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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Andrei Arshavin in Arsenal: Has Arsene Wenger Found the Right Man?

(This entry was originally posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009)

Following a prolonged transfer saga, Russian star Andrei Arshavin finally signed a contract with Arsenal just few minutes before the January transfer deadline closed at 05:00 pm on 2 February. However, reports out in the media suggest that the deal required time extension (for about 10 minutes) by FA to come into existence, but the player and Arsenal dismissed these reports, claiming that they were waiting for FA to accept the deal officially before they made it public. In fact, Arsenal confirmed the deal officially almost 24 hours after the transfer deadline had closed. Andrei Arshavin broke the club record by signing a contract deal worth £15million (excluding £1.5million paid to Zenit for Arshavin breaking the long-term contract with the club).

Arsenal is not well-known for big amount signing, but still, the Arshavin deal did not come out of blue for the Gunners fans as they knew that manager Arsene Wenger had been tracking the Russian playmaker since last Summer. Now, the question is if Wenger has at last found someone in Andrei Arshavin who could add what Arsenal has been missing for the last few years. What did Wenger exactly see special in Arshavin?

The answer is creativity. Yes, Wenger believes that Arshavin would provide Arsenal the creative spark that the North London club has been missing over the last few years. Terming him talented, intelligent and motivated, Wenger even also believes that Arshavin would make an impact at Arsenal. Well, there is no doubt about the talent and skill of the 27-year-old attacking midfielder who has already proven his match winning ability for Zenit St Petersburg and Russian national team. I can still remember his match winning performance against Netherlands in the quarter final of Euro 2008.

I think, Arshavin has everything to add creativity at Arsenal midfield. With his agility, excellent shooting power, super ball controlling ability and understanding of the match, Arshavin could bring back what Arsenal has been missing since Thierry Henry left the club. Arshavin can score himself from the midfield as well as set up for others. So, his presence can make an instant impression at the club and would influence the club’s performance. He can receive the ball well and control the ball with sheer skill.

Specialist at free kick, Arshavin can score goals at crucial situations. The most important quality the Russian possesses is perhaps his ability to remain cool in front of goal. His style of football reflects Arsenal’s traditional style of counter attacking football in which attacking players need to have the ability to receive the across-the-field passes and throughs successfully and must have great run and ball controlling ability. All of these qualities exist in Andrei Arshavin. It would not be fair to expect a Midas touch from Arshavin from the beginning of his Arsenal career, but it is, for sure, that he could be an effective player at the club in the coming years.

Arsenal is now virtually out of the premier league race this season, standing fifth in the league table. In fact, their main goal now is to finish the season in the top four to ensure their Champions league qualification next season. However, I do not think that Arsenal would start getting result of such a big buck deal right from the ongoing season because they are already way behind from the premier league title race, and Arshavin is cup tied- meaning he would not be able to play at the knock out stage of Champions League this season. Moreover, a number of key players like Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas are currently injured out, while midfielder Tomas Rosicky has been out of action for a long time. When all of them would return in action, I would say, Arsene Wenger would have a squad to make a serious bid for silverware that Arsenal has been missing for the last three seasons.

One thing that Arsenal fans might worry about Arshavin is definitely his age. He is already 27 and it remains to be seen for how long Andrei Arshavin would be able to continue his sparkling form at the North London club.

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