Club Focus – Arsenal – Hleb’s return provides a warning to Denilson and a conundrum for Fabregas

This weekend’s visit of Birmingham City sees the return of Aleksandr Hleb to the Emirates. The Belarusian schemer enjoyed a successful spell in the red of Arsenal, but now returns as a Blue, and blue sums up his mood.

Hleb is reported as being unhappy with the style of football played by Alex McLeish’s side and having recently plied his trade under the tutelage of first Arsene Wenger and then Pep Guardiola, a degree of adjustment to Birmingham’s clean-sheet mentality is inevitable. Hleb’s loan move to Birmingham is an interesting twist in his career path and his changing shirt colours have mirrored the success he has enjoyed in them. Since leaving Stuttgart, he experienced his best spell in the red of the Gunners, with his vibrant displays making him an integral part of the side that arguably came closest to lifting a first league title since 2004. Wearing the mix of red and blue now synonymous with the Catalan giants, Hleb’s fortunes were similarly mixed as he found himself marginalised as the products of La Mesia’s youth academy established themselves as permanent fixtures.

The latest change of hue sees Hleb take on a paler tone again as this time he dons the blue of Birmingham City on a season-long loan. The move is primarily to guarantee first-team football, but his decision to return to the Premiership indicates a desire to recapture the form of his Arsenal days. It is apt that his return dovetails with that of captain Cesc Fabregas, who is set to return from a hamstring injury having narrowly missed out on the Chelsea clash. It was well known that Fabregas got on with the Belarusian off the pitch as well as they combined on it, and at the time of the transfer theories abounded that Barcelona signed Hleb as a further incentive for their former charge to return. Having failed to break into the midfield triumvirate, Hleb cut a forlorn figure on the fringes of Bar

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