year-old’s first Premier League start since the turn of the year.

“I have heard many people have been talking about me, but what is important is on the field,” Flamini said.

“I proved everyone wrong, I am still here, I’ve been working hard and I was ready for this game.

“I hadn’t played for a while. But you could see here I’m working hard. And today it was my game. But my teammates did a great job.”

Flamini had been sidelined since Wenger cut short Coquelin’s loan spell at Charlton Athletic last December and installed the player in the holding midfield role.

Wenger’s failure to bring in back-up for Coquelin during the last transfer window was widely criticised, but Flamini is now hoping for the chance to prove the role can be filled from within the ranks.

“When you get the opportunity to come back in you’ve got to prove yourself and give a good performance to show why you’re in the starting line-up,” Flamini said

“That’s what I try to do every time that I get an opportunity.”

Gabriel Paulista’s red card against Chelsea was this week rescinded, but the centre back now faces a wait to see if he will be punished after being charged with improper conduct because of the way he protested his sending off at Stamford Bridge.

Wenger will lock horns with Leicester coach Ranieri for the first time since 2004, when Arsenal’s unbeaten “Invincibles” claimed the Premier League title, but were dumped out of the Champions League by a Chelsea team managed by Ranieri.

Ranieri is unbeaten himself in eight league and cup games since returning to England with Leicester.

However, he admits Arsenal are the only serious title contenders on show in Saturday’s clash.

“Now they are ready,” said Ranieri. “But of course, to win a title you also need to be a little lucky.

“For us it is important to try to stay there and maintain the start – not to think about what we can do.

“Our fans can dream but we have to stay very calm and work very hard because a defeat is around the corner.”

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