As Alex (one of my loyal readers) scooped yesterday, during the Friday press conference the boss gave a strongly worded defense of his team and team concept.
Clearly tired of all the press speculation the Boss lashed out:
Look, there is one player who is free, he has already left. For me, 98 per cent of the squad will be here next season. And the two per cent have already gone. The rest are all under contract. If anybody wants to buy a player he has to call me. I can give you my number if you want because maybe some ignore that I have a phone. What is unbelievable is I’m sitting here like we have killed all the players. Yet when I go to my office I have 220 calls from players who want to come in.
With that statement we have learned today that 1) Arsene Wenger does have a phone 2) there are 220 players who want a job at Arsenal 3) the squad has 50 players and 2% have left (one guy, Flamini) and 4) Inter either are unable to use a phone (not surprising) or they have forgotten that the country code for England is 44 (maybe they were dialing 33?)
Then he rounded on Flamini and Milan, questioning the character of both.
I know the rules in this job, the guy [Flamster] is free, he can go to somebody who pays him more, but he said he wanted to stay. If you say ‘no I want to go somewhere’ that is ok. But you cannot say ‘I want to stay but I go.’ This club here [Arsenal] has a history of being built by people of values. I’m not sure that in the history of Milan you’ll find the same values, even if you dig well.
Owch. I don’t really blame Milan here. Flamini was a free agent, Milan offered him a bigger contract, and he choose to take it. Flamini is the one here who told the boss one thing and did something different. Which is really, personally, sad. I really liked the guy and thought he showed tremendous character over the last few years; stepping up and doing anything that was asked of him. So, I have to admit that I’m kind of surprised that he did the dirty on the boss like that. Why not just be a man and say “I’m leaving?” I don’t know, it’s really a sad way to leave.
Still, for me it’s not a problem, I wish him well and say thanks for the services. Let’s go on and focus on what’s important for this Club and the players who want to stay here. There is no bitterness, nothing. He was in a situation where he could make a decision, and he did. Goodbye and good luck. It’s as simple as that. What is important is that a player, when he plays, gives 100 per cent. And when he played for us he gave 100 per cent.
I’m not going to burn my Flamini jersey or cry into a beer over it, but I can’t quite forgive him yet; it was a bit of a cowardly way to leave. I guess I can just try to remember that he was a fully committed player and will be difficult to replace for the qualities that he showed on the pitch. Let’s just hope we get someone in there with better qualities off the pitch.
Speaking of players who are acting poorly off the pitch, the boss has also taken a huge swipe at Hleb and even gone so far as to threaten legal action should the player try to “pull a Webster.”
It is not as simple as it looks, this Webster clause, you can’t just come in next day and buy out, there is no rule that says that. And you should not forget what clubs can do. You have to first go to a FIFA tribunal and if you don’t agree with FIFA, you have to go to ACAS [I'm linking to ACAS because I don't think my American readers will know what it is - TB] It takes a lot of months. You can be banned for the whole period if it’s not done in a proper way.
Owch. I think Wenger is trying to express a level of frustration with the way this whole deal is going down — and rightly so. Hleb is under contract. It is unfathomable that a person who has contracted his services for a specific period of time would go to a secret meeting with a competitor to talk about switching allegiances THE DAY BEFORE A PIVOTAL COMPETITION.
If I had a strong dislike of Hleb before I’ll be extra pissed if he tries to pull a Webster. It’s not that I want him to stay, I don’t. It’s just that I think the team deserve to get a fair transfer fee from him. Arsenal and Arsene had faith in him when the wolves were calling for him to be dropped. Arsene stuck with him and developed him and really gave the man a platform on which he could showcase his talents and thus command respect and interest from other teams. Arsenal deserve a big payday if Hleb leaves and I fully support the team pursuing that payday through the legal system.
Don’t get me wrong, Hleb won’t be with Arsenal next season. I don’t get the sense that Wenger has much respect for the man after what he pulled in Milan and his respect will drop to zero if he tries to screw the team out of a fair transfer fee. And that’s exactly what the Webster clause will do; screw the team out of money. Money that could be used to buy players. So, I think what Arsene is trying to do is get fair market value for Hleb, and, again, I fully support the team in this. Someone needs to challenge this Webster clause, Arsenal might as well do it; they break new ground everywhere else, why not in contract talks?
In other team news, Rosicky is ruled out for Euro 2008. Which sucks, but maybe the player will come back bigger and stronger. Like maybe they can tighten that ligament and he can start shooting shots from 50 yards out? He’ll be a secret weapon!
Anyway, that’s your lot for today. I’ve been out of the loop for the last few days because baby and mommy are in the hospital still and I didn’t have my laptop with me. Now I do and I’ll be back now stronger than ever, like Rosicky.