Why Arshavin Will Be A Success at Arsenal

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Ra ra Arshavin, Russia's greatest love machine...

Ra ra Arshavin, Russia's greatest love machine...

The word on the proverbial street is that Arsenal are closing in on the siging of Russian international forward Andrei Arshavin, or Shava as he is affectionately known by Zenit´s fans. Ít seem that the St. Petersburg club has learned transfer negotiations from their club sponsor, Gazprom. i.e. hold the other side to ransom. Nevertheless, once Zenit realise that they aren´t dealing with Manchester City (or will they?) then a deal should be tied up for around 15 million pounds before the transfer window closes. “That´s  a lot of money for someone who had two good games at the Euros” I hear fans and media pundits cry. That is to be expected considering Arshavin has been plying his trade in the Russian league. Zenit have only made an impact in the UEFA Cup and Champions League over the past three years, and the Russian national team in last summer’s European Championships.

My time spent living in Russia back in 2004/5 and following Russian football on-line has given me the benefit of seeing Arshavin in action over a number of years, developing into the special player he has undoubtedly become. Rather than simply dwell on the “will he or won’t he” aspect of the transfer saga, I will give 5 reasons why Arshavin will be a success at Arsenal when he finally signs.

1) CREATIVITY

It is obvious that Wenger is looking to sign the mercurial Russian to compensate for the short-term loss of Cesc Fabregas and long-term loss of Tomas Rosicky, whom I doubt will play consistently for Arsenal ever again. Although the Gooners are starting to string some results together, at times this season the midfield and attack have looked short of ideas when trying to break down those teams that like to ‘park the bus’. At the highest level Arshavin has shown that he can provide the ‘killer’ pass, whether a Fabr-esque pass through the middle, like the assist to Igor Denisov for Zenit’s first goal in the 2-0 defeat of Rangers in last year’s UEFA Cup final, or a cross from the wing, as seen for the key goal against Holland in the Euro 2008 Quarter Final.

2) GOALS FROM MIDFIELD

Arsenal have failed to recreate the heyday of midfield goals, when Robert Pires and Freddy Ljungberg would score for fun. Despite a decent return of 13 goals last season, Fabregas has not looked like emulating Frank Lampard’s knack for deflected shots. More often than not his shots are inches wide or hit the woodwork, much like Zinedine Zidane for my Valencia team on an old version of Championship Manager.

Samir Nasri is looking the part in terms of well taken finishes in important games but the remainder of Arsenal’s midfield look unlikely to chip in other than with the occasional fourth goal in a 5-0 win at home against relegation fodder. This is where Arshavin should be able to alleviate the pressure on the front men. Although not strictly a midfielder, he may be able to “do a Cristiano Ronaldo” and get praise for scoring “so many goals from the wing”, when in fact he will play as a forward. Nevertheless, the goals will be especially important when in combination with the next asset…

3) THE ABILITY TO DO THE UNEXPECTED

You may have guessed by now that I am a big fan of the slitty-eyed one, so please forgive me for the bold but perhaps exaggerated statement I am about to make – Andrei Arshavin is in the same mould as Lionel Messi. Now I know Messi is arguably the best player in the world right now at the age of 21, while AA is 27 and has been playing in Russia his entire career. However, it is the same ability to do the unexpected that puts him in the same bracket. Going back to my point earlier about Arshavin having been showing his class for a few years now, here is a Messi-esque goal against Spartak Moscow from back in 2002.

I know it is easy to fish a random YouTube clip to prove a point, but there are a number of occasions in which Shava has made something out of nothing, using his incredible pace, balance, toughness and accurate finishing to turn a game. It is not easy to find let alone buy a player that has this asset, and this is ultimately why I think AW jumped at the chance to bring in Arshavin. This clever goal is reminiscent of those that Henry often attempted but failed to get away with. Arsenal would benefit from the sharp-minded and audacity of AA that can only really be seen in Robin Van Persie from the current crop at the Emirates.

 

4) PREPARED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND LEAD THE TEAM

This is probably the most overlooked point by those analysing Shava’s potential transfer. He is 27 years old at the prime of his game, a player that has been the main man for a big club (by Russian standards) and massive country(by geographical and population standards) and is hungry to perform regularly at the very highest level. This is exactly the type of addition Arsenal need to their squad – a man that is prepared to lead the team and take on responsibility, relieving the pressure from Cesc Fabregas. He may look 15 but his maturity and experience match his true age.

5) VERSATILITY

Arshavin’s best positions are as a play-maker behind the forward line or as a forward just off the main striker. However, his versatility makes him a threat, whether playing in the middle or on the wing. It is more than likely that he would be deployed by Wenger on the left-hand side until Walcott returns from injury, with Nasri either moving to the right or a central role. Some have suggested that Arshavin is too luxury or small to be succesful in the Premiership. Again, that is to be expected from those who have seen him play twice. To the contrary, Shava is a tough player that I think would excel. The main criticism that can be levied at him is that he is susceptible to drifting in and out of games. But that is what Ronaldinho does, right?!

I am not completely sure as whether AA will be eligible to play in the Champions League knockout stages because as far as I was aware, you can only play for one team per season in European competition. However, the Real Madrid/Diarra and Huntelaar saga has confused me. Media reports seem to think one player is allowed to register for another team. Anyhow, Arshavin, whether this season or next, would slot nicely into the 4-5-1 that Wenger has favoured since the Gunners’ run to the Champions League final in 2006.

Final Note

Russians haven’t had such a successful time in London as of late (see Pavlyuchenko and Litvinenko) but this boy is special. If this transfer ever ends up being completed, Arsenal fans should be very excited. Obviously Andrei is because this YouTube clip shows him learning English (see 1 minute 55 seconds in for comedy moment).

To further make my point about him being round for more than two minutes, here is a sweet Arshavin hat trick from 2005.

 

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