t-minus three days

It’s a nice, lazy, Sunday morning and I’m just sitting here watching Juventus destroy Lazio while scouring the internet for an Arsenal news story. Later on I’ll probably check out the Villa/Everton game what with everyone pegging Gareth Barry as a replacement for Flamini.

And that’s the truth of it isn’t it? Everything right now is transfer speculation and responses to transfer speculation. Which is a bit odd for me as this is my first year blogging. Before, I could just sort of zone out at this point in the season and now, I’m looking for stories… Come on… any story will do. Huh, here’s one: Hleb says he wants trophies, is afraid of Premier League defenders, blames his pass first attitude on his childhood, and claims not to know whether he will be going to Inter.

Two things caught my attention there: the thing about defenders and the thing about his pass first attitude. It’s pretty clear that Martin Taylor’s horrible tackle on Eduardo rocked some of the players. You have to wonder what part that tackle will play in Hleb’s decision to move to a new league. Especially when he sees the problem escalating:

The tackling and the style of play has become more aggressive. Sometimes you can see a tackle coming and if you don’t do anything you could lose both your legs. The referees should be protecting players and the game, if they don’t, the aggression is going to escalate.

I kind of disagree with Hleb here. I’ve been watching some classic football matches and those guys were pretty freakin violent. I’m not saying that the league couldn’t use a little cleaning up; certainly it could. Instead, we should see the progress that the league has made in stamping out a lot of violent play and encourage them to go further.

I’ve been beating this drum ever since the Taylor tackle, but I think that the managers and clubs need to be held accountable when players are told to go out and get overly physical. As I’ve said before, international football is changing (UEFA promises to crack down during Euro 2008) and if England wishes to compete they are going to have to develop skill players instead of just churning out lumbering, mindless, no-talent hulks like Martin Taylor. Hleb citing that tackle as a reason he might leave should be seen as a shot across the bow to the FA.

But it won’t be.

As for the pass first thing… Jesus, Hleb, you’re 27 and you can’t shoot because your youth coach told you to pass? I don’t think so. I think that’s an excuse. You scored goals in Germany, I’ve seen you shoot at goal for Arsenal, so I know you CAN shoot, but why don’t you?

Some guys don’t shoot because they are afraid. You can always tell who these guys are because they will find themselves wide open, in front of goal, and will look around for someone else to pass the ball to. I think Hleb is one of these guys. I’m not suggesting that Arsenal should get rid of him, but instead that we as fans should realize that he will never be a huge goal scorer; he just doesn’t have the personality for it.

In the other Arsenal news, Wenger is making noise about players leaving for more money. You’re all probably tired of hearing this but, Arsenal have a strict wage bill policy (with only Cesc and Gallas making more than £50k/wk)and Wenger is NOT going to break that up. Wenger has stated that if he gives Flamini a bunch of money then he has to start re-negotiating contracts with everyone and before you know it, Arsenal are burdened with an untenable payroll. I guess that makes a certain sense.

But Flamini raises an interesting point: Arsenal are linked to Gareth Barry, right? He’s valued at £15m, right? He currently earns £42k/wk and any transfer would see him get a raise, right? So, let’s say Arsenal lets Flamini go and then buys Barry to replace him. They sign Barry to a 5 year deal and pay him £50k/wk. After you add everything up and divide it all up (£15m/5 years/52 weeks) Barry’s total cost is £107,000/wk.

Seems kinda silly not to pay Flamini £60-70/wk doesn’t it? I understand that that would mean you’re breaking the pay scale but you’re breaking the pay scale to save money. Yes, you will have to explain to the younger players that there was this “one off” pay discrepancy but that’s your job! Alternately, if you want to keep the pay scale, then why not a “signing bonus?” Isn’t there some creative way for Arsenal to get the player what he wants?

I suspect they could but that Wenger doesn’t rate Flamini any higher than what he’s offered him. That may be the sad truth of all this. That no matter how highly I think of Flamini, he’s not as good as I’d like to believe. In fact, I was watching Juventus and Sissoko currently holds the spot that Flamini claims at Arsenal and honestly? I can’t see Flamini breaking into the starting lineup there, not unless they are going to radically re-tool that team. Flamini has to know that he will be riding the pine in Italy. So, this is about the money — which Wenger eruditely points out:

There is something in this team which is stronger than a few bucks here and there. What is really important is that this team says ‘lets go to the end of our potential together and not walk out for any simpler reason’ – and that is where I expect them to show strength, and care what they can achieve together… Flamini can earn more somewhere else that is for sure because it would be a free transfer – but how much is he ready to sacrifice to stay here?

We’ll find out in just three days but I suspect Flamini’s answer to that question is “not much.”

Until tomorrow.

P.S. I really don’t know what the big deal is with Gareth Barry, so far he’s been decent but the way the press make him out, he’s the greatest holding midfielder in the history of England.  He doesn’t even play holding midfielder for Villa, Petrov does.  I don’t get it…