If this close season were an egg-and-spoon race, then Wenger must feel that someone has robbed his spoon and tied his laces together before the starting pistol has even gone off.
The team fell short in the title race, and all of a sudden players are jumping ship. To put it mildly, it’s not what we need and to put it even more mildly, the press are enjoying it.
Flamini has left for more money, and now Hleb – who is keeping his own counsel, for the most part – seems determined to follow him out the door. Yesterday his agent spoke to the painful-sounding Belarussian newspaper Pressball.
“Alexander is preparing to make the most important moves of his life. 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.”
An Arsenal future for Hleb has been looking less and less likely for some time, and my gut feeling is he’s gone. I firmly believe that losing these two players, while a setback, is not a mortal blow – both are replaceable. Flamini had an excellent season but his circumstances were quite unusual; last close season he was a squad player and was told he could leave, but didn’t because there were no Milans sniffing at his door. So his contract remained in limbo and he ended up exploiting that. Hleb is extravagantly gifted but his Achilles Heel is that he is almost incapable of shooting at goal.
The real issue here is what does it do to the morale of the rest of the squad? Naturally, the gentlemen of the press eye a paper-selling story and they are keen to exploit the situation. No doubt they are keen to tell us that Adebayor and Fabregas are next.
Or that Arsenal are stingy, which I just don’t accept. We are the fourth most profitable football team in the world. We have a vast wage bill, comparable to that of Man Utd and dwarfed in England only by that of the Russians – which no club can compete with seeing as they spend something in the region of 75% of their income on wages. It’s considered good business to spend not much more than 50% of your income on wages, and Arsenal do that. We do have a lot of debt – but so do Liverpool and Man Utd, and Arsenal’s is fixed at a generous 5.3% interest. So all this nonsense about Arsenal players quitting for more money is not always the simple story it seems. Flamini, don’t forget, left on a free so could demand more wages than most.
Wenger is no doubt working on signings as we speak, and there’s nothing more likely to dampen the Arsenal criticism than a new player or two – so over to you, Le Boss.
Chin up, gooners!