Arsenal’s number 23 became 32 yesterday. After almost four and a half year at Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin is almost certainly leaving the club in a few days time. I cannot help but feel a bit melancholic about Andrey’s gradual demise: with just seven appearances – mostly, if not all, as a substitute – no goals or assists, it has been an abysmal final season for the diminutive Russian.
The big question is where it went wrong for Andrey and how much he is to blame for it.
When he first joined us in February 2009, he had a great impact on our season: in 15 appearances he managed toproduce 15 goals/assists, which is a fabulous return for the position he played in. In the following two seasons, Andrey roughly managed a 0.5 goal/assist per game return, which is still okay.
However, things went rapidly downhill after that at Arsenal for AA23, with him only managing two goals and four assists in 26 appearances in 2011/12. It looked like Andrey did not care anymore and/or he did not have the required fitness levels anymore to make it in Wenger’s team.
Maybe he suffered as a result of the departures of Cesc and Nasri, or maybe he just did not want to play on the wing anymore. He seemed best suited for the central AM/nr.10 role – a position he preferred to play in as well – and it is hard to tell why Wenger never gave him a proper trial there.
Andrey Arshavin is the sort of player we all loved to do well. When he is good, he is very good: simply a joy to watch. He had that little bit extra at times: the ability to combine a high level of technical competence with incredible composure. No doubt the best example of these attributes is his fantastic finish against Barcelona in the CL: a goal that many of us will never forget.
But what let him down for many Gooners was his lack of work rate and, at times, his apparent indifference. He seldom or never looked like a team player, as he seemed more interested in scoring clever and difficult individual goals than anything else.
Somebody once wrote on a blog, after another insipid performance by the little Russian, that he wondered whether Arshavin had made a bet with one of his friends that he would back-heel the ball five times or more during the match. It made me think whether Arshavin would be capable of showing such disregard towards his profession and fellow football players, and I concluded it could indeed be the case.
Arsene did try to get Arshavin to become a full member of his team, but he clearly totally gave up on him this season.
I reckon the final damage was done during our painful defeat against the Mancs on 22nd of January – almost three years after Arshavin arrived – when he embarrassed Arsene in front of the home crowd. During this match, as many of you will remember very well, Arsene replaced the Ox with Arshavin, to the dismay of many fans. It all was epitomised with Van Judas’ ‘I have just wetted my pants’ look towards Wenger.
Ox went off and on came Arshavin, and moments later Arshavin makes a half hearted attempt to stop Valencia from bursting through to our box. This is what the BBC match report had to say about this moment: “To the dismay of the Arsenal faithful, who could sense victory, Oxlade-Chamberlain was withdrawn in favour of the rather less popular Andrey Arshavin, and the Russian did nothing to endear himself by failing to halt Valencia’s marauding run into the box, with Welbeck slamming home the loose ball nine minutes from time.”
Soon after that, Arshavin was loaned out to Zenit St. Petersburg, and after he returned to Arsenal for the new season, he simply became and remained a peripheral figure.
We cannot say Arshavin’s career is over, as he could have a couple of good years left in him, but it will not be at Arsenal, that’s a certainty. He spend his very best years of his career at Arsenal and will have nothing to show for it accept a handful of fantastic goals and one-match performances.
Arshavin offers ample proof that signing not just good, or even great, players is enough: they also need to be able to adjust to a new culture, have a winner’s mentality and an intrinsic desire to get the very best out of themselves. In short: to be able to be successful wherever they are.
Arsene got it all wrong with Arshavin – and Reyes as well: the LW spot seems to be cursed – and it might explain to some extent why he appears to be so slow in making his mind up who he wants to join our club, especially if it involves a lot of money.
It is a real shame to see such a talented player not getting the very best out of himself, and fade away like that. I still wish Andrey all the best and hope he will find a club where he can shine occasionally and show us all once again what he can do if and when he is really up for it.
Written by: TotalArsenal.
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