Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin falls into the bracket of flair players who have a tendency to entertain. These delicate, skilful ball players can produce the unexpected, from conducting mazy runs culminating in a clever finish to awe-inspiring long range efforts. Such feats cannot be repeated every week and these players do not rely on a sliding tackle or a burst of aggressive energy to ignite the crowd. The Gunners’ outspoken Russian has delivered moments of excellence but can drift out of matches and display a seemingly indifferent attitude. Is getting the best out of the No23 set to be an uphill struggle this season?
Arshavin arrived at Arsenal in the 2009 January transfer window, having completed one of the most protracted transfers in recent memory. A plethora of documents and work permit issues delayed the Premier League’s ratification of this deal until 3rd February. Nonetheless at £16.9 million, the former Zenit St Petersburg became the club’s record signing. Arsene Wenger had acted decisively, targeting him as an exciting player who could bring experience and quality to a youthful team. The boyish Russian international certainly made an impact, scoring his first goal against Blackburn from an impossibly acute angle. Arshavin was cup-tied for Champions League matches but compensated for this league by smashing an incredible four at Anfield. That game ended in a draw but it was an exemplary lesson in the art of finishing. He scored 12 goals in all competitions in his first full season in England but his influence was not omnipresent. Often deployed on the left of an offensive midfield three, Arshavin has stated his desire to play through the middle.
Within a month of moving to London the frank Arshavin described how much harder he was forced to work and therefore adapt his showmanship manner. “As for football I can say that my style has also altered – it is more effective but less sparkling. I don’t remember when was the last time I score a really beautiful goal.” When interviewed the player is candid, open and opinionated, having called himself “lazy” and castigating everything from women drivers to the tax man. These exclamations have attracted brutally stark comments in return. Former Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis said, “In my opinion, Arshavin is overrated. He has been praised too much. He hasn’t shown brilliance for a very long time. The main thing is consistency, which Arshavin doesn’t have.”
However consistency is an attribute that his club lacks too. The nonchalant star has received criticism for a supposedly lackadaisical approach and a reluctance to offer defensive assistance. Moreover when Gael Clichy gets forward to provide the option of an over-lapping run, Arshavin seldom uses him as he prefers to cut inside to search for that elusive long range goal. He is far from a conventional wide player though as his best from arises from when he is used as a supplementary striker. He was clinical when used as a lone forward during the club’s striking crisis hit last season. The 5ft 7in player can find that unexpected pass, glide past opponents with excellent close control and discover space in the area.
He has exhibited those qualities this year, scoring twice in both the league and in Europe. He additionally made a crucial cameo in their Carling Cup victory at White Hart Lane. Fabregas later commented, “I believe he won us the game when he came on. He played the two passes that led to the two penalties, then he scored the last goal himself. He can win a game.” The fans recognise this too but would like to see his undoubted quality decide games more regularly. But the nature of this unpredictable yet explosive player conveys the need for patience.