1) Aleksandr Hleb is not a winger. He was never one at Stuttgart, and he’s never really looked like one at Arsenal. When he first arrived at the club, he was filling in for Pires and Ljungberg, which meant having the freedom to roam around the pitch almost wherever he wished. However, since the advent of Emmanuel Eboue at full-back, Hleb’s role has become more restricted. He has served primarily as a foil to the Ivorian, combining with Cesc to play the full-back in behind the defence. And with that, disillusionment has caused his work ethic and combative qualities to decline.
The Emirates Cup was the first time I can remember Arsene fielding Hleb in his preferred position, just off the striker. And the Belarussian revelled in it. Playing in the centre gave him room to turn and run at defenders, when he suddenly looked incredibly dangerous. He also showed a greater determination to get into the box, and hell, even scored a goal. I get the feeling that with Hleb, goals are like Pringles. Or Heroin. Once he’s had a bit of them, he’ll want more.
Against Inter, the cameras failed to pick up one interesting moment. When Bendtner replaced Gibbs, Hleb was moved out to the left-wing. Gutted, Hleb looked to the skies before imploring Arsene, “Why?” He doesn’t like it out there, and that almost certainly means he’ll never do well at it.
Of course, the biggest problem for Hleb is that we tend to play a 4-4-2, with no room for his linking role between midfield and attack. It’s more likely to be in tricky away fixtures or Champions League games when his abilities could come to the fore – both Rosicky and Hleb could revel in a free role behind a lone attacker. As for seeing Hleb on the right of midfield, that idea could be put to bed by…
2) Emmanuel Eboue and Bacary Sagna are a potentially excellent partnership. It seems to me that Arsene has it in his mind to begin the season with these two on the right flank, and with their performance against Inter Milan, who can blame him? Sagna is strong in the tackle and powerful in the air, whilst Eboue can dribble, cross, and even shoot. What’s more, the two are both comfortable in each other’s position, and against Inter they often swapped and overlapped, causing Inter no end of trouble.
3) Niklas Bendtner is very good in the air. Yes, his movement is a little lazy and he’s not got great acceleration, but he is clearly at his best when a ball is launched in towards him. Of course, this doesn’t really fit in with our style of play, but it could certainly be a useful option in the last twenty minutes of games. He can’t be worse than Baptista, can he?
4) We need wide players. The fact we began the PSG game with Flamini and Diaby on the wings is almost embarassing. It’s not like we’d been decimated with injuries – only Rosicky and Walcott were absent. We also fielded Gael Clichy, Armand Traore and Kieran Gibbs on the flanks. We’re badly in need of reinforcements there, and the Emirates Cup might’ve made that more clear to Arsene than ever.
5) Robin van Persie is a genius.
But most of us already knew that.