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Reds ready to put 2014 behind them

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Roy Keane a hero for Mathieu Flamini

Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini revealed the hero of his formative years was former Manchester United enforcer Roy Keane.

Mathieu Flamini said former Manchester United enforcer Roy Keane was an early hero.
Mathieu Flamini said former Manchester United enforcer Roy Keane was an early hero.

• Cross: Wenger contract

While Arsenal legends Patrick Vieira or Emmanuel Petit may have been more predictable heroes for Flamini to nominate, it seems he was seduced by the destructive talents of Keane.

When asked who his first football hero was, a reticent Flamini offered this answer: "Maybe I shouldn't say that, but ... it was Roy Keane. For me, he is a legend, a top guy on and off the pitch, someone you want to respect."

Flamini went on to speak at length about his return to Arsenal, with many observers suggesting his input to the defensive midfield role has been crucial to the Gunners' flying start to the season.

"It was very simple in the summer," said the midfielder who left in 2008. "I was a free agent. I had finished with AC Milan. They offered me a two-year contract, but I was expecting more than that. At 29 years old, I still have a lot of good years in front of me, so I decided to leave Milan. I had other opportunities with top clubs in Italy, Spain or even England.

"For me, the decision was very important because, at 29, this contract was going to be important. I decided to come back to Arsenal and speak to the coach. I came back, trained, and then it all happened."

Flamini said his bond with the team and its fans played a major role in his return.

"I have the sensation I never left," he said. "I am happy, enjoying life. It was a great opportunity to come back. I had some unfinished business.

"I just feel very lucky to do what I do. I wake up every morning and play football, my passion, and to be paid for that. I am just enjoying every moment. Sometimes it is difficult to realise how lucky we are. When we have young guys coming in the team, we tell them to focus, work hard but also to enjoy it, because to have the chance to play in front of 60,000 people, it's beautiful."

Flamini went on to insist Arsenal's flying start to the season should not lead to overinflated expectations, but he is setting his sights high ahead of the trip to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

"The quality is present in our team today, and we want to prove it until the end," he said. "What will make the difference is the solidarity in the team. We have to keep the spirit until the end. Up to now, everything is going well, but we will face a difficult period. Maybe it will come in the middle of the season. Solidarity and team spirit is more important than now. We have to work very hard to keep it, but maybe we can create a surprise at the end of the season.

"We will go to West Brom to win the game. We are fighting for the title. We will do everything to come back with the three points, especially as after is the international break, so we want to finish Sunday top of the league."

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