Crystal Palace midfielder Mathieu Flamini finds it 'painful to watch' former side Arsenal's struggles

James Benge
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Crystal Palace midfielder Mathieu Flamini says it has been “painful to watch” his former club Arsenal fall apart over recent weeks.

Flamini was on the winning side at Selhurst Park on Monday as Palace hammered Arsenal 3-0, the Frenchman arriving as a late substitute for penalty scorer Luka Milivojevic after Andros Townsend and Yohan Cabaye had already set the Eagles on course for victory.

Palace’s win heaped further pressure on Flamini’s former manager Arsene Wenger, who groomed the 33-year-old into a highly-regarded midfielder between 2004 and 2008 before giving him a shot at redemption after he was released by AC Milan in 2013.

“It is painful to watch what is happening at the moment because I am still an Arsenal fan,” Flamini said. “I spent many years over there so my heart is white and red.

“But they have so much quality in the team and I really believe they can do it [finish in the top four]. It is just a matter of how they want it.

“I really hope they will make it because they deserve to be in the Champions League. It is such an amazing club.”

The fallout from Arsenal’s fourth consecutive away defeat has inevitably taken attention away from Palace’s exceptional performance in victory.

Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and Townsend terrorised Arsenal’s unprotected back four whilst a defence marshalled by January signings Milivojevic and Mamadou Sakho kept their visitors from registering a shot on target in the second half.

“We played a great game,” Flamini added. “We managed to be strong defensively and to find some opportunities and to score. Our confidence was high.

“On the other side, it is never an easy game to come and play at Palace. Arsenal conceded a goal and it was not easy to come back.

“The season is not finished. There are many games ahead. I believe [Arsenal] can do it. It is up to them.”

Speaking after the match Wenger insisted that it was an “inconvenient” time to make an announcement on his future as a growing number of Arsenal fans call for the manager to leave.

Standard Sport also understands that there is a growing rift between Wenger and Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, who is keen to see major change at the Emirates in the coming months.

Wenger’s current and former players have consistently given their public backing to the Arsenal manager, but Flamini declined to say whether he believed the 67-year-old should stay or go.

“My opinion is not important. I had some amazing times with Arsene Wenger. He did so much for myself.

“I played for many years under him. I owe him a lot. But I understand also the frustration of the fans because they are such a big club and they want their team winning. It is not an easy situation.”