Ex-Gunner: ‘Wenger is Arsenal and Arsenal is Wenger’
Alexander Hleb has hailed Arsene Wenger for the influence he had on him through his Arsenal career.
Hleb made 130 appearance for the Gunners after Wenger signed the midfielder from Stuttgart in 2005.
The Belarus international moved to Barcelona in 2008, but he struggled to replicate his Premier League form in La Liga.
Hleb retired from football last year, and reflected on his time at Arsenal, claiming Wenger gave him “wings”.
“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, reported via Four Four Two.
“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.
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“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.”