Sometimes it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that one of Arsenal’s biggest signings in recent years has simply not worked out. Andrey Arshavin arrived at Arsenal in January 2009 and brought with him all the promise of a superstar the club desperately needed. But now, with many at the club hanging around the departure lounge, should the club consider holding on to the Russian attacker?
Arshavin gave a good account of himself at the Euros this summer, prompting many to question whether it was such a wise move to let the player go in the first place. Indeed, the club did go on a phenomenal run following his departure, one which landed them third place in the league. But maybe the forward is not as complex as being a riddle wrapped in an enigma, or something to that effect. Arsene Wenger’s words, not mine.
He’s clearly a player who thrives in a central position, yet Wenger, like with many of his buys over the years, opted to stick him on the left flank of Arsenal’s attack. It’s still moving to remember the outstanding and dazzling performances Arshavin gave for Arsenal in his first year. Indicating to the referee that he had made a mistake with his penalty decision against Portsmouth, and forcing Kieran Gibbs not to lose focus as the team battled back from a losing position were key qualities the team needed. There was the player Arsenal needed to complement the club’s better players like Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Unfortunately, Arshavin started on a long and seemingly endless spiral into laziness and lack of application, one which sadly bordered on him being totally useless.
Most will want to move on and remember the player as being someone who you simply could not count on. With him in the side, there was always a certainty of something going horribly wrong. His apparent lack of desire left others exposed, while his shooting in front of goal was wayward at best. No longer was there any hint of the player that sparked a great fight in his national side at Euro 2008; lost was the explosiveness we saw at Anfield.
But with depth in this Arsenal side an issue in need of great attention, maybe it’s worth keeping the player around for a little longer. He’s clearly not being chased by clubs in his homeland, while others around Europe are showing very little in the way of serious interest. The real question, however, is whether the player still has a passion for the game.
Arsene Wenger recently commented that he’d sit down with Arshavin to discuss the player’s future. While I don’t think the player has any future on either of the flanks at Arsenal, his creative talent is certainly not lost. This is a player who, like many, needs to feel wanted. There is still something of a good and potentially pivotal player in there. Surely Wenger can find some use for him in a side who will never be overstocked in certain positions.
As we go into this new season, Arsenal have clearly ridden themselves of the negativity and continued sagas of previous seasons. For now, only Alex Song remains on the books as a player who could kick up a fuss. The team are moving forward with better team unity and a newly-found drive for something more than just Champions League qualification. Perhaps this is the right time to take advantage of the situation and offer Arshavin a much more positive environment.
His work rate will continue be a problem, but maybe Wenger should find ways to work around it. Give Arshavin the back up role to Santi Cazorla in the middle of the pitch, a position where his greatest strengths can be accentuated.
Players like Marouane Chamakh and Park Chu-Young are unlikely to offer much to the club—their talent, among other things, simply falls short. But the Russian has shown what he is capable of. His national team were excellent for parts of the Euros, as they were driven on by players like Arshavin.
There is still elements of a very dangerous and valuable player in Arshavin, and if he can rediscover a good level of passion for the game, his talent can still be of use to the club going forward.