Wenger deserves better than to see Flamini AND Hleb depart
This week I felt for Arsene Wenger with talk that Alex Hleb may be tempted out of Arsenal at the same time as Mathieu Flamini looks to be also heading for the exit.
I thought back to December 2005 when Arsenal lost 2-1 at home to Chelsea to make it three league defeats in a row and people were heavily criticising this was not the Arsene Wenger Arsenal that we had become used too. I remember that day Wenger played three in central midfield that looking very young, inexperienced and relatively lightweight against the power of Makalele, Essien and Lampard.
The Arsenal central midfield that day was Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb.
Just over two years later this young midfield was running the show in the famous home of the reigning Champions League winners AC Milan and had taken Arsenal to a five point Premier League lead with a third of the season left.
Wenger's superbly patient approach of putting his faith in young players moulded in his style of football was proving his doubters wrong. Fabregas, Flamini and Hleb had been coached and trained and developed to the point where they were now real contenders. This season it was not meant to be - but there would be every prospect that this young trio would continue to get better and better together season in season out.
So with what I have described as the Wenger MasterPlan reaching a boiling point it is disappointing that two of this midfield trio that Wenger has placed faith in look like they could be on their way out just as Wenger's long game is promising to come to real fruition.
Flamini was disillusioned last season and was on the verge of walking out before deciding to stay and playing at a superb level. He is available on a free and with a history of apparently falling out with Wenger it will not be too big a surprise if he wants to earn bigger money elsewhere.
On the other hand, Alex Hleb has not shown dissent in his time at Arsenal and looks to have fuly bought into the philosophy that Wenger has for football. To see him leave would be more disappointing to witness - he is a pure Wenger footballer and it would be a slight slap in the face for Wenger if the Belarussian was to choose that his footballing future should lie elsewhere.
Wenger has placed and expressed maximum faith in this young and fast-developing squad - privately and publicly - in the face of critics from some Arsenal supporters and the loud-mouthed footballing media who are impatient for success NOW. With next season promising to be one where Arsenal will push on again - (with RVP and Rosicky hopefully not out for five months, Theo now motoring and Vela slotting in, plus one or two 'real, real quality' signings to bolster things) it would be proper for at least Hleb if not Flamini as well to now repay the massive commitment shown by Wenger in these guys and stay with this team.
If this is not the case they can be replaced. I just think that Wenger deserves better than to have to see them both go just as this ambitiously and uniquely developed third-generation squad are ready to truly fight for both the Premier League and Champions League in the next few seasons.