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"Arsene Wenger is Arsenal and Arsenal is Wenger" – Alex Hleb heaps praise on former manager

Alex Hleb

Alex Hleb has praised Arsene Wenger for giving him "wings on his back" during his Arsenal career.

Wenger signed the attacking midfielder from Stuttgart in 2005, with Hleb going on to make 130 appearances for the Gunners in all competitions.

His performances in north London earned Hleb a move to Barcelona in 2008, but he struggled to replicate his Premier League form in La Liga.

And, reflecting on a career which ended last year, the former Belarus international says Wenger helped him bring the best out of him at Arsenal.

"It's hard for me to imagine Arsenal without Wenger because to me Wenger is Arsenal and Arsenal is Wenger," Hleb said in a documentary.

"When Wenger was signing me, he just wanted me to adapt as quickly as possible and to have fun with the game, to do whatever it takes for the team, for results. I felt his support.

"Once I got injured, spent two months off the field, and it was hard to regain the flow, so I started having doubts about possibly returning to Germany.

"He just told me a couple of words which ended up having such a strong impact on me.

“I felt like I'd grown wings on my back. I was overwhelmed with emotions, eagerness, desire to live up to expectations."

Wenger was similarly complimentary of Hleb, who scored 10 goals across three season at Arsenal.

"He was a guy you'd want to make happy," the Frenchman said. "Sometimes it seemed like something had cracked inside him, and I felt like I was responsible for helping him, for supporting his talent.

"You see, being a manager allows you to influence people's lives, which is great, you can influence them positively, not negatively.

"And I felt that he needed warmth and understanding to realise his talent."

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