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If Hleb and Flamini had stayed put…

Of course these conditional exercises are difficult to see through – there are always far too many variables, but still it is interesting to look at the options…

Thinking of Hleb I think we would have been far worse off. Nasri would not have been signed, and we would have had a lot of dribbles, but how much more penetration? Would we have had Nasri’s goals? – I think not. The balance of the team with Hleb dribbling but Theo running like the wind would not have been so balanced I think. Of course I can’t tell for sure, but it looks and feels much more balanced with Theo on one side and Nasri (ie Pires II) on the other.

For me Hleb out, Nasri in, is a brilliant trade.

Flamini is different – and I can already hear the suggestion that with him on board we would not have lost three games. Maybe. But there would also have been some down sides.

To have kept Flamini the wage structure would have gone, which would mean everyone would have then demanded pay rises, and that would have disrupted everything. Quite possibly Adebayor would have wanted more, and then if the club didn’t want to go that far (just as quite rightly in my opinion it offered A Cole “only” 50 grand per week,) he might have gone. So might anyone else. How would we have felt if Clichy had said, “well if Flamini is worth an extra £20k a week, so am I”.

So certainly disruption in the squad – although who knows where that would have got to.

Then the issue of Diaby, Song and Denilson. Because of Flamini going the players who have occupied that space in midfield would not have. Diaby may be a false issue because he could have still done is magic trick of playing midfield centre forward with Flamini there – although I can’t see it working as well as it does with Denilson.

Denilson probably would have started to pack his bags, and Song would have known his only chance was at centre half.

Of course, 3 wins instead of 3 defeats would have put us top of the league and 3 points clear, so maybe Flamini in but Denilson and Song out would be worth that. But… I am not sure.

It is all imponderable I know, but I just wonder if we did not see the very best of Flamini last season – certainly Milan didn’t throw him straight into their team, which you might have expected. I haven’t noted the teams for the last couple of Milan games, but prior to that Flamini was a bit player for them – just as he was for us in the first two seasons.

Of course he might have made it big again this year, as he did last season, but there is just that niggle at the back of my mind that he might have drifted back to how he was the year before. He had two rather ordinary seasons with us, and then suddenly it happened. The only other player who I can think of who did that was Hleb. Pires came good after one ordinary year. Henry much the same. Vieira came good after 30 seconds of his game as substitute. I am not sure about what happens when it takes you two years to produce something good.

Certainly watching Denilson against Manchester Bankrupt what I saw (and I represent a whole one sixtythousandth of the ensemble) was a player of stunning talent coming to life. A player who is going to give us something rare and special in the coming years – a player who is going to be quite extraordinary.

With Diaby, I am just bemused. I had no idea he could play as he does, shuttling between front line and midfield. No wonder the poor guy got substituted in the Bankrupts game – he had run miles and miles. I think here too we have something unique.

So, overall, maybe, just maybe, with Flamini we might have beaten the three teams that beat us. But that is based on the premise that Flamini would stay on top form, and not slip back. And if he did it would have been at a cost.

Nasri to me looks like a player I can idolise for years to come, and I am so delighted to have him, rather than Hleb. If, in some mythical world of otherness, the deal was to have both Hleb and Flam or neither, I think I am tilting strongly towards neither.

Which of course is just meandering dribble, but I am about to go out and play with the band, and felt I wanted to say something before I left.

Hopefully the new moderation arrangements are more to your satisfaction. If you want to say something, please do drop me a line.

Tony

6 comments to If Hleb and Flamini had stayed put…

  • Martijn Stolze

    brilliant, absolutely brilliant

  • Waleed

    We can contemplate all we want, but we will never know. The rule is that once something has happened, you can’t look back and wish it had happened differently, because if it had, things might’ve been worse. It’s like that Modest Mouse song – It could’ve been, would’ve been worse than you would ever know.
    Logically, you cannot prove that a different series of events would’ve had a better result.

    But anyway, I believe that we should’ve bought Nasri AND we should’ve kept Hleb. We only sold Hleb because he wanted to go, and we were powerless to stop him (thank you Mr. Webster).
    Wenger wanted Hleb to stay and the biggest reason for that is continuity. A team needs to stay together to achieve success – we were so close last season, so you need to keep everyone together and strive for better. Also, the relationships between players are important. Hleb and Cesc were very good friends.

