In the blink of an eye, various substances of a dubious nature dived headlong into a fan and got sprayed everywhere. No sooner had Arsene called upon the squad to remain united and to stay together to win things, the fluttering of Roberto Mancini’s eyelashes has proved too seductive and Alex Hleb’s agent has proved fickle enough to fall for them. Nikolai Shpilevski said,
He is leaving Arsenal even though they want to offer him a new long-term contract and better conditions. Only time will tell if leaving is the right decision, but there’s no way back now. Everything will be cleared up in the next two weeks
However, remember this is Mr20% speak and may not necessarily represent the views of his client. Credibility will be given to the comment only when the player speaks out. By contrast, it will gain credence also through his silence. There is nothing to gain by Hleb remaining quiet on the subject, he is not going to force Arsenal’s hand into offering him a new deal as Mr20% has already confirmed that they have already broached the subject.
Were Hleb to leave, his loss would be more felt than that of Flamini. I know some have doubts about him – those have been there from the start – and as you well know, I think his biggest failing is the inability to score more goals. Hleb has complained in recent weeks that the Premier League is too physical for him. He will not find much respite in Italy but will be afforded greater protection by the referees. It has been apparent through his body language that he is unhappy; his slap against Graham Murty’s neck being the eruption of that discontent.
For the media it is a godsend. Another piece of turbulence surrounding the club, enabling them to portray another summer of crisis, Nicklas Bendtner being linked in the same Daily Telegraph article with a move to Germany. His father denied knowing of these which as his Mr20% he would surely have done and re-affirmed his son’s commitment to Arsenal. No sooner had this broken than moves for Gareth Barry and Alberto Aquilani (of Roma) were mooted. I do not give them much credence either. For Arsene though, it is all about perception as well as signings. The perception is that the club is losing players and not doing anything about it. A quick signing would calm nerves ‘in the stands’.
As for Hleb, if he were to leave it would be disappointing. He is a skilful player whose dribbling abilities are not matched at the club. As with Flamini though, he is not irreplaceable. His departure might make some slight changes to the way in which the team operates but that depends on who replaces him. Whatever the case may be, the club must be seen to be doing something otherwise it is going to be a long, long summer.
Three players have heeded Arsene’s calls for unity. Gael Clichy did so the most forceful in The Sun with Emmanuel Adebayor not far behind him, both believing that as well as the team being on the verge of something great, the supporters deserve some loyalty. The former gets it from us, the latter still has vocal critics. Gilberto Silva also hinted that he is minded to stay. A long time cast member in the epic, ‘Escape From The Emirates‘ – as I type it, I have this image of him being played by Kurt Russell with an eyepatch; I must stay away from the wacky baccy! Gilberto is not as universally popular as he ought to be with the same criticisms of him now as when he first arrived – too ponderous for the team – yet he proved them wrong then and may yet do so again. However, a long-term solution he is not. Another issue that may hamper his desire for regular first team action is the Olympics. He has in the past stated his desire to participate in Beijing and I wonder if that is partly behind his wanting to stay, knowing that his absence would not be a major selling point to any suitors.
Arsene admitted that the club had got it wrong with Flamini in the Q&A session by allowing him to run down his contract. Not learning from Edu is one thing but to allow a repetition is disappointing. One would expect the club to more focussed from now on in this area. They have to be for until trophies start filling the cabinets again, there will always be a view that the grass is greener elsewhere and more chances to win something which is after all, a driving factor for most players at this level. The Independent has a decent, if somewhat panicky, precis of this very issue.
Meanwhile, Arsene defended William Gallas’ captaincy,
I don’t share the view that Gallas is a bad captain. I think he is a captain who is very committed and tries to work hard for the team. He had an outburst at Birmingham but I still believe today that, even if that was a mistake, that was not why we did not win the championship. That would be too easy as an excuse because there are other incidents. That would be a cheap excuse. At the time, we were five points in front and everybody has been praising his captaincy. I believe we all make mistakes and we had to come back as a unit and try to win the championship. It [the captaincy issue] has been raised by a lot of newspapers but I must say I have not looked at the situation yet
Gallas has learned much this season about himself and what is expected of him. Whether it will be put into practice is another matter but Arsene has not been unequivocal in his support and permitted those media doubts to resurface. It has not been a pleasant experience for the player and he would probably have chosen a different route with hindsight. I do wonder though if the end-of-season poll that he will no doubt have on his website, might contain the question, ‘What do you think was the highlight of William’s season?“. Somehow it seems unlikely that his outburst at St. Andrews will feature high on the list.
Finally, for those who wish to subscribe via email, the fault that beset Feedblitz seems to have been rectified and you can do so now by clicking on the icon under the section on the right which is imaginatively called, “ACLF By Email, Click Below“, or if you have got this far and want someone to do the hardwork for you, click here. I will probably have a look at Feedburner as suggested in yesterday’s comments but nothing will happen immediately as this weekend is a busy one (again) at home.