Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Arnie' Pumped Up after Injury Break; Arsenal Midfielder Hleb Has Used His Two Months on the Sidelines to Build Himself Up for the Physical Demands of the Premiership

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Arnie' Pumped Up after Injury Break; Arsenal Midfielder Hleb Has Used His Two Months on the Sidelines to Build Himself Up for the Physical Demands of the Premiership

Article excerpt

Byline: WAYNE VEYSEY

SUCH was the muscle definition that Alexander Hleb acquired during his eight week recovery from knee surgery that Arsene Wenger took one look at the midfielder from Belarus and dubbed him "Arnold Schwarzenegger".

Wenger clearly hasn't seen pictures of the cigar-smoking California governor since he swapped relentless bench presses for relentless political schmoozing.

Nevertheless, the point had been made. The 'Hlebnator' had sweated his way back to top condition and his eagle-eyed manager approved.

"It's true he did call me Arnold Schwarzenegger one time, as a joke.

But it's not a regular nickname, no," protested Hleb.

Before his low-key return in Wednesday's goalless draw against Ajax, Hleb had been sidelined for two months after picking up a knee injury playing for Belarus.

It was a frustrating time for a player still to justify the [pounds sterling]10million fee that brought him from VfB Stuttgart last summer.

"It was very hard, of course, but I felt total support from the manager and coaches, and my team-mates and friends," said Hleb.

"The recovery process has been very intensive and tiring. But the atmosphere at the training ground is always great, and that made things a lot easier for me.

"Coming back after such a long period out is always difficult. I'm just delighted to get playing again and, hopefully, showing some good football, and helping the team to win matches."

Before his enforced absence, Hleb had only shown flashes of the ability that had marked him out as one of Europe's finest young talents.

He admits the pace of the Premiership had been a shock but believes he will benefit from quietly reinforcing his fitness away from the pressures of two games a week.

"Obviously, being out has set me back, but in some ways it might have helped to have a pause and step back," he added. …

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