Flamini still reeling from Arsenal exit

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Mathieu Flamini reveals Arsenal are still breaking his heart - nearly six months after he left the Emirates Stadium.

The French midfielder admits he was bitterly frustrated when he failed to secure the new Arsenal contract he wanted after playing his best football for the Gunners last season.

That was why he could not resist signing a lucrative deal with AC Milan as a free agent in the summer, having come to London four years ago when Arsene Wenger took him from Marseilles.

Flamini had a narrow escape with Milan who snatched a 2-2 draw at Portsmouth in the Uefa Cup last night, but his new team are beginning to shape up well for a Serie A title challenge, just three points behind leaders and city rivals Inter, while Arsenal's hopes appear to be nose-diving in the Barclays Premier League after recent troubles.

The 24-year-old admits he finds it difficult to observe the Gunners' difficulties.

Flamini said: "I am not very happy when I see what is going on with the Arsenal team.

"I'm still an Arsenal fan because I played there for four years. I am still red in my heart.

"The most important thing is to have unity and to have a good spirit to keep going. Last year the Arsenal spirit was amazing. From the back to the front everybody fought for each other all over the pitch.

"I played in midfield with Cesc Fabregas, Alex Hleb and Tomas Rosicky and we were always talking and helping each other. When you fight for each other you win games.

"Arsene Wenger is very important and it is very important to trust him because he has achieved great things at the club but although the manager is always a big influence in the dressing room it is up to the players to get together and work hard for each other.

"When you play in England the most important thing is to win the battle. It is never easy to play in the Premier League because it is physical and every team has strong players."

Consecutive league defeats by Aston Villa and Manchester City have seen Arsenal duck out of the top four just when they thought they had recovered from a 2-1 defeat of Stoke by seeing off Manchester United.

Then came the controversy in which William Gallas finally talked himself out of the Arsenal captaincy by talking openly about the shortcomings of is team-mates.

But although his French compatriot Flamini believes it will be hard for Gallas to stay in north London, Fabregas' subsequent appointment with the armband, could be positive for the Gunners.

Flamini said: "I think Gallas said what he did because he was trying to get a reaction from his team-mates.

"It is never easy because in this situation you do not know what to do.

"I have not spoken with William in the last few days so I cannot say if he will leave but is it not going to be easy for him to stay.

"In this situation I do not know if I would want to stay but I believe William did not set out to cause problems and that he loved being captain.

"I spoke with Cesc and he is very happy to be given the captaincy. This is very important for him and he feels he is ready to take on the extra responsibility.

"I'm sure he will continue to play as well as he always has and his game may even improve."

Fabregas' first Premier League test as leader is a major one when Arsenal travel to Chelsea whose former £30million striker Andriy Shevchenko admits he misses the English game

Shevchenko, on loan back at Milan for whom he failed to impress against Portsmouth, said: "I remember when I played here for Chelsea. It was always a wonderful atmosphere in matches - especially at Portsmouth.

"My first goal at Stamford Bridge in the league was against Portsmouth but they are a great team and the atmosphere was fantastic (at Fratton Park).

"It is always great to play in a wonderful English atmosphere like that."

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