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Andrei Arshavin worthy of more than a peripheral role at Arsenal

arshavi 300x225 Andrei Arshavin worthy of more than a peripheral role at Arsenal

Arshavin celebrates his goal against Barcelona this time last year

Four years ago, Andrei Arshavin’s effervescence made him one of the players of Euro 2008: his performance in Russia’s quarter-final win over Holland was especially exhilarating. When Arsenal signed him the following January, it was to the envy of many other clubs, especially after he scored four goals in one game at Anfield.

It hasn’t quite worked out since. Too often Arshavin has seemed disinterested, lacking fitness, morale and even ingenuity: that is why there was such opprobrium when he came on as a substitute for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Manchester United last month.

While it can’t be denied that Arshavin has disappointed at Arsenal, he has actually done a lot better than widely assumed, contributing 30 goals and 37 assists in 132 games for the club, most of which he has not played all of. These stats can only tell us so much but do compare extremely favourable with his rivals for positions, notably Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky.

In further mitigation of Arshavin’s performances, Arsene Wenger has very seldom given him the chance to play in his best position: as a playmaking number ten. Shafting Arshavin onto the wing is intrinsically limiting, just as it would have been with Dennis Bergkamp. Arshavin’s lack of defensive utility makes it understandable why he hasn’t been used centrally, but ultimately the feeling persists that Wenger has never given the Russian a chance to control games in the way he does for his country.

Now wouldn’t be the worst time to do so: Jack Wilshere remains injured; Aaron Ramsey is fatigued and may be more effective from the bench; and Rosicky creates far too little for a player used as the most attacking of three central midfielders. That Rosicky has contributed one assist and no goals this season is a damning indictment.

Using Arshavin as an attacking central midfielder would be bold and necessitate subtle changes in Arsenal’s style, with their wingers needing to do more defensive work to contribute for his lack of running ability. Yet the gains could be considerable: as the cross for Thierry Henry’s winner against Sunderland attested, the vision and precision of Arshavin’s passing are worthy of more than a peripheral role at Arsenal.

Considering the amount of goals he has either scored or created at Arsenal, the conclusion that Arshavin has received an extraordinary amount of criticism is inescapable. It is undeniable his body language invites it at times. Yes he is not adept at tracking back; yes, he often drifts out of matches. But his talent is such that he should be afforded a genuine opportunity and be deployed in his best position. He might fail, but with faith invested in him Arshavin could yet remind the world of his mesmerising showings in Euro 2008.

For all his faults, Arshavin is more likely to win games for Arsenal than other central attacking options: though he may contribute less defensively than Ramsey and Rosicky, it is a trade off worth taking. Intermittent 20-minute cameos on the left wing will not get the best out of him; regular appearances as a classical number 10 just might.

A year ago Arshavin scored his most memorable goal for the Gunners, a brilliant winner against Barcelona. With Arsenal travelling to Italy to play AC Milan this week, another glamour Champions League tie would be as good a time as any for a resurgence.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rafaelsnas Rafael Nascimento

    I agree. Sir Arsene Wenger should read this and give Arshavin an opportunity in his best position: as a playmaking number ten. He is much more dangerous than Ramsey or Rosicky. Arsenal would be much more offensively aggressive with Wallcott on the right, Chamberlain on the left and Arshavin on the centre behind Van Persie.

  • http://twitter.com/GazzaEsq Gary Shippam

    Whilst I have been disappointed with Arshavin’s performances and form, I have to agree; Wenger does not make the most of his talents. Arshavin and the team would both benefit from playing him centrally. His defensive shortcomings would not be so obvious or costly and in Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott on the flanks we would have two players not afraid to track back. Go on AW you know it makes sense !

  • ultimateposeur

    Would agree with the author, but it seems like Wenger doesn’t trust Arshavin enough to be in the hole behind Van Persie. The only time I’ve seen Wenger use him there was in an Carling cup match against Bolton behind Park in a very much second-string squad. 

    Have a feeling Ramsey will come back into the team for the Milan and Sunderland FA cup games in place of Rosicky. As to why Wenger only considers Ramsey/Rosicky for that role isn’t clear to me. Does he think that Arshavin isn’t good enough to keep  possession going around the box? (Ramsey doesn’t look that solid either with his indulgent backheels once a game.) That is the same reason why I think even if Nasri had stayed this season, it would have still been Ramsey/Rosicky in that role. 

    Don’t know why Wenger thinks the things he does, but once he develops an impression of a player, its very difficult for him to change his mind.  

  • loose_cannon

    Two things. 

    One; “These stats can only tell us so much but do compare extremely favourable with his rivals for positions, notably Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky”. That is all well and good, but there is far more to an attacking player than just goals and assists; they have to contribute to build up play, they have to pressure defenders, they have to be in the right positions. Arshavin does none of those things, at least not over 90 minutes. 

    Two; “In further mitigation of Arshavin’s performances, Arsene Wenger has very seldom given him the chance to play in his best position: as a playmaking number ten. Shafting Arshavin onto the wing is intrinsically limiting, just as it would have been with Dennis Bergkamp. Arshavin’s lack of defensive utility makes it understandable why he hasn’t been used centrally, but ultimately the feeling persists that Wenger has never given the Russian a chance to control games in the way he does for his country.”. Arshavin shined for Russia in euro 2008 playing on the left so I don’t know why suddenly it’s popular opinion that he can’t play there anymore or that it isn’t his natural position.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RA6QJ4PVIHEEISSWF73G2PUXXU caesar chaves

    You all are ignorant if you think Rosicky doesn’t create chances… He is by far our most intelligent passer when it comes to finding the key pass. He is far better than Arshavin and Ramsey at the CAM role. Yes, he isn’t the player he once was, but he can find the decisive pass none of our center mids can even see. He hasn’t found his shooting boots yet, but he definitely is coming back into form and has shown signs of brilliance lately.

  • Selvarajan Gangadharan

    Arshavin-one of the best player in the current world football.  He showed his talent in his first season at Arsanel.  Still he is the best than any other player in Arsenal. His body of language is most dangerous to the opponent.  A best player should score the goal and assist the goal and Arshavin did it very well than any other player in Arsenal.  And the question is why Arsanel not utilizing his talent?  Why he is playing in wing side? Anybody can believe that Messi can perform well in left or right wing?  I would say Messi will be on bench, if he played in those positions. Arshavin scored more than 30 goals and assisted more that 20.  Blindly we can say- It is world class.  There are many renounced players in BPL, but all are fell down in business football.

  • http://twitter.com/Baldwin1993 Ian Baldwin

    At age 30 he is not the future. Shafting Ramsay now would be a grave error.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mat-Salleh/100001718092330 Mat Salleh

    As a Spurs fan, I was disappointed when Arshavin went to Arsenal. Nowadays I am highly relieved. In recent appearances he has looked like a sunday league player who has been co-opted from the crowd because half the team failed to turn up. Really. That bad. And no, I’m not one of those spurs fans; I still remember cheering when Michael Thomas stole the title from the hubcappers.


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