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Let Down

I've always maintained that I try not to become too enraptured with Arsenal players as people. My cynicism insulates me against hero worship. When I was about sixteen, a lad broke into the first team from the ranks at Highbury. He played at left back just like I did, I instantly warmed to Ashley Cole, having his name emblazoned on the back of my shirt and furiously defending him against assertions that he couldn't defend. One of the smuggest moments of my life came in September 2004. I arrived back at University following Euro 2004 and my housemate who I had debated the subject with relentlessly simply admitted, 'you were right, that boy can defend.' Months later, well, we all know what happened. From January 2005, I refused to sing his name or cheer when it was called out over the PA. Hence my complete lack of exasperation when his tell all autobiography came out, I could not have cared less, I was already done with the himand anything that hastened his exit was fine with me. I still remember stories from 2001 when Cole emerged about his 4,000 a week wages and the level headed youngster's happiness with his Renault Clio.

Money turns people into arseholes very, very quickly. I promised myself that I wouldn't let it happen again. Of course I sing the player's names and give them my support. But I see them as organs of the football club I support, they are there for me, not vice versa. Now I have absolutely no axe to grind with players who want to leave, I realise that the players are not supporters as I am and if they see an opportunity to leave for different shores, that is entirely up to them, regardless of whether I concur with their motives. For instance, Mathieu Flamini went to a big club for a big salary. How many of us would eschew that opportunity out of loyalty to our present employers? However, there are ways of conduting oneself.

Last night I was privileged enough to be invited to the AISA End of Season Gala Dinner at Ashburton Grove (I'll use the 'E' word when said company start paying me royalties). Guests at the dinner were Eddie Kelly, Oleg Luzhny, Ray Parlour, Perry Groves and Kenny Samson. Listening to each of them speak (except the Horse, who had to gallop off intothe sunset for a flight to Italy) about our football club made me realise a few things. Firstly, how antiquated a concept loyalty has become in the modern game. Eddie Kelly said that being made Arsenal captain for a short period meant more to him than scoring in the 1971 Cup Final, the Double or Anderlecht. It's an obvious statement to make and even I roll my eyes when people roll out that old chestnut. But listening to these players speak about Arsenal Football Club with a fervour and passion many years after their playing careers have ended, to the point that they will come and speak to us plebs, so desperate are they to maintain their affiliation with the club. It got me thinking, and inevitably talking about Alex Hleb.

Hleb has polarised the opinions of Arsenal fans for three years. As you are probably aware, I have been a serial defender of his. A fantastic player, the kind who has always given me value for money as a spectator. It has now emerged that he wants to leave. Fair enough, each to their own. The supporters have treated him shabbily at times, he is kicked relentlessly by the league's brute defenders and at 27, is probably at last chance saloon with respects to enjoying another league at the top level. But like I say, there are ways of conducting oneself. Hleb, by hiding behind his agent like an infant clutching his father's leg, has behaved appallingly, albeit through the medium of his agent.

His decision to meet with Inter for an ice cream the night before a huge match at the San Siro smacked of disrespect. In fact, the circumstances around his three match ban, also, 'smacks' of disprespect if you'll excuse the pun. His agent's threat to invoke the Webster Clause, his assertion that Hleb found life in London 'too noisy' both beggars belief. Where did Hleb think London was? I'll bet my bollocks to a barn dance Hleb doesn't move to a team stationed in a remote fishing village. His agent (Skilepski is it? Fuck knows, frankly I don't find the parasite important enough to look his name up) has recently piped up again, gushing with verbal ejaculation at Real Madrid's apparent interest. Having been to both Madrid and Milan (coincidentally to watch Alex Hleb and his teammates to play football) I can assure you the solace and tranquility you seek cannot be found there mate.

