So it’s goodbye to Alexander Hleb, the player who during his three years at the club baffled the predictive text function on a succession of mobile phones. Somehow, he was ‘Ikea’ for a while, and on my most recent phone, just ‘Glen’. Not a reason to sell him I concur, but there you go.
I’m not going to slate the fella just because he wanted to leave. In fact, I’m going to pay him a bit of credit; his ball control was second to none, he created space and he had an unnatural ability to escape the attentions of opposition players even in a tight spot. The saga of his sale and some of the lame excuses for his wanting to leave were not his finest hour, but by and large he was a good servant of the club and an excellent player. We might get up to £13.5m for him, which is a very decent return, and it gives Wenger more money for his warchest, so it benefits Hleb who clearly wanted to go, and it benefits Arsenal too.
Wenger is totally cool as ever, declaring himself “comfortable” with Glen’s departure – but then he would say that. He’s hardly going to say “Ah, cock – we’re stuffed”.
But I’m with him on this one: Glen was an excellent player, one I always rated despite his goalshy boots, but not irreplaceable by any stretch. Besides, even if he was, these days there’s just no way of keeping a player who has his heart set on a move. It’s one of the perils of the modern game, and a peril of signing a nomadic Belarussian – that’s life.
There’s work to be done of course. At the end of August last year I dusted down my calculator and tried to work out how 6 fitted into 2 – we had six central midfielders (Fabregas, Gilberto, Diaby, Diarra, Flamini and Denilson), but only two berths. Now of course, two of those players have left and a third, Gilberto, might leave today. We’ve got Nasri in and we can expect more of Diaby and Denilson this year, but we could do with one more – one with more experience. Having spent just £4m net this summer, there’s certainly some cash to spend.
In the meantime, we have some real football on Saturday, at Barnet. It’s a sign of the times that the game will be broadcast live for those with a Setanta subscription.
And talking of real football, it’s now just 30 days until the season kicks off. Let the build up commence…