Return Of the Loanees – Andrey Arshavin
It’s official. Arsenal FC confirmed yesterday that the Lukas Podolski deal has been signed, stamped, notarized and lodged with the European Court of Transfer Sagas, who have been requested by the club to close the case with immediate effect.
Arsene Wenger spoke of his delight at recruiting the German international:
We are happy to have made this signing early and we are looking forward to watching Lukas contribute at the European Championship over the summer, a level where he has already made 95 caps at the age of 26. That is a phenomenal record and just shows his quality as a player.
Podolski himself is pleased to have finally made the move:
I’m so happy to be joining Arsenal Football Club and to play in the Premier League. Arsenal is one of the top clubs in Europe with a huge history. There are many top quality players at Arsenal and the style of football which the team plays is fantastic.
We all knew it was coming but the early announcement is satisfying nevertheless. Arsene Wenger was criticized heavily last summer for allowing the Fabregas and Nasri situations to drag on. Lessons have been learnt it seems, and Podolski’s capture now puts the focus firmly on Robin van Persie’s decision.
So with another left footed striker arriving at Arsenal, where does that leave our club record signing Andrey Arshavin? Today’s article discusses the Russian’s future with the Gunners.
Andrey Arshavin has figured more prominently for Arsenal this season than any of the other loanees. His loan deal to Zenit St. Petersburg materialized only at the end of February so unlike with other on-loan players, the Russian’s evaluation has to be based more on his contributions to AFC than to Zenit.
At the start of the season, the diminutive striker was already under pressure from Arsenal fans after some lackadaisical performances during 2010/11. There was a match against Birmingham City in early October which I was lucky enough to attend at the Emirates and Arshavin was by far the worst player on the pitch. After about 20 minutes, the crowd got restless with the Russian’s inability to complete simple passes and the lack of work rate to win the ball back.
Arsene Wenger has always backed AA23, even to the point of being unpopular. More often than not, the Russian has let the manager down with his efforts. This was borne out by the ill-fated substitution of Oxlade-Chamberlain in the United game in January. The boos ringing around the Emirates that evening, though despicable, were a damning indictment of the Russian’s contribution to the Arsenal cause.
Arshavin has played a total of 3 minutes for Arsenal since that match, having been sat on the bench for 6 games. The loan move to Zenit prior to the all-important North London derby against Spuds confirmed that Arsene no longer sees him as an integral part of the team.
Since his loan move, Andrey has scored a couple of goals for Zenit as they won the Russian Premier League. While his performances have improved over the last 4 games, he shows no signs of regaining the scintillating form he first brought to English football in 2009.
Many players hit a purple patch late in their careers, Tomas Rosicky is a good example. While it is possible Arshavin may yet find a good run of form, I very much doubt it will come to the level demanded by Arsenal. Unlike Tomas who can claim injury problems, Arshavin has only had a relatively small period out in the 2009/10 campaign so it is hardly an excuse the Russian can offer for his troubles.
I believe the main problem with Arshavin has been his work rate. Every great player goes through rough patches and most emerge from it eventually. If Andrey had made up for lack of quality with hardworking performances on the pitch, fans may have been more forgiving. To be fair, he was more energetic this season but his form remained patchy. In the end, with Arsenal trying to climb out of a hole for most of the season, Andrey became a luxury we could not afford.
If he were to return, the Russian will have to produce more than one or two good performances to win back the faith of Arsenal supporters. Unfortunately, neither his body language on the pitch or statements off it suggest he’s capable of doing this.
Regardless of Robin van Persie’s future, I think we’ve seen the end of Arshavin’s time at AFC. It’s unfortunate that his ubdoubted quality could not find consistency at the club. Still, his four-goal haul at Liverpool and ‘that’ winner against Barcelona in the Champions League first leg will live in memory for many many years to come.