Now comes Hleb's agent's veiled threat, 'Alex doesn't know if he can carry on playing to the same level at Arsenal.' Hleb meanwhile, maintains a cowardly hush. Well that's really nice isn't it? Let me leave or I'll deliberatly play badly. I do not understand why Hleb cannot be man enough to tell the manager he wants to leave, why all the cowardly threats? Hleb has willingly cast himself as a worthless chimp, while his agent merrily grinds the organ. As somebody who has defended Hleb against the naysayers for some time, I feel a bit stupid now. I still rate Hleb's abilities as a footballer, but as a person? He strikes me as a spineless creep. I feel incredibly let down by his actions, or lack thereof, he has disrespected his manager and willingly smeared his own reputation. It will be a shame to lose the player, but quite frankly, Alex, I don't really give a shit what you do now.LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday May 25 2008

Time: 1:53PM

Your Comments

LD. Great article, your right players have a right to choose where they play and if they want to leave then let them go. Its the way they go about it, show the fans some respect and dont treat us as idiots.
Fully agreed with you LD. I don't know if you remember this, but during the Euro qualifiers, there was some controversy or something in the Belarussian squad. They were complaining that there were "two rules" -- one for the squad and one for the Hleb brothers, who wouldn't ride on the team bus, wouldn't stay at the same hotels, etc. etc. At the time I ignored it and laughed it off (wearing the Arsenal blinkers of course, 'how could an Arsenal player be bad'?). But now that you see his behaviour in this off season, you can see why his fellow national teammates think he's a w^nker as well.
"It will be a shame to lose the player, but quite frankly, Alex, I don't really give a ***** what you do now." Amen to that. And btw, his likely replacement Nasri sounds like another "level-headed young man". lol
Lou the Gunneress
I feel much the same way having trumpeted Hlebs qualities amongst my own group of doubting gooners when all around were not just critical of him but according him much the same venom reserved for Song previously and Eboue currently. But to use the parlance of the current commoditisation of football Hleb and the other players are 'sub-brands' of our favoured brand. To use Hlebs own taste buds as a metaphor I might prefer Pistachio, Rum 'n' Raisin, Mint Choc or Vanilla at different times - but it's ice cream I really like.
Totally agree with you LD.. there is no loyalty among players somehow.. Alex Hleb was a player I liked - great skill and great player when he wants to be... but his reasons for leaving Arsenal are rubbish.. if he wants to go to a club where he feels he can win things, he should say so.. he's been awful in terms of behaviour and Arsene Wenger must be left disappointed yet again this month. Let him go.. but we need numbers in this squad and I sincerely hope that Wenger makes signings this summer.. perhaps 3-4.
NO arguements from me Tim. One of the best manipulators of the ball in the world goes all Ashley on us. It's a crying shame, but he means nothing to me now. Let's see what the boy Nasri can do (If we eventually sign him)
He has been our most important player over the last few years whose form has coincided with our successes...only recently he had been singing Wenger's praises, I honestly think the Eduardo incident is driving his decision...
Anon 1
He's good, his skills are amazing, but "our most important player over the last few years" he's NOT. I actually think it's easier to replace Hleb than Flamini, with someone who'd shoot and score more and younger too. Isn't Arsene doing just that already? That's softening the (actually not soo big) blow for me.
Lou the Gunneress
The thing is, Hleb's agent came over all threatening with the Webster clause, but underestimated Wenger's razor sharp legal acumen. As soon as Wenger exposed the problems of invoking it, he instantly came out with noises about Hleb feeling uncomfortable in London. Why the excuses? Just say you want to leave.
Little Dutch
Lou the Gunneress...he is/was vital...look at his performances in our 3 biggest games this season...the two games against liverpool..there was the penalty, the assist for Diaby, the two sitters he made for Ade against liverpool and united..The combination of Cesc, Hleb and Rosicky(when fit) or Flamini was the main reason why we've been able to go to places like Milan, United, Liverpool and Chelsea and dominate...this transfer is gutting
Anon 1
looking at it as a neutral, hleb doesnt seem liek the kind of person to act so disrespectfully to hsi club. but then again i felt the same towards gabby heinze, and we all know what he tried to do. its always the quiet ones...
Right, Hleb's vital, those examples are all very well. But he's not the single "most important player". Cesc won the club's player of the year last season and is set to get it again this term for a reason. I know it's gutting and all, his departure is one thing, the manner he does so is another. But the fact that Arsene can line up someone to take his place says it all. The bottomline is demand and supply. You can see there's a supply of players, maybe not like him per se, but can do his job. Plus some goals too if we're lucky.
