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.
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