Russian striker/winger Andrey Arshavin arrived at Arsenal with high hopes after a dream run in the Euro 2008 competition. As a result of his brilliant displays, he was rightly named in the UEFA's team of the tournament for Euro 2008.
Expectations were sky high when Arsene Wenger signed him to replicate his mesmerising football on a grander canvas for Arsenal.
Has he been a success story so far? Make no mistake, