Andrei Arshavin Proves He Can Still Be a Key Player for Arsenal This Season
Just as the memory of Andrei Arshavin's brief brilliance in an Arsenal shirt was beginning to fade, he reminded everyone why he can still play a key role for the Gunners. The diminutive schemer delivered a masterclass performance to inspire Arsenal to a 6-1 Capital One Cup victory over Coventry City.
Arshavin was bright and energetic against the Sky Blues, netting a goal, providing an assist for another and playing a decisive part in two more. In typical Arshavin fashion, the pint-sized playmaker was never short of intelligent ideas and quality in attacking areas.
The stylish performance was a reminder of how Arshavin can still be useful in Arsene Wenger's plans for the season. His versatility and flair mean Arshavin can fill in anywhere along the front three.
He has played in wide areas before, admittedly with varying degrees of success. However, Arsenal's fluidity and movement are higher this season and that suits the way Arshavin loves to play the game.
He is a natural wanderer when at his best, able to influence attacks from any area of the pitch. His mercurial talent and quick-thinking skills need a strong amount of freedom on the field in order to flourish.
Both Lukas Podolski and Gervinho have already shown how Arsenal's front three is working this season and Arshavin should take note, as he attempts to salvage his dormant career. Wenger's use of the "false No. 9" formation against both Southampton and Manchester City is also good news for the Russian.
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Arshavin is tailor-made for the interchangeable role through the middle. He played there during the 2009/10 season and was particularly successful against Stoke City and Liverpool, scoring decisive goals against both teams.
Where Arshavin could really surprise is in the role occupied expertly by Santi Cazorla. As the forward member of Arsenal's midfield trio, Cazorla's creativity and dynamism has been crucial to the quality of Arsenal's game.
However, there aren't many other players in the squad ideally suited to this vital position. Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky were solid but nothing more in the role last season.
Arshavin is the kind of crafty attacker who would thrive if needed to fill in for Cazorla. The idea seemed more risky in the past, when Arsenal's midfield operated a little deeper.
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However, this season the formation is morphing more into a 4-2-4, with the attacking midfielder operating strictly in advanced areas. Those are the positions where Arshavin does his damage.
Of course, it's always wise to temper expectations for Arshavin. He produced a similar level of performance last season, in this same competition, against Bolton Wanderers. That didn't lead to a revival in league form and keeping Arshavin motivated and interested always seems a challenge.
While it might take time for Wenger to trust Arshavin's on-the-pitch commitment again, his sterling performance tonight shows his Arsenal days are not numbered yet. It's an oft-quoted phrase that "class is permanent" and it certainly does Arsenal no harm to have a player of Arshavin's class and pedigree in reserve.
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