Apr 222008

I’ve tried for some time to ignore all the transfer rumours surrounding the club, but can do so no longer. There are three games left in the season, but there might as well not be, as every current Arsenal story concerns the uncertain futures of a few key players.

Before we start on those, however, let’s get one thing straight. Adebayor is not leaving, no matter what his incredibly unhelpful agent, Vincenzo Morabito, claims. I hate agents, I really do.

But there are two whose futures are in serious doubt. The first is of course Flamini, whose contract expires in a little over two months and who, according to Wenger, has to make his final decision by the end of April. So in a week, we should know. Something tells me May will arrive and we’ll all still be in the dark. We’ve been here before.

There is no doubt that the fans, Wenger and the rest of the players want Flamini to stay. Wenger also claims that Flamini himself wants to stay. The general consensus is that only wage demands are stopping the deal, but that in itself seems odd – a fair offer would be around the 50k mark, which is surely a massive hike on his current earnings. And with him established as a first teamer and knocking on the door of the French national team, it would seem a dangerous time to switch clubs.

There are so many examples of players moving on from Arsenal and seeing their careers fade, possibly the saddest being Henry, whose difficult season continues and will more than likely miss tomorrow night’s game with United. No matter how much his plight makes Wenger’s decision to sell last summer look spot on, it gives me no pleasure to see him suffer out in Spain.

While everyone wants Flamini to stay, Hleb divides opinion. Undoubtedly a wonderful footballer, he can also be the most frustrating player at the club at times (including Eboue) when his inch perfect passes stray off course. He is a player who plays with no margin for error, making either the perfect pass or giving the ball away.

For me, that isn’t the problem though – he sets up an adequate number of goals and you can tell his value to the team by how much he is missed when injured. The main issue with Hleb is his goalscoring, or lack of it. He netted on the first day of the season, and in the first couple of months seemed to have added the facet to his game. But no more have been added to his tally, and not because of bad luck or good saves, but because he steadfastly refuses to shoot. That is what is so frustrating about the man, his passing up of wonderful opportunities trying to be too clever.

As I said, he divides opinion. Arseblogger wrote a good piece on him this morning, essentially recognising his worth but also that if he was to leave, now might be the time to cash in, before his contract comes towards an end. I would worry if we got rid of him at the point, though. Although he doesn’t like playing on the wing, his ability to fill in there gives him a versatility that can be so important when your squad is as stretched as ours has been this season.

If we sold him, we’d need to sign two midfielders. I think we already need a winger, but his departure might require the arrival of a goalscoring support striker, someone who can play at the head of a five man midfield and provide a genuine goal threat. I would hold great concerns if Wenger sold Hleb and didn’t act to replace him adequately – I just don’t see who we have that could fill his roles, the permanently injured Rosicky aside.

The challenge is certainly to keep the squad together this summer – they are on the rise. Let’s hope they recognise that and stay.

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