In the build up to the weekend’s matches Andrey Arshavin gave an insightful and honest interview on the state of Arsenal’s current squad. The comments were construed as negative and abrasive by many yet surely it can be helpful to have some honesty in football?
The answer to this question could only ever be answered at full time on Sunday evening. By then Arshavin’s words would either have inspired his team-mates to perform against Chelsea, or his comments would have been confirmed in another defeat at the hands of a major rival. Unfortunately for all Arsenal fans it was the latter, despite a spirited performance from Arsene Wenger’s side.
So was Arshavin so wrong to criticise his teammates so publicly in between two of the biggest games of Arsenal’s season? Arshavin was quoted in the Daily Mail on the 5th Feb;
Third place is where we stand today, and that is already a great success for Arsenal when you take into account the class of our eleven players
If Arsenal want to become champions, how can they select Arshavin as centre forward?
I am 173cm and it suits me, but next to the big centre halves of United it is very difficult to fight for the ball, especially in the air
Such comments are brutally honest, and make a welcome change from the ‘game of two halves’ and ‘we just didn’t perform today’ brigade of player comments which normally fill the papers in the aftermath of a game.
The comments themselves are also far from unique amongst Arsenal debates this season. Arsenal fans are divided with a considerable percentage frustrated and even angry at Arsene Wenger and his lack of transfer activity. Critics of Wenger regularly point to the use of Arshavin as a lone striker as a sign of madness and incompetence in the transfer window. So why can’t Arshavin think the same way? He is the person who gets battered by centre halves for 90 minutes, with little support so he has as much right as the fans to be angry about the situation.
The problem however with the comments is that they show a lack of professionalism. Arshavin is a professional footballer and he is paid to play football and not to criticise his boss or teammates. It shows a lack of team spirit in the squad and more worryingly a lack of belief. Cast your mind back to William Gallas and his on pitch outburst after a disappointing performance against Birmingham City in 2008, and the damaging impact it had on Arsenal that season. In both situations it shows a weakness in the squad and if it is not constructive then the only winners are the opposition.
Of course players argue, have disagreements and get frustrated with teammates. Arshavin is a world class player and had his pick of the top European clubs before signing for Arsenal, and he is used to winning and being successful. His frustration at coming 3rd in the Premier League is that he can do better, unlike some of his teammates. Although they may disagree with Arshavin’s outburst it would take a very passionate Arsenal fan to say that they don’t, even slightly, see his point of view.
In the season run-in Arshavin has a serious responsibility. If he does not rate some of his teammates it is imperative that he plays better than them. He has had a quiet season, by his standards, and surely if he is critical of the talent in the squad, his own star quality should be shining through.
Although I welcome such honesty from a professional footballer, the outburst has, for the time being, backfired on Arshavin. At times on Sunday though there was a tenacity and energy from Arsenal, which although little solace, must be promising to Arsenal fans and Arshavin alike. Their rivals will drop points and a united team effort by Arsenal, inspired by the likes of Arshavin and Fabregas can still compete for the title this season.