Lou the Gunneress
I think the fluency of our play is largely down to Hleb...I remember villa away when Cesc was absent but Hleb dominated the game on his own... it was only when carew scythed him down and he was taken off that villa were able to put pressure on us...I have no doubt that Wenger will replace Hleb but unfortunately we will be replacing him with someone who has to endure the adaptation period, which i fear may see us suffer...
Anon 1
I feel the same over Berbatov and its a horrible feeling. It will probably happen with Modric in the future also as it will probably with Cesc. With Berba the guys the most talented player ive seen in a Spurs shirt since Hoddle and i have worshipped the ground he stands on. But if he wants to leave to be just another player at a top club instead of becoming a legend then fine, ***** him. There have been certain Gooners ive liked over the years and Hleb is one of them he can be a joy to watch sometimes and is a sporting guy, why hed want to go to Italy to a league in decay is beyond me. Good article
As a Chelsea fan, I can honestly say he is the best dribbler in the Premiership. The thing with players like Hleb and Flamini is , they never come out and say they want to stay, or never declare their love for the club in the press. This makes it easier for them to leave!
I think you'll find both Flamini and Hleb have made statements in very recent months to the effect that they 'love it at Arsenal' and 'want to stay'. In fact its becoming almost as predictable as the archetypal chairmans vote of confidence in his manager just before he sacks him.
The words "level-headed youngster" are just stuck in my head LD. At least Hleb is not someone we saw grow up and establish himself like we did with Cashley. I still hate Cashley after 2 years ffs! The possibility of really likeable and level-headed youngsters like Cesc or Clichy or Theo becoming Cashleys when money does its scary magic is just, well, scary.
Lou the Gunneress
lol Amos. European players, like African players, dont seem to have any loyalty for their clubs. They seem to always want to 'experience different leagues' or teams.
I feel deeply dissapointed with the whole affair. To my complete surprise, Hleb had emerged as my favorite player this season. Same position, and I'd like to think similar style as myself (obviously im not quite as good). He is enjoyable to watch, and has Arsenal written all over him. It should be perfect. Now I feel completely let down. All I can hope for now is that no deal will be finalised, he basically does a Flamini, but, unlike Matheiu, realisies that the Emirates lawn is as green as any others.
Adilson, I understand what you're saying. But (1) it just depends on the player's personality and opportunities available to him, more than their nationality really. People like Kolo or Lauren or Freddie or Thierry showed/show loyalty for Arsenal, while of course they're well paid. (The press are making up stories about how Kolo "wants out too" cos he's a bigger surprise name in the headline but nobody would believe that.) (2) Are you saying English players are more loyal to their clubs here? It's true they're less eager to try other leagues but that's got more to do with lower wages out there than loyalty I'm afraid. No doubt the likes of Gerrard or Terry stick with their respective clubs for their whole lives, but for them these days we're not talking about the money that we paid Tony Adams in his whole career. If we keep our key players for a few good seasons and pay them well enough for the good work they produce, that's it really. I guess I'm slowly learning not to feel bad about these things.
Lou the Gunneress
Contrary to the general opinion, I did not rate Hleb highly all these years. His dribbling skill only flatters to deceive. If we look at his record in 3 years, at least 40 appearances each season, he only manages an average of about 4 goals a season and an average of less than 5 assists a season! He was supposed to serve as a playmaker, replacement to either Pires or Bergkamp but statistics showed clearly that he had failed. He was the epitome to Arsenal's inefficiency, not attempting a shot on goal when given a chance and passing at the right time. Mark my words, we can get a better replacement anytime, maybe not so eye pleasing with dribbling but produces end results. Teams chasing him are not looking at statistics.
does this mean ashley cole is less of a twit in an arsenal fan's book?..!
Not in mine, far from it.
Lou the Gunneress
ck, if everyone is as loyal as cesc, we would have no problem, and anyways, i never liked hleb, hes like a ronaldo that doesnt shoot, so its frustrating at times, but this nasri kid, even if we sign him, im afraid he will be another malouda? i hope not of course, but i dunno, his posture is looking a little small.......lets just hope he can cope with the physical side of the game,....and also whos gonna replace flamini?? is it true that were sticking with diaby????