    Don’t know if we’d have bought Nasri if Hleb hadn’t left, though. And I don’t know if Walcott would’ve got his chance if he was still around. So again, can’t say if it would’ve been better. I think maybe in the short term it would’ve been.

    Then there’s Flamini. I think Wenger would’ve given him the money he wanted, or at least close, just to make him stay. He was desperate to keep this team together. I’ve heard it was Edelman who prevented Wenger from giving Flamini a bigger contract. Once Flamini and Edelman left, Wenger renewed a lot of contracts, including Adebayors. This time he was offered more than what was offered when Edelman was around.
    I think Wenger wanted to pay all the players more but his hands were tied.
    I might be a bit off on my facts though.

    Flamini was better at defending than either Denilson or Song. He was more experienced too. And he was more of a leader – and leadership has been something we have seemingly lacked this season.

    And Wenger didn’t plan on making Denilson first choice. He tried signing a CM over the summer but was unable to (Inler being one of his targets).
    He was always planning on playing Song in defence. Diaby was never an option because he’s too attack minded.

    So in midfield Wenger didn’t have the players he wanted, and we’ve been lacking a bit there. Denilson has been good but he’s made mistakes which have cost us. He will be an amazing player but he’s still learning his trade.

    But our problem has never been quality – it’s been something else. We lost quality in Flamini but we have enough to do without him. In our defeats we have either been sloppy going forward and/or not working hard enough to defend. Against Manure we did everything perfectly – and that’s how we need to play in every game.
    If we do that then no one will be asking “what if…”

  • don't believe the hype

    What ifs are impossible to answer. Who knows what would have happened? Chances are that the continuity of playing personnel could have seen us pick up where we left off, but I don’t think anything could have persuaded Hleb or Flamini to stay.

    In my opinion Hleb got turned off by the Eduardo incident and couldn’t hack the ‘physicality’ of the PL any longer. I remember amongst the many excuses for leaving given by Hleb and his agent, the one that really stood out was a suggestion that he felt at his age that he could not continue playing at the tempo demanded by AW. I think he also struggled with the pressure to take chances in front of goal, which did not sit with his natural tendency to pass.

    I also Flamini played for a lucrative move pure and simple. He almost went to Birmingham, but decided to stay and pull out all the stops so when a dream team like AC Milan came along and could pay him a huge signing on bonus as there was no transfer fee Arsenal never stood a chance and could not dream of matching what was on offer. Maybe he will play himself into the AC Milan first team eventually because he is a hard worker, or maybe he hit his peak and will not be able to sustain that level of performance in future. He certainly took Arsene Wenger by surprise because in the 3 previous years at Arsenal he never gave the indication that he was capable of playing that well in midfield.

    Flamini’s situation gives me a lot of hope for others like Diaby, Denilson, Bendtner and Song. They are young and with a regular run in the team and the confidence that comes with a few positive results, they could show us their qualities too. That’s why I don’t worry about what if’s because I believe that everything happens for a reason. The team are slowly evolving into a new entity as they cannot play the way they did before given that the personnel are different. Different does not necessarily mean worse and could turn out to be better.

  • Tim

    I think it would have been better to still have Flamini and Hleb on top of the players we currently have (including NASRI). What has happened to the spirit of competition? On top of that, there is an aspect of Hleb’s game that Nasri doesn’t have meaning that we would have improved if we kept both of them.

    Hleb could create a lot of havoc in the opposition’s box and a ‘shooter’ such as Nasri would have greatly benefited from such.

    I think the reason why we have never retained the title is because of this attitude where we believe that we cannot keep those players unless one of them is affloaded.

  • goonerji

    I think Denilson is playing really well at the moment. The only thing missing is that he is not that strong physically. Flamini at Denilson’s age was no good.

  • Bobby Pliers

    Hleb was one of the most frustrating players we have ever had. He had the skill and beautiful natural balance to be able to fashion an opening from nothing only to resist pulling the trigger at the vital moment and either attempt a lay off to someone in a worse position or cut back and try and beat the same man again.

    Flamini on the other hand was a grafter, a workhorse and ran all day. But his attitude was mercenary. You will always have players like this, best just to enjoy them and then wish them well as they move on. Diaby can be anything he wants and is more than capable of filling the void.