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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. mattyyyyyy

    June 11, 2008 at 6:29 am

    lol @ all this people giving shit to Hleb..he is the best player at arsenal, yeh stats might not show it, but Hleb will an give an unbelievable through ball to sum1 running thru who then plays a simple pass to adebayor or fabregas to finish it off,,,you dont get stats for that, but its most important

  2. Ivan

    April 27, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Hleb would get a game at Inter. Kevin in toronto would probably have a much better idea but the Inter Milan midfield is a area of possible improvement. They have Jimenez and stanjokvic but still rely on Zanetti for creativity.

  3. TJ

    April 27, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I cant believe we are having this debate. The trio of Fabregas, Hleb and Flamini are the back bone for your creative juices and stability. If we had an outstanding season with respect to what was predicted at the start, it is only because of the Trio and Adebayor’s success. Flamini is soon turning out to be a revelation and is well on course to becoming Europe’s top defensive Midfielder.

  4. Alex Hleb

    April 27, 2008 at 11:34 am

    no no no., the point of mentioning kuyt was to say that kuyt is shit but why is he still in the mugsmashers squad?
    like i said, hleb will probably leave. there isnt a very strong argument about keeping him except maintaing some depth in the squad.
    flamini isnt irreplaceable. of course. we can always go out and sign a player in his place for 20 million pounds like xavi or gattuso but if we have flamini now, wouldnt it be better to keep him? there is no debate over his admirable perfomance this year and there is no question that we need him.

    if flamini goes, it would be on his own terms, seeking out more money. that is understanable. a footballer’s career is short and one rash tackle away from being ruined. if he leaves it wouldnt be surprising, but it is not because of us letting him go because we think we dont need him. wenger has to maintain a sound approach to salaries. if he gives flamini more, then other players will want more and these kind of things can lead a team to bankruptcy.

  5. BillE Shears

    April 27, 2008 at 10:43 am

    First, I don’t think English fans truly understand how great Mascherano is. Who cares if he’s mouthy? He’s the best pure defensive midfielder in football.

    As far as Hleb, he does make attacking runs, but I don’t think that equates to causing defenses problems. For an attacking winger or secondary striker or wherever his position is, he neither scores nor creates many goals. He does not cause defenses to break down because teams know he won’t shoot and because his passing in the box is rarely useful.

    I agree with the comments about Flamini, but I don’t think he is irreplaceable. You might remember that seven months ago Flamini was not a proven option in midfield, he was rumored to be sold to Birmingham.

    I don’t see Dirk Kuyt as being a justification for keeping Flamini either. Kuyt has his games, but most often he is simply a shit, unskillful striker.

  6. Alex Hleb

    April 27, 2008 at 9:31 am

    i think hleb and flamini must stay. hleb is one of the best dribblers of the ball in the premier league. as far as fitting into our style of play, he is like a bee to our honey.
    but i do think he will leave.
    as for flamini, i think flamini is a very good player moving forward actually. he is one of our better passers and he’s scored some important goals for us over the years. he covers the most distance every game. He is very instrumental in our passing. Very. His passing is also very consistent – he has attempted the 2nd most passes in the Premier League this season, with a higher completion rate than the 1st place player, his midfield partner Fabregas. You can look that up. He is like a Dirk Kuyt or Gary Neville, but more competent. He’s a player not afraid to get injured for us to win. He rarely makes mistakes. Flamini is also more successful than Mescherano is tacklining since he gets less cards than Mescherano and he doesnt have a loose canon for a mouth. He shows a sense leadership as well. I believe he is a potential captain for this team. Arsenal need to keep him.
    Why does liverpool and manUre keep kuyt and neville? They aren’t the best players United can put on the field, but they are still kept on the team. Something has to be said about keeping the chemistry and morale high within the squad. Flamini is friends with Fabregas and Rosicky. They triplet has been seen at many events together and they seem to flock next to each other on the sidelines. With Fabregas calling on Wenger to keep Flamini, Flamini is essential to maintain the morale. Something also has to be said about squad depth. We will probably lose Gilberto and if we lose Flamini, we will be down to Abou Diaby and Denilson, two unproven candidates for the position along side Fabregas. We need to keep Flamini to keep a proven option in the starting eleven.

  7. Kevin

    April 27, 2008 at 9:15 am

    the answer is very simple, Wenger needs to open the purse and dole out the $ if Arsenal want to compete with the other top clubs in Europe.

