The performance at Anfield in 2009 for the 4-4 draw and the cannon of a shot that put Arsenal ahead at Old Trafford the following season seem a distant memory, and any shades of that player has long since departed. Andrey Arshavin has long cut a frustrated and frustrating figure at Arsenal, not willing to do the dirty work on the left flank and seemingly disinterested in what the final result of the game is. But talk of a move back to Zenit on loan would be an unthinkable and potentially disastrous move for Arsenal—at least for the moment.
There’s no question that Arshavin has got the quality to be considered one of the best at Arsenal. He arrived in North London with a reputation of a super star and someone who would help players like Fabregas and van Persie catapult the club into great things. His early performances certainly suggested that Arsene Wenger had once again pulled an ace out of his sleeve as he helped a failing Arsenal side capture fourth place in the league.
But his displeasure at playing on the left wing have resulted in a dramatic fall in form. There are still glimmers of quality and hope that the player will come good again, at least for long enough to rack up a good run of form for the team. But as quickly as a moment of genius appears, it is quick to vanish with little sign of returning. The lack of first-team football and losing out to Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for the starting spot must be frustrating for the Russian; but none more so than Arsene Wenger’s insistence to play him from a wide position.
With much talk of a replacement for Fabregas waiting in-house at the Emirates in the form of either Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere, Wenger has failed to acknowledge the most effective player to perform in that role. Arshavin does the job for his national side, and he was deployed in a similar at Zenit, so why does Arsene Wenger consistently snub a player from his rightful position, and one who could do a lot to turn the team’s performances around on the pitch?
Arshavin turned out for the reserves earlier in the week and capped off a very promising performance with two goals and an assist as Arsenal defeated Norwich away. The line-up was a lot more in tune with what the players in the squad were capable of; a more traditional approach in formation and with Arshavin clinical in front of goal. There has been increasingly little suggestion that Aaron Ramsey is capable of being the player to unlock stubborn defences, and equally, Wilshere should simply be written off for this season. Arteta plays a deeper role in the side—whether that’s his or Wenger’s choice is unclear—and Tomas Rosicky, while completing a number of decent performances in recent weeks, is not cut out to be the first choice player maker in the side.
While many Arsenal fans have lost faith in Arshavin and would be happy to see the back of him, I believe the Russian still has much to offer if deployed in the correct way. For the short-term and up until the summer, Arshavin should be centrepiece of Arsenal’s midfield and the primary creative outlet. Robin van Persie would surely love to have a player of Arshavin’s quality pulling the strings just behind him—especially considering his praise for Walcott and his assists.
Louis Saha was brought in to do a job for Tottenham for the short-term, and early signs suggest Harry Redknapp got that one right. There’s no reason Arshavin can’t have a similar impact, and, to coin a popular phrase from Wenger, “be like a new signing.”
The worry will be whether Wenger has the courage to change the formation and tactics in such a way, but the Russian certainly is capable of a prominent role at the club until the end of the season.