Are Hleb and Flamini Really Necessary?

With Alexander Hleb’s agent orchestrating ice cream flirtations with Inter and Mathieu Flamini stalling over signing a new Arsenal contract, Arsene Wenger has urged his young stars not to leave the club for more money.

Both players were key components of Arsenal’s success early in the season, but tailed off–along with the rest of the team–toward the end.

Though both players would require replacements are they necessarily irreplaceable?

Hleb may be the best dribbler in the Premier League, but how much does he really produce?  He reportedly was a revelation this season, but his tangible numbers (2 goals and 5 assists) last season and (2 goals and 6 assists) this season are eerily similar.  He penetrates defenses often but usually lacks the potency to finish and the foresight to find a teammate in time.  Hleb is a fruitless attacking midfielder who offers nothing defensively.  If Inter make a profitable offer, it is hard to see how Arsenal are not better off employing Diaby, Denilson, Vela or another signing in that position and letting Hleb walk.

Flamini gave a fine performance this season, but his early form largely overshadowed the rest of his season.  He greatly improved, but it is hard to see how he went from probably Birmingham offload to indispensable talisman in seven months.  His workrate and effort are always admirable.  He is a very solid player, but he’s not an elite talent.  He’s not a pure stopper like Mascherano and he is not terribly skilled moving forward.  He looks great playing next to Fabregas, but so did Gilberto last season and so would many others.  He is a nice player to have around, but would his loss really submarine a title shot next year?

Arsene may prefer to hold on to those two, but neither is essential.

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  1. Arsene April 26, 2008
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