Valentin Boulan returns to TFN with some reflections on former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb…
The date is September 11th, 2012. France entertains Belarus in one of those routine qualifying matches – you know, the type of games in which out of form strikers love to get their confidence back? In the fixture’s turning point, Belarus playmaker Alexander Hleb finds himself through on goal, a golden opportunity as his team still had all to play for.
As the attacker runs through, TF1 commentator Arsene Wenger, as usual the quietest and brightest man on the panel, whispers, “He won’t shoot”. And, of course, he didn’t. The chance was gone, and the opposition went on to win.
Aliaksandr Hleb doesn’t score, because he doesn’t shoot. Instead, he symbolises this lost Arsenal generation which played beautifully, and lost even more beautifully. Young, talented, technical and creative, he was part of a glamorous midfield alongside Rosicky, Fabregas and Flamini (version 1.0).
Gifted with fabulous ball control and vision, Hleb was the perfect fit for Wenger’s possession obsessed side. A master of short passing and one touch football, he could also easily get past his direct opponent, making a difference and creating gaps on his own. A versatile attacker, he was comfortable playing on either wing or in a more central position. Continue reading