Alex Hleb is officially a Barcelona player. The club is being very professional about this departure and even treating it like it’s a sad day by giving him the normal farewell with one of those “looks back at his career” articles; that said, when you read the thing it’s almost a backhanded compliment. In three years he scored 11 goals and got voted Belorusian player of the year twice. 11 goals in three years. In the last three years, William Gallas has more goals than Hleb. Because when he gets a chance, HE SHOOTS.
I’m not trying to get down on the kid, but damnit, watching him play for the two years prior to this was insanely frustrating. I only need to say that he averaged 25 shots… a year… in all competitions for the Arsenal fans to shake their head and mutter “shoot. SHOOT!”
So, he took his passing boots to Barcelona, away from the hustle and bustle of his home in Hampstead Heath, and it could be said that Hleb was a Wenger failure. Well, not a complete failure but a sort of half-assed failure. Wenger was never able to work his magic on Hleb and transform him from a central player to a wing player, he never could get Hleb to take chances when he got them, and in the end Arsenal couldn’t even really cash in on his transfer.
Afterward the boss had this to say
Yes, it is true that some of the things he said painted him to be a completely coddled, rich, knob. And yes while he was at Arsenal only the Holy Spirit took less shots on goal but Everyone at Arsenal wishes Alex the best of luck for the future.
I may have misheard parts of that quote but I’m pretty sure that’s what Wenger said.
And that’s the whole of the news. There are rumors that Gilberto will sign for Panathinaikos today but nothing concrete just yet. Honestly? Losing Gilberto will be a much bigger story for me than losing Hleb, but I’ll write about that when (if) it happens.
All news has gone dead over the Adebayor transfer saga. Yesterday, Galliani was quoted saying that AC Milan was done buying after landing Ronadinho and today Barca signed Hleb, so where Ade would go at this point is only left up to the wild imaginations of the football press corps. Maybe they’ll link him to Chelsea. Oh I know, Adebayor is going to Man U! You heard it here first! Tell everyone. I have the inside scoop: my brother’s cousin’s sister’s fiance saw Adebayor pass out at the Manchester Baskin Robins, it’s very serious.
What happens to Adebayor when he doesn’t get a transfer? After all that’s been said and done I have to wonder how he scampers back to the club with his tail between his legs? An understanding manager might take a look at this whole situation and see that here was a young man, who grew up very poor, fresh off a great season, who had his agent telling him things, other agents telling him things, clubs promising him things, and basically everyone in his inner circle convincing him of a bunch of stuff that was completely false. They did all that in order to unsettle the player so that they could get him for a bargain. AC Milan paid a mere £16m for Ronaldinho. Now, I know he’s fat, but this is a guy that Chelsea reportedly offered eleventy billion pounds for just last year — no, they were bargain hunting and they figured if they unsettled Adebayor enough, Arsenal might let him go for a similar amount. Meanwhile Barcelona smelled the blood in the water and let it be known that they too would buy Adebayor, if the price is going to be stupidly low, like £16m.
An understanding manager might put a crazy valuation on the player (say £35m) in order to let everyone know that he’s not only not interested in selling but also that he understands that you all are up to your old tricks and that it’s not going to work this time. Because once you put a huge value on the player, there’s no way that you can sell him for half the price and still save face.
That same understanding manager would probably have a clear-the-air meeting with the player before the begining of the season, to make sure the guy was still on board and to let him know that he understands. And then he’d re-introduce the player to the team as if he was a new signing. Which is what he’ll be because there’s no way that you can go through something like this without it being a transformative event.
Anyway, that’s what I imagine will happen. And when Adebayor steps out onto the pitch in an Arsenal shirt, we should all give him a warm, understanding, welcome back.
Just don’t do it again, Ade.
My Obsession With Robbie Savage
It looks like it’s time to hang up my Robbie Savage kicking boots because there’s no kick I could deliver that would bite nearly as much as the fact that he was dropped by Derby County. I expect Tottenham to sign him for £16m any moment now.
In at number 2 of the Gunner’s all time greats is Denis Bergkamp. I couldn’t possibly write a more fitting tribute to the man so, please go read it. The only thing I would add is “grit:” Bergkamp had it whenever Arsenal needed it, and the club could use a man like that right now.
Gilberto has officially left for Panathinaikos. Far more so than Hleb, Gilberto will be missed. His leadership (he was club captain 2 years ago) on and off the pitch, his skill as a midfield stopper, and his knack for scoring a goal at just the right moment all made him an important player for Arsenal during his 6 years with the club.
But possibly the most important quality that Arsenal need to replace, especially now when the likes of Adebayor threaten to throw the club into turmoil, was his quiet professionalism. The way he went about playing, practicing, and coming on when asked (in whatever position the boss asked him to) after he had been stripped of his starting position and his captaincy at the start of the season speaks volumes about the class and character of the man. It is fitting that the first we all heard that Gilberto wanted to move on was just the other day, when the deal was nearly done. Not a peep to the press about it. No agent angling for a better deal. No complaints about “mistreatment” or “slavery” by his former employers. Just a “hey thanks I had fun, I’m going to finish my career in Greece if you don’t mind.”
Arsenal need more men like that, especially now.
Good luck, Gio, your class will be nearly impossible to replace.