Hating Alexander Hleb, or Why Want-Away Players Should Shut Their Mouths.

Brad SimkuletSenior Analyst IJuly 24, 2008

I try to hold myself above being angry at footballers who leave my team, and usually I succeed.

When Thierry Henry left Arsenal, even after he said he would be a Gunner for life, I quickly forgave him and moved on. When Freddie Ljungberg left for West Ham I was annoyed and a little amused by his claim that he was going to West Ham for “a chance at hardware,” but in my heart I wished him well for his loyal service and for that great red Mohawk.

Hell, I'm even forgiving of Mathieu Flamini (of whom I may be the only fan in the world) and feel that Arsenal is to blame for his departure, not the man himself.

Admittedly, I was less successful controlling myself when Sol Campbell went mental and Ashley Cole Adebayored his way into Stamford Bridge, but I always managed to keep my anger to a minimum.

I can’t be so kind when it comes to Alexander Hleb.

The man needs to shut up, and for the second time (sorry Cashley) I do not wish an ex-Gunner well in his chosen move.

Hleb is just not that good. He is not Ljungberg, he is not Pires, and though I am sure he aspires to be as good as these great Gunners it was never going to happen.

Therefore, how can Hleb possibly imagine himself to be too big for Arsenal?

Undoubtedly, his idiot agent has something to do with that. Perhaps, also, it has to do with the fact that he is the finest player for his national team. Which team is that again? Oh yeah, Belarus!

My 4-year-old son (hey... he has scored 14 goals in seven games) would probably rank second on the Belarussian team, just behind Hleb, so that's not much of an accomplishment.

The truth is that Hleb is only slightly above average.

He had two awful seasons with Arsenal, and one passable one. Yes, he is great with the ball at his feet, but he often makes poor choices when passing. He is petulant and dangerous when he tackles, and he was saved more than once last season when he was dispossessed by Flamini and Fabregas. He never shoots the ball, and when he does it is almost always weak or off-target.

And this is the man who feels he is too good for Arsenal and can then speak intelligently about what is wrong with the North London club.

He’s already off in Barcelona trying to unsettle Fabregas and Adebayor (as if the Togolese ego needs any more unsettling), and then he compounds his already aggravating behavior by being quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying, “When he [Wenger] leaves, I think this is a difficult time coming for Arsenal.”

So now he is not only unsettling current Arsenal players but, potentially, future Arsenal signings.

It’s a shabby display, and it shows very little knowledge of a side he has been a part of for three years.

No team who loses a manager of Wenger’s caliber will be absolutely okay when that manager leaves (both Arsenal and Man Utd fans have to be at least a little afraid with life after their leaders), but from the very beginning Wenger has been preparing Arsenal for his absence.

It is not just Wenger alone who finds the talent hiding in France, Belgium, Mexico, and wherever else, it is a huge scouting system that now runs almost on its own.

Wenger has implemented fitness and health regimes that will not disappear when he leaves, and the Emirates Stadium will make it easier and easier, year after year, for future managers to plug the gaps with experienced players.

The future isn’t just bright under Wenger, Arsenal’s future is bright period.

But then how can I expect the man who once claimed the hustle and bustle of London was too much for him, only to want away to Barcelona, to have any logic when it comes to the team he has left behind and is now trying to mess with even after getting what he wanted? I can’t. And I don’t.

But I'll tell you what I will do.

I will watch Barcelona religiously this season looking for one beautiful bit of comeuppance that is sure to arrive numerous times a game: Monsieur Henry glowering at Hleb after an errant pass.

It was the image that encapsulated Hleb’s two crappy seasons at Arsenal, and it is sure to be a regular addition to match day at Camp Nou. It was also obvious how much Hleb hated it, so seeing it every week will give my Hleb-hate a pleasant jolt of weekly vengeance.