Do Arsenal have a new Hleb? Gunner turning into pre-assist king

Veteran Belarusian frustrated many an Arsenal fan and even had the term the pre-assist coined because of him.

Alexander Hleb polarised opinion.

For Arsenal fans, who had long witnessed the player electing to pass from shooting opportunities, the creative midfielder was adjudged to be a player who was obviously gifted when it came to touch and close control, but was back of the queue when God was handing out a finisher's instinct.

There were many members of the press box, though, who would praise the player for being a level above when it came to technical skill.

One of the ultimate compliments to a player's legacy is when there is something named after him… think; the Makelele role and the Cruyff turn.

The Belarus international, who joined Barcelona after Arsenal before embarking on what is, effectively, a journeyman's career, is no different as the pre-assist became to be known as the Hleb assist. When an exceptional footballer was utilised in an attacking role, yet did not contribute to his side's goal or assist haul so instead would be scrutinised on how many pre-assists he provided for his team.

In Tomas Rosicky, Arsenal have another Hleb

In 14 appearances under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger this season, Rosicky has returned just one assist (and no direct goals), yet is highly thought of by those around him.

£42.4m superstar Mesut Ozil, for instance, put him on par with the best midfielders in the Premier League and told the club's official website three weeks ago: 'Tomas belongs to the best midfielders in the Premier League. When you see how much he gives for the team and how he enjoys being on the ball it makes us happy to have a player like that in our ranks.'

Yet Rosicky does not contribute to the scoreline as frequently as Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere or even typically non-scoring midfielder Santi Cazorla. What he does do is crucial for team-play, however. He has intuitive link-up with those around him and he does have all-round midfield skill.

He also, as demonstrated in the table below, is the undoubted king of the Hleb assist when it comes to current Gunners, producing one pre-assist every 181 minutes he is on the pitch.

PlayerClubHleb AssistChanceAssistTouchTotal PassAccurate PassFwd PassAppsMins
Rosicky Arsenal 4 16 1 44.71 37.79 32.00 11.21 14 724
Gibbs Arsenal 1 7 0 60.85 38.55 30.85 15.15 20 1,471
Ramsey Arsenal 1 26 6 89.78 70.11 59.11 22.44 18 1,495
Wilshere Arsenal 1 29 4 62.16 47.05 40.16 14.95 19 1,341
Özil Arsenal 1 55 8 83.89 67.32 59.21 19.16 19 1,659

Out of all Premier League athletes, Samir Nasri tops the Hleb assist chart for the season to date, however, the Frenchman has featured in almost twice as many minutes and so, when factoring in averages, it is actually Rosicky who again comes out on top. For instance, Nasri produces a Hleb-assist for every 231 minutes he plays, while Tomas, as aforementioned, is far more prolific in this area.

PlayerClubHleb AssistChanceAssistTouchTotal PassAccurate PassFwd PassAppsMins
Nasri Man City 6 47 4 65.05 48.14 43.57 12.62 21 1,386
Rosicky Arsenal 4 16 1 44.71 37.79 32.00 11.21 14 724
Touré Man City 3 26 4 83.87 72.65 65.78 21.26 23 2,002
Cameron Stoke 2 14 1 64.96 35.22 25.39 16.13 23 2,070
Downing West Ham 2 33 1 44.11 25.06 20.33 6.44 18 1,325

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch