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Aliaksandr The Great

Alex Hleb, much maligned in the past by some Gooners, but now firmly establishing himself as a fam favourite, and enjoying a revelatory season for the Gunners, which has seen him display all his usual silky footwork and creativity, whilst adding goals to his repertoire, has once again been named Belarus platyer of the year, for the fifth time in six years.

now, granted, Belarus might not be one of the leading lights in European football, but hey let's face it - I'm English, so I can hardly go shouting about footballing superiority from the rooftops now, can I?

Luckily I am also a Gooner, so I can.

And whilst Belarus aren't exactly sitting at Europe's top table, laden down with talent, that doens't mean that a nation largely devoid of world-class players cannot produce one or two that light up the major leagues.

Liberia have not yet set the world on fire so far in world tournaments, yet from the African nation came the stellar talent of George Weah. A tremendous player. Whoever saw him play and recognised the potential in the guy deserves serious kudos. Remind me who it was again?

But back to Hleb.

Yes, his country may not be one of the big boys, but there's no doubting the skill of the Arsenal wideman / man-in-the-hole.

I'd go so far as to say I cannot recall seeing such magnificent close control in my time as an Arsenal fan. I think, talking in terms of Arsenal players, only Anders Limpar comes close.

I'm not sure how many Gooners this time last year would have been saying they'd be hoping for the Belorussian to make a quick recovery from injury, as we'd seriously miss his presence in the team. But his stock has risen, and how.

Congrats to Alex on being honoured yet again by his country. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that, and also in wishing him a speedy recovery.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

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The Journalist

Writer: Wingston Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday November 26 2007

Time: 10:48PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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I agree with everything you said, especially the close control the guy has..!! its *****in unbelievable!!!
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26/11/2007 23:20:00

Agreed. Yes speedy recovery!
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27/11/2007 00:51:00

We need him back now, Eboue is not good enough.
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27/11/2007 01:38:00

Love him. What a legend!
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27/11/2007 02:10:00

You know what I would love, is just to see one or two people who spent all of last season giving Hleb the scapegoat treatment to put their hands up and say, 'I got it wrong', wouldn't that be nice. I waited for the same from all the people who spent two years bagging Gilberto when he got his back injury and how much we missed him was obvious for anyone to see but I suppose somethings in life you just never get, idiots will remain ignorant and never except they were wrong. George Bush Jnr comes to mind.
Ozi Gooner
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27/11/2007 03:15:00

Ozi, I assume you mean 'accept' they were wrong, I mean the ignorant to whom you refer. But hey, George Bush Jr's grammar is pretty awful too so I'll let it go. Anyway, the fact is Hleb showed glimmers of his talent last season but for the most part wasn't very impressive. This season though he has been tremendous- he is a much better player than he was last season- same skill, but he is applying it better, and I attribute to Arsene- the gaffer knows a player when he sees one, Hleb took a while to fit in, simple as that. Now he is indispensable. On the other side of the coin, Eboue seems to be getting some flak, but for two years he was a pretty good right back. Then Sagna made that job his own, Eboue got pushed upfield and is basically playing the same only 20 yards up the field. I think Arsene's plan for him is to turn him into a line-hugging winger who can put in crosses, but that's only a plan B. Arsenal pass their way to goals for the most part, and maybe that's because we are blessed with the best talent in England but aren't a big 'header' team. Only Bendtner, Gallas, and Senderos seem to have a knack for heading the ball towards the net. It's an embarrassment of riches at Arsenal. This year my first choice team would be Lehmann, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Cesc, Flamini, Hleb, Rosicky, Van Persie and Adebeyor. Aside from goalkeeper, I think Cech is the best in the league, I can't imagine swapping out anybody for anybody else at any other team and being better. If we took the second eleven and made a team, they'd probably be mid-table at worst- ahead of Spurs for sure.
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27/11/2007 05:43:00

Song? Well in lad!
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27/11/2007 07:37:00

