Archive for February 9th, 2006

Hleb Looks For Escape-Route

14 comments February 9th, 2006

When Alexsander Hleb became our only major signing this summer, I foolishly speculated that he could be the new Dennis Bergkamp.

Or the new Robert Pires.

Or the new Edu.

However, on this season’s evidence, he is none of the above.

A promising start on the flanks saw him named as our Player of the Month for August. His skill and trickery, combined with a canny eye for a pass, made him a stand-out player at the beginning of our season.

Just one thing gave cause for concern: a complete reluctance to shoot. No matter how clear a sight of goal he had, no matter how far into he six-yard box he got, he simply refused to have a go. This was fine, though: as long as he kept his passing skill consistent, there were plenty of other players to do the shooting.

Oh dear. After returning from a six-week injury lay off, the passing had entirely disappeared. A few of the clever flicks and spins had stayed, but the ability to play the ball to a team-mate had completely deserted our Hleb.

To add insult to injury, January saw the arrival of Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott – two young players in the positions Hleb purports to excel in. But this is exactly where the problem lies. Hleb is not the new Bergkamp, Pires, or Edu because positionally he can not match them. At Stuttgart he played a roaming attacking midfield role in a central three, whilst at Arsenal he’s often being used in a 4-4-2, in which he is too lightweight to play in the centre.

Now he’s reportedly unhappy, citing both the club’s and his own poor form:

“Of course I’m disappointed about the team’s results and also that I can’t convince my coach Arsene Wenger on the field,” he said.

Add to this confirmation from Hamburg officials that they met Hleb for a chat in London, and rumours of an £8m bid, and it doesn’t look good for his future at Arsenal.

All I will say is this: plenty of players need more than one season to adapt, especially if being asked to play in a new position.

But I’ll add that if Hleb is trying to manouever a way out of Arsenal, then we probably don’t want him here anyway.

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