On Saturday, Arsenal FC will celebrate its 125th year as a football club when Everton visit the Emirates Stadium in the Barclays Premier League.
Throughout that century and a quarter, the Arsenal faithful have witnessed some fine players: David Jack, Malcolm Macdonald, Bob Wilson, Liam Brady, Charlie George, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, the list goes on and on.
On winter transfer deadline day 2009, Andrey Arshavin joined from Zenit St. Petersburg and the initial six months of his stay showed signs he was on his way to joining those greats. For many he came as a great relief, Arsene Wenger had signed someone that was already proven international class. Arshavin’s impact was immediate, he made 15 appearances, scoring six times and assisting many more. Need anyone be reminded four of those six goals came on one night in Liverpool?
Since that initial six months, however, something has changed. Gone is the midfield maestro/wing wizard who defences feared, and in his place is a lethargic squad player whose moments of magic became more and more sporadic. Despite this, Arshavin still contributed 10 goals and many more assists last season.
But where has the spark gone in everyone’s favourite Russian?
Recent comments made by Arshavin suggest he is as frustrated as anyone by his lack of form. But do his efforts on the field really match his anger? How often has he lost the ball and not tracked back to try and win it? How often has he misplaced a pass? How often has an attack broken up because of Arshavin?
It is an immense pity to see Arshavin play so badly for Arsenal.
In the Russian team he is the star man, pulling the strings in midfield and turning defence into attack in a split second. He is the one opening up Giovanni Trapattoni’s stubborn Irish defence for the Russian forwards to score. Is this his problem at Arsenal? He is on the wing and not the main man in the middle?
Whatever the reasons, the Russian has slipped down the pecking order, with Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and now Yossi Benayoun all able to claim a louder shout than the number 23 for a place on the pitch.
With such a wealth of options out wide – and with Arsene Wenger seemingly reluctant to play him in the middle – it seems that his days at Arsenal are numbered. For the club, this January may be a good time to sell him while he still has some resale value, unless of course they keep him until the summer in the hopes he has a great European Championship and his stock rises.
As for the player himself, it seems best for Arshavin that he moves. That he moves to a side where he will be the main man, where people will look to him as the first out ball.
Three years ago, people loved watching Arshavin. He played with a smile, he played with class, and he looked like he was really enjoying himself. That all seems lost now, and for Arsenal and Arshavin it might be best he moves on. Andrey Arshavin is a fine player who can turn a match in the blink of an eye, he deserves to be remembered as this player, not as one that ended his career as a squad player.
AA23 has one big move left in him, for his sake and football’s sake; let’s hope it works out well.