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The numbers behind Arsenal's striker search

By ESPN Staff

Flamini concentrates on football, not contract

Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini does not intend to let himself get distracted by contract talks as he looks to help guide the Premier League leaders safely through their hectic festive schedule. Flamini returned to the heart of the Gunners side after a thigh injury into a feisty clash with Chelsea at Emirates Stadium, where William Gallas' stoppage-time goal against his former club was enough for a hard-earned 1-0 victory. The 23-year-old has taken his opportunity this season to become an integral part of Arsene Wenger's team, having almost left the club over the summer. Flamini, who has now earned international recognition, is yet to sign a new deal with Arsenal - which means he is free to talk to other clubs from next month as his current contract runs out at the end of the campaign. Negotiations are at an advanced stage over what is understood to be a five-year deal worth around £40,000-a-week. However, for the moment Flamini - signed from Marseille in 2004 - remains fully focused on playing matters as the Gunners look to maintain their lead at the top of the table going into Christmas and the new year. 'I have been talking a bit with the club,' Flamini said. 'I am happy here, but I am a free agent in January. We have so many games in December, so it is very difficult to be concentrated on this kind of thing as we are playing every three days. 'I am just focused on every game and for the contract, we will see a bit later.' Flamini has forged a strong partnership with Cesc Fabregas, pushing the likes of veteran Brazilian Gilberto down the Arsenal pecking order, and the pair were in the thick of the action again when battling Chelsea. 'Cesc is a bit more offensive than me and I have more of a defensive role, so we complement each other well,' Flamini said. 'We are talking a lot on the pitch, and that is making the difference.' Flamini added: 'The midfield is the engine of the team. If you win the battle in the midfield, that can make the difference at the end of the game.' Arsenal soaked up plenty of pressure yesterday and gave as good as they got in the tackle - with nine bookings handed out by referee Alan Wiley. But for some more composed finishing and the superb reflexes of Chelsea keeper Petr Cech - who had uncharacteristically flapped at a corner for Gallas' goal - the Gunners could have secured a more comfortable end to the match. The result ended Chelsea's 16-match unbeaten run and saw Arsenal record a first league win in three attempts to climb back above Manchester United, who had beaten Liverpool earlier in the day. Flamini maintains the display showed Wenger's men have the stomach to mount a sustained title charge heading into the new year. 'We have proven that against Villa and other games away, and we did it again on Sunday,' the midfielder said. 'We won the fight and at the end we played our own game. 'The team spirit was fantastic again and when you see that on the pitch, you believe we can win every game. 'Everybody else thinks we could not do it, but we did because we were strong.' Flamini added: 'Since the start we have believed we can do it, and get more belief all the time. 'Last season we were missing a little bit in the fight in these kind of games. 'This year we have it. The spirit is fantastic, and are working for each other.'