Arsenal FC: Why Andrei Arshavin Is Not One of Wenger's Worst Signings
At the 11th hour of the January transfer deadline day of 2008-09, a snowstorm in southeast England threatened to keep Arsene Wenger from spending a club-record fee on a striker from Zenit St. Petersburg.
Despite protracted agreements and mass confusion from the Sky Sports News reporter camped outside London Colney, Arsenal agreed a £15 million deal for Andrei Arshavin, smashing previous record fees paid for Sylvain Wiltord and Samir Nasri.
The signing represented a gradual move away from Professor Wenger's reliance on the youth system, and a financial gamble for a famously frugal organization.
Fast-forward four years and there's barely a kind word to be said about the Russian forward. Many Arsenal fans dismiss him as lazy and uncommitted, and it is clear that Arsene Wenger has lost his faith in him.
He has only started two games for the Gunners this season in the League Cup. His only appearance of 2013 came in the 74th minute of the 2-1 loss to Chelsea.
Arshavin's contract runs out at the end of the season and it seems very unlikely that the Gunners will offer to renew it.
After a loan spell back at Zenit, a potential January window move to Reading failed to get off the ground, with the striker apparently reticent to join a team bound for relegation.
Some reports—such as this one published in The Telegraph—suggest the unwanted striker could even retire this summer at the age of 32, but The Metro say he was "shocked" by the idea of hanging up his boots, particularly with Russia doing so well in World Cup qualification ahead of next summer's tournament.
In their report of the current situation, The Sun open with a sentence exclaiming that Arshavin "will go down as one of Arsene Wenger's worst signings."
I must take exception to this statement.
In his first 10 starts for the club, he scored six goals and provided five assists. During that debut Premiership season, he displayed great movement and vision, was strong with both feet and knew how to strike a dead ball.
In his fifth start, he showed how easily he had adapted to the English game with a masterful performance against Blackburn, where he almost single-handedly took them apart and scored a superb solo goal—from a right foot that needed eight stitches at halftime.
Perhaps his career highlight came in April 2009, when he scored all of Arsenal's goals in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Anfield, against a Liverpool side who were top of the table at the time. No Arsenal player had scored four in a game since Julio Baptista in 2007, while he was only the sixth-ever Premier League player to score four away from home.
This was reflected when he earned both Arsenal and the Premier League's Player of the Month award for April 2009, and when he was handed the captain's armband the following month.
Despite playing only half of his debut season, he came second in Arsenal's Player of the Year awards with nearly 20 percent of the vote.
Would one of Wenger's worst signings really earn that kind of kudos?
In 2009-10 Arshavin outscored (an oft-injured) Robin van Persie and was the joint second-highest scorer behind Cesc Fabregas. The following season, however, his form began to slide, as he managed just six goals in 37 Premier League appearances.
Great performances have become rarer, negative body language has become more frequent and the man named "The Meerkat" by his teammates is lucky to watch a game from the dugout these days.
Clearly, Arshavin's moment in the North London sun has passed, but to call him one of Wenger's worst signings suggests a short memory. Also, it gives credit to many of the Frenchman's more questionable additions to the squad.
Was Andre "I swap shirts at half time" Santos a better signing? What about Francis Jeffers? Or Park Chu-Young, who is still on the books at the Emirates for some reason. Marouane Chamakh started his Arsenal career brightly just like Arshavin, but he could also be considered more disappointing.
Perhaps Arshavin has been underused in recent months. Perhaps he deserved to be left out of the squad. Either way, he doesn't deserve to be remembered for his drop in form, his baffling array of facial expressions or his odd canon of YouTube clips. His current perception is not befitting of his contributions.
Hopefully the Russian will be picked up by another club who help him rediscover the spark he lit when he first arrived in London four years ago.
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