By Adam Clark

Since arriving at St James' Park from Ipswich in July 1999 Kieron Dyer has endured an injury nightmare which has threatened his career with both club and country.

And yet there is one statistic which says everything about the England midfielder's importance to the Geordie side. Dyer is just five matches short of pulling on Newcastle's famous black and white shirt for the 250th time.

Although a Ruud Gullit signing and despite his spells on the sidelines, the 28-year-old has continued to thrive under Bobby Robson, Graeme Souness and now Glenn Roeder. All three have kept faith and all three have reaped the rewards of doing so. Dyer is the dynamic driving force of the side and when he ticks, invariably his team-mates follow suit.

By example his last major injury ruled him out for four months yet he took just 30 minutes to find the scoresheet on his return - a fine run and finish against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

Likely to start in midfield against the Gunners again on a Monday, we look at the statistics and compare Dyer to Arsenal's Belarus international Alexander Hleb.

On that November afternoon at the Emirates a spectacular Thierry Henry free-kick cancelled out Dyer's opener to salvage a 1-1 draw. But Newcastle are yet to lose this season when the attack-minded midfielder has netted. In the Premiership that has amounted to three other occasions and brought three vital wins. In comparison, Hleb has found the net just twice but inspired thumping victories on both occasions - 4-0 at Reading and 6-2 against Blackburn.

Arsenal's former Stuttgart star is just ahead on assists however having set up a team-mate on three occasions, one more than the Newcastle man.

Furthermore, although Dyer has performed more efficiently when it comes to distribution, Hleb has been more productive. The Arsenal man has attempted 191 passes and found a team-mate 60 per cent of the time while his counterpart has been accurate with 64 per cent of his 106 passes.

As wingmen who like to drift inside they have both been keen to run at their opponents. So far this campaign Hleb has taken on another player on 39 occasions and produced an end product 23 times. Dyer has made fewer bursts forward - only 16 - but has been equally efficient in retaining possession on 12 occasions.

Maybe as a result of this directness neither player has had too much joy when it comes to crossing. The 14 attempts by our man is twice as many as the England player but in fairness Hleb has played 479 minutes more than his counterpart. So far Arsenal have capitalised on three of Hleb's deliveries while Newcastle have made the most of two from the boot of Dyer. 

Finally, to gauge their all-round input we looked at how much success the two have had when tracking back. Again Hleb has produced double the number of challenges as Dyer. However the Belarusian's record of coming out on top is only 50:50. Dyer on the other hand has won 10 of his 16 challenges. In terms of frequency this equates to one successful tackle every 103 minutes for our man and one every 128 minutes for theirs.

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Head to Head Statistics Alexander Hleb Kieron Dyer Premiership Appearances 25 16 Minutes on pitch 1762 1283 Attacking Goals 2 4 Shots on target 10 8 Shots off target 5 7 Shots blocked 4 2 Offside 3 10 Supporting Assists 3 2 Passes made 191 106 Passes complete 115 68 Passes incomplete 76 38 Crosses successful 3 2 Crosses unsuccessful 11 5 Total dribbles 39 16 Dribbles successful 23 12 Dribbles unsuccessful 16 4 Defending Tackles made 32 16 Tackles won 17 10 Tackles lost 15 6 Interceptions 7 4 Blocked Shots 2 1 Clearances 11 3 Penalties Conceded 0 0 Own Goals 0 0 Discipline Fouls 18 11 Yellow Cards 1 1

NB: Statistics as at Thursday, April 5, 2007.

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8 Apr 2007