i'm still not convinced he will leave. dun think Wenger wants him to leave. maybe he is just holding out for a payrise. and the talk about moving to Inter to find peace and quietness is crap. he needs to speak to DB10 and findout how miserable the media make your life there. and what racist ********s they have in spain or italy. i'm feeling really let down by Hleb, he's been my favourate player since he joined us. i was planning to get the home kit with his name on it next season, but now even if he stays, i won't. loyalty at Arsenal came to end since the legend that is DB10 retired..
still cant see flamini become flamoney. personally, i think hleb has been right up there this season for arsenal. he is a good player and a suits your style of play. his loss will hurt but arsenal have got a good replacement in nasri. young but very talented.
n btw many many happy returns of the day LD :d
Excellent piece LD. Hleb and Flamini leaving Arsenal feels very personal and hurts worse than my first girlfriend leaving me teenage arse. What I fail to understand are two things: the issue with money, what can a player buy with 60k a week that he can't buy with 50k a week? I am asking this because they (Flam and Hleb) were both perfectly happy (according to their statements). I would also understand (although not approve) if they came out publicly and said that they need a new challenge or a change of scenery. That is having decency, having class. Hiding behind agents, those cocksucking parasites, just shows how little they are. Everything goes, Arsenal stays.
i think arsenal will need two players to replace hleb if he goes, him and fabregas together is amazing to watch!!
now ye no how we felt when campbell left for ye, players dont give a ***** these days, it alll bout money no matter what , jus look how many players wasted there careers goin to chelsea to sit on bench
great comment G4L, "Everything goes, Arsenal stays" that is what i know. i love my club all players and coaches can **** right off but ARSENAL SHALL FOREVER REMAIN!
If these players want to leave Arsenal - there is no hopes for teams like Villa then! Why would Flammini go to a team without CL football ; ). I've hated you guys most my life (besides Bergkamp and Pires, brilliant players) but you lot don't deserve the disrespect they gave you. I hope you bounce back, but only if we can have the 4th spot from liverpool!
Cheers luckys, after three days on the razz I'm feeling old!
Little Dutch
Arsne needs to sign a right midfield player if hleb goes
The more I think about it the more annoyed I get. Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini and Rosicky should have been the fantastic 4 in midfield. All great players, great friends and worked so well together. Now Matty's gone, Hleb looks to be leaving too and Rosicky never plays anyway. Such a shame. Nasri looks excellent though...
Hear hear LD. Echoes my sentiments. Its the manner of his departure thats *****ed up. As for loyalty, I dont think we can expect that from the players, coz the club themselves are rarely loyal to a player. They are ruthlessly sold /released when they have lost their usefulness to the club. So it would be hypocritical to expect loyalty from players.
He's a brilliant technician and capable of amazing things but he's someone that needs to be in a team that already has other great players - he's not someone who can take the game by the scruff of it's neck and dominate it in the way that a Ronaldo or Henry could. What's more disappointing is the break-up of the four close friends of Flamini, Cesc, Hleb and Rosicky. It makes me laugh all this stuff coming out in The Arsenal magazine and expressing your love for Arsenal, the fans and the teammates, and then sodding off. This is all to do about money, I guarantee you.
Yeah we've seen great partnerships, but our fantastic four in the middle of the park are indeed good friends, you can tell. I still remember how Hleb hugged Cesc on the grass and punched his face when they celebrated his goal at the Emirates. Brought a smile to my face when I saw that and I knew I didn't only smile bcos of that great goal.
Lou the Gunneress
get over it an move on pls, hes a good player, im sure theo an another signing, so no worries
Alexandr Hleb, a player without character, cowering behind a parasitic, cretinous agent. Faretheewell you plonker, off you go to join the other players who thought that they could prosper without the great Arsene Wenger; your best days are now behind you. Flamini and Hleb, away to teams Arsenal can beat with their eyes shut- doh!!! "Right, Boss, that's another two players we need out of the Wenger Magic Hat. Plenty more where they came from. Next!"
Lou the Gunneress
