Both Alex Hleb and Matthieu Flamini are as good as gone. Hleb will definitely not play for the club again; Flamini may, but if his deal is not signed by next Wednesday, then why would Arsene pick him for the final two games of the season?
Flamini is set to join AC Milan, according to these reports emanating from Italy. Maybe I'm giving too much credence to the Italian media, but it would seem unlikely that these ideas are being plucked from thin air. Flamini has procrastinated all season, in a rather unseemly way, over signing his deal, and it would seem odd that at the eleventh hour that he'd turn round and sign the contract. He blew off his hometown club (Marseille) to join us, so I doubt he has any deeper loyalty to us.
It's hard to judge what type of loss Flamini is: he's been a revelation this season, but, to be frank, a bit rubbish before then. Nevertheless, our midfield was reliant this seaon on a player we won't have next year, and, on top of this, we've lost another player that we bought to take over from Gilberto - Diarra. I'll write more on the Diarra fiasco come the end of the season, but, for now, it is obvious that this was a massive mistake by Arsene and the club.
Hleb, will also go to Milan, according to Myles over on ANR, but to Inter, not AC. I very much doubt this deal has actually occurred, but given Arsene's rather panicky statements about Hleb on arsenal.com recently, the silence emanating from Alex himself, and the new FIFA rules which allow Hleb to buy himself out if his contract, I'd say a transfer out of the club is imminent. Who knows; maybe in Serie A he may score more than his colossal 4 goals this season, 2 of which came in August.
I've defended Hleb since he arrived at the club, but maybe it is best he moves on. At the very least he needs competition for his position, and perhaps a lecture from Arsene about how attacking midfielders are meant to score, not just create, goals. Even so, I would keep him as a squad player, instead of losing more experience from the squad.
Overall, while both players have done well for us this season, especially Flamini, neither are irreplaceable. However, if both were to leave, we would need to sign 2 replacements, plus the 2-3 players we actually need to push us on to trophies next year. We have Vela coming back, but would he really be a replacement for Hleb, or yet another player who needs 6mths-year to settle in? Gareth Barry has been mooted as a replacement for Flamini but he's a) 27 b) will cost a fortune as he's English and c) probably not quick enough to play for us. Krankjaer is a player who is far more interesting, but, again, I don't fancy our chances in brokering a deal that Arsene see's as good enough value.
In short, what I fear is a semi-meltdown in the club this summer. Our squad was too thin last summer to challenge for trophies, and if two key players both leave, who Arsene clearly wishes to keep, it means we not only have to add, we need to replace. And, I fear, only replacement, if that, will occur. If this is the case, no trophies will be forthcoming next year. We have the quality, but not quantity in the squad at the moment, and two major departures would make reconciling this situation even harder.
Moreover, the team Arsene has been 'building' will lose two of its vital foundations. That's the problem with building something; if you don't do it quickly enough, it can fall apart. Let's hope this isn't the case, but I'm worried.