I think Hleb was also impressive last season. The Times Fink Tank report at the end of last season put him in the top 10 most influential in the Premiership in terms of affecting team play. As this article points out this is his 5th award for his country. The idea that he has only come good this season just isn't true. His ability and influence was there for all who wanted to see it last season. I think that the present improved results has simply reduced the need for scapegoats for the time being.
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27/11/2007 08:51:00

I agree, Hleb was very good last season. Just that his contributions didnt result in the goals last season, that our mid field seem to be scoring for fun this season. Its a good personal achievement, but I do not know the a single other player from Belarus. I am pleased that people acknowledge his importance to the side now.
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27/11/2007 09:06:00

I totally agree with Amos' point, my only point of disagreement perhaps would be our need for scapegoats, that focus appears to have shifted onto Eboue, albeit with not as much vitriol as Hleb has recieved. I think it's more a case of the team responding better to Hleb now that Henry's stationary posturing has gone.
Little Dutch
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27/11/2007 09:08:00

like many other gooners i found hleb completely infuriating to watch and often found myself bawling and cursing because of him. always wanted the guy to do well and am delighted that this season he has made me eat my words.. keep up the good work Alex and get back to 100% fast!
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27/11/2007 09:42:00

There you go, OziG. Your wish for the day has been fulfilled ;)
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27/11/2007 09:50:00

If things aren't going according to plan human nature seems to need a focal point for the failure. It's often the wrong point of focus and at times good players suffer for it. Of all the shortcomings last season very few of us identified, as Wenger did, that the solution would have been to sell your star striker and recruit a new right back!
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27/11/2007 09:55:00

Nice one Unwell, cheers for admitting as much not many have been big enough to. Elbondo my point was, as Amos kindly pointed out, that Hleb was not as bad last year as many people seem to think, it was just that his passes werent being finished which was a problem with the whole side not Hleb. The shift to completely scapegoating Hleb for every inadequate performance occured after the CL loss in which the team played utterly dreadful for 180 minutes against PSV but Hleb's silly foul right at the death, which Alex happened to score from, made him the villain and was all his detractors seemed to remember. LD, Adebayor even seems to be getting some of the flak this season which is odd considering he sits second on the PL scoring charts.
Ozi Gooner
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27/11/2007 10:07:00

Don't forget there's still this "Eastern European Player of the Year award" for him to win (again). :P
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27/11/2007 10:56:00

Who's Ade getting flak from? Wouldn't say he's getting more than last season, it's just infuriating at time. Witness WHL when he missed an absolute sitter but smashed in goal of the season at the death - it more than made up for it!
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27/11/2007 12:01:00

I think that Hleb was the player that suffered the most from the shadow of Henry, and (no disrespect to the great TH14) now he's gone we are seeng a rejuvenated and revitalised Hleb who can now pass the ball to anyone he chooses to. I like many others had my doubts last season, but since the departure of TH, things have clicked into perspective. Wishing him a speedy recovery. Here's a conundrum - whose the most improved player, Hleb or the Flamster?
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27/11/2007 13:54:00

Flamini, IMO. Like I said, Hleb is pretty much playing the same way as last season.
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27/11/2007 14:55:00

OK I put my hand up and ate a piece of humble pie during pre-season already! :) At first I thought it's the 4-4-1-1 which enabled him to play more freely. But then I realised the guy's doing the same thing, but shooting more, with much better confidence. That's made the difference I think. Arsene also once said his great footwork, ability to beat defenders and precise passing made him want to always find the killer pass through the eye of the needle. When a pass got intercepted or went astray, what we saw was that he passed straight to the opponents. That's what we found infuriating to watch I guess. But that happened precisely because he's such a great player who's obsessed with finding the perfect pass. The TH14 factor, yeah I agree, might have made him more willing to shoot and pass to the right teammate he sees fit. Not just to him, it's happened to the whole team. Glad to see his true colours this season. Long may it continue. :)
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27/11/2007 22:43:00


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