"Why the excuses? Just say you want to leave." Except for the attendance at the AG event, it's like LD's article came straight out of my heart and mind. These are the exact thoughts I've been having recently. I've been a huge defender of Hleb's for 3 seasons now when most gooners kept calling him crap. I've heard Brazilian commentators covering Arsenal games use some of the most emotive, gushing words I've ever heard when they talk about him, he truly is a gifted player. What angers me is what LD refers to: just be honest and straightforward. I can't stand Diarra's recent trashing of Wenger but at least he never came out in the press professing love for Arsenal and he went straight to Wenger to demand more playing time, saying he wouldn't play FA cup or CC games otherwise. It's the constant games, the endless contradictory & laughable excuses, the lies about wanting to stay at Arsenal, the constant runaround. And Flamini pulled this crap too, he gave the club the runaround for months as well, saying he wants to stay at Arsenal and how much he loves the club. I can understand the lure of a prestigious club like Milan, I'm just tired of this runaround. I can also understand it if Hleb got sick and tired of the English game after being on the receiving end of so many horrific tackles and watching his teammate's leg get broken. It's just the way he's gone about this whole thing. And I'm also angry about the way he's paid back Wenger's belief and faith in him. All that said, at 27 Hleb still hasn't learned how to be efficient in front of goal. While I love what he does on the ball, perhaps what we need is a more direct, more efficient player to replace him. I just hope players can come in who will develop the kind of connection Hleb and Flam had with Cesc.
julieloveshenry4ever, although he is acting badly at the moment, you can not say Hleb doesn't have character. He has tones of charisma, and this is why I find it such a shame that he is leaving. He really is a bit of a crazy character...
hehe LD, ur still only a kid, a 24 year old kid..
Jaelle - I know what you're feeling. I too saw something in Hleb very early on that I liked - maybe it's because it's that kind of player I've always liked, someone brilliant on the ball. The thing is, he's probably coming up to his prime years and he would have enjoyed them at Arsenal because our team is on the cusp of greatness and that will happen in the next 3 years. The core of our team over the next few years, the ones that won't want to leave Arsenal are Fabregas, Clichy, Sagna, van Persie, Toure, Diaby, Denilson and Walcott - and hopefully Vela!
I'm sure we can find another attcking midfielder who'll score 11 goals in all competitions over 3 seasons. Surely we can.
Also Jose Reyes did the same thing to us I recall. If anything, he was worse, repeatedly denying he wanted to move right up to the last minute and then leaving. And look what happened to his career since. Isn't he in obscurity now? So Hleb and Flam be warned, those that leave Arsenal shall no longer flourish!
Flamini has been left out of the French Squad now. I am suprised after the great seasons they had that Sagna, Clichy & Flamini were left out. Good for us in a way to have Sagna and Clichy rested though.
Can't blame him,he want's to join a club that actualy win things.:(
Good one HtG - Hleb has exactly rubbished that claim haha.
Lou the Gunneress
Time for an apology?
For what? By whom to whom? Hleb has rubbished the claim that he'd "leave to win things" but he hasn't exactly denied he's leaving or claimed clearly that he's staying. Regarding his commitment, he's innocent until proven guilty. But regarding the way he's handling all this, what's said in the article and comments above is still valid.
Lou the Gunneress
Why, to be fair this is the first heared from him....his agent has taken the leading role...i think the guy's comments were pretty respectful and sincere, something very rare in today's world of football. I'm not saying he wont leave, but surely that was not your gripe with him, it was the fact he was keeping quiet and not conducting himself he has. surely you dont immeditely slate a player as soon as they decide to leave, he is not young, maybe he wants a new challenge, you cant bedrudge him that.
Hleb has still stopped short of saying he will be at Arsenal next season. U4L - one of the criticisms was his silence, but another one was also letting his agent say all those things. Agents are the reps of the player, so we've gotta assume that atleast some of those are true. If those reasons were all blatanlty false, he would have denied it. I still think he's off this summer.
he has said that he never said he wanted to leave and that hes under contract... "I have a contract at Arsenal until 2010 and now only think of the game against Germany," "I have also read [that I have said I want to leave], but I do not know who has written it. That is nonsense. "I have also read that I wanted to move because Arsenal would win nothing, this too is nonsense. "But I would really not like to comment on the issue really because there is nothing more to say, because the club means so much to me. "I have learned so much from Arsene Wenger. This man has always supported me and given me the chance to come to Arsenal. I would therefore never say anything negative about Arsenal. then he does maybe leave the door open in the end... "If I'll go, then only in a different league, in any case, in England, there is only Arsenal for me." but i feel most of it is positive. we will have too see
Daveski, what if you ignore the words "that I have said I want to leave" in the bracket which were added by the press? Don't you think those statements are terribly ambiguous?
Lou the Gunneress
i do see your point! i guess time will tell....

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