    Raping Africa and Eastern Europe for young talent at cut rate prices doesn’t work in the long run. Either sell that talent and grow the coffers or keep them happy and match the going rate of the competition

  8. Michael

    April 27, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Flamini is leaving, and Hleb probably will stay but that’s because he wouldn’t get a game at another big club. Sure, he could go to a big Italian team, but he wouldn’t actually play.

    Arsenal doesn’t need either of those two to be successful. They have capable replacements waiting in the wings.

  9. Ferd

    April 27, 2008 at 8:41 am

    I would like both to stay but if I had my pick i would choose Flamini. I agree Hleb has amazing ball skills but he also is weak in other areas. He has no shot, he is not a great crosser of the ball and he is a lightweight defensively. If you need a player to create space yet don’t mind that he will not provide anything in the way of goals then Hleb is your man. I personally would rather see someone like Aquilani of Roma to support our strikers.
    I love the intangibles Flamini brings to the team with his work rate and leadership but he does not deserve superstar money so if that is what is being offered from other teams then sadly he should go.

  10. rakeem

    April 27, 2008 at 7:48 am

    cud sum1 tel me wer ben arfa is gna play if he cums wil it in hlebs place ???

  11. orangunner

    April 27, 2008 at 6:25 am

    anyway, no one is irreplaceable, such as Cesc, even Mr. Wengr. but the thing is it takes time to rebuild a new team, a new style. that’s the problem.

  12. orangunner

    April 27, 2008 at 6:21 am

    spot on, Yash!

    when the ball is on his feet, you can see how much trouble he cause to the defenders and eventually how much space is created to his team mates!!

    without Hleb on the pitch, Cesc won’t be that effective.

  13. Ole Gunner

    April 27, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Stats exist for comparison. Without making a comparison, stats are useless.

    Who do you compare him to? Ashley Young, and he looks dismal. Compare him to Nani, and he’s King. Compare him to Salomon Kalou and he ain’t too bad.

    But the sad truth is that Mr. Hleb hasn’t set the EPL alight. But then he isn’t our main creative player. As an auxiliary he hasn’t done badly at all.

  14. Le Bob

    April 27, 2008 at 4:48 am

    Disagree re: Flamini. Can’t see many players out there who can do the job alongside Cesc the way he does. Much as I love Gil, he stops the play whereas Flamini’s energy and running mean our attacks and counter attacks are quicker when he plays. Plus he’s a much more aggressive player. I think it’s fair to assume that his running has been helping Cesc get into more scoring positions than last year (though his number of assists is almost the same).

    I like Hleb, but I think he is replacable. Preferably with someone who can score too.

  15. harryo

    April 27, 2008 at 3:36 am

    let im go.u think arsenal were paying them slave wages the way the are going behind the clubs back whoring themselves round other clubs for money. better of rid of them.

  16. transferrules

    April 27, 2008 at 3:24 am

    I think we all agree that this has been Hleb’s best season – but if he knew all along that he could walk out on his contract early, does this mean he has been playing for a move all the time? And if so will he maintain his current form when he gets a new contract?

  17. Wade Samuleson

    April 27, 2008 at 2:48 am

    Hleb is one of the few players (besides Cesc) that can pry open a defense. His skill is outstanding. The problem is a lack of sure-fire finishers up front. For me the only striker worth a damn is RvP, and he’s been hurt far too often. If Helb had someone like Torres to lay the ball off to we’d be fine. Instead he looks for Ade who just trips over his own legs. For as long as I have played the game everyone always blames the midfielders for a teams’ woes. Rubbish. Poor finishing up front and terrible centre backs did Arsenal in.

  18. TonyS

    April 27, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Hleb is gone…..I’m not a wind up merchant, this is the word from inside the club…if I’m wrong then so be it, if its true then life goes on, its not the end of the world.

  19. Andy

    April 27, 2008 at 2:23 am

    The most stupid headline ever!
    They are very necessary!
    And none of them will leave.

  20. Anonymous

    April 27, 2008 at 2:21 am


    I mean Hleb more effective than FAB? I’m sure you’re not watching Arsenal games.

  21. Yash

    April 27, 2008 at 2:18 am

    Come on you guys!!!!!! hleb is an outstanding player!!!!!! Why do morons like some of you say that he is the most useless player that arsenal ever had!! Alex hleb do not get on the score sheet very often and that i admit of course!! But when the ball is on his feet, you can see how much trouble he cause to the defenders and eventually how much space is created to his team mates!! Also, those who say he ain’t got any vision could well screw themselves!! Come on you gooners, be serious!!!!!

  22. TonyS

    April 27, 2008 at 2:17 am

    Whether he’s great or rubbish, I can gurantee Hleb has gone.


    Lets all move on.

  23. Goonergerry

    April 27, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Nonsense -Hleb was outstanding this year-and Arsenal are one dimensional and far less fluent when he is not playing. Flamini was the main difference between this and last year and he is a fine all round player-more effective than Fab in most games this year. We cannot afford to lose either. It wasn’t their fault that our defenders caved in under pressure in big games.

  24. the new liam brady

    April 27, 2008 at 1:57 am

    Yeah well how come people were seriously debating how close Hleb was to Liam Brady in terms of talent and influence just a few months ago? I think he is a genius and he can improve his finishing, like Ronaldo has. He is a much harder player to replace than Flaimini, who is, after all, just a “water carrier”. A good one, but maybe better than Essien or Diarra or Mascherano or Makelele or Mikel or – there’s loads of them?

  25. Justin

    April 27, 2008 at 12:56 am

    You must be having a laugh. I reckon the flamster is essential right now. Comparisons with Mascherano and them are well founded. He is solid in the tackle, a good leader, can shoot from distance, has a decent cross now and then; I reckon that this article has seriously undervalued his abilities.

    the piece on Hleb is spot on though

  26. mrniceguy_4u

    April 27, 2008 at 12:54 am

    yeah i agree, let make some profit out of selling helb n flamini(bosman rulling), give denilson a change 2 show his talent, tq

  27. Ivan

    April 27, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Helb is a very gifted footballer no doubt. His a player that fits into the Wenger model well which is very important and unless its a reasonable offer he ought to stay. Another season and Helb will hopefully develop into a more complete player that will shoot at goal more often. Many games this year Helb has been the creative force behind Arsenal’s play not Fabregas, making penetrative runs and decisive passes. Statistics said that Zidane was poor at Juventus….its a balance between the two i suppose. Statistics and actually watching games reveal a fairer complexion…its similar to possession statistics imo.

    The player Billy refers to that attack and equally can defend was Lassana Diarra. IMO Diarra is the more dynamic footballer however Flamini is no doubt a very very good defensive midfielder. Why else is there legitimate links with him to Milan and the possibility that Gattuso may leave the San Siro? Diaby is indeed a good footballer however he has played out of position all year and TBH i think Song is the better option in midfield with Gilberto already stating he is leaving and with the rumours surrounding Flamini.

  28. BillE Shears

    April 26, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    He is the most fouled because he dribbles with his head down straight into four defenders gets stuck and goes down like a ton of bricks.

    A real stats guru would use pro-zone stats etc. which show that Hleb is the best player in the Premier League.

    I was using a simple analysis of how many goals he creates, which is not many. That should be the goal of all of this beautiful play. To put the ball in the net. He doesn’t do it very often and he doesn’t create many opportunities for others. What is important about his attacking play if it doesn’t lead to results?

  29. cinnamon pon

    April 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    agree with steve. hleb has the best dribble in england and that is saying something! statistics are like mini skirts they give you good ideas but hide the most important bits

  30. Steve

    April 26, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    What utter crap some of you post. Hleb is an outstanding player. If the refs gave Hleb the protection he deserved he would have more penalties and fouls against him than any other player in the league. But you all forget that you just read crap articles and believe them.

  31. Old Codger

    April 26, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Hleb has got to go, he is the most useless player ever to have played for Arsenal….& that is saying something !

    He might look flash when he is weaving & dribbling around players, but what is the point if he then gives the ball to an opposition player.

    I’d like to see the statistics on the percentage of disposals he made that went straight to an opposition player.

    I simply don’t rate him one bit, Arsene should take whatever money is on offer for him & replace him with a shop manequin, we’d be better off.

  32. Joe

    April 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I agree. Hleb in particular he can go past players easily but no end products and no goals and he doesn’t have the vision like Fabregas . I said many times Fabregas is Arsenal at moment Wenger is a clever man he nailed him with a long contract. As for Flamini ,Fabregas makes him look good he is a combative player but not as creative as Fabregas. If he goes and plays along side another midfielder who is not in the same level as Fabregas he’ll look ordinary. They can be replaced .

  33. hallster

    April 26, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    Completely agree. If they want out let them go. We’ve got talent to fill the holes. Diaby improved greatly this season and Vella is a very exciting player to watch. Greed takes you no where.

  34. Arsene

    April 26, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    None of them will go

  35. Arsene

    April 26, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    That is what i try to tell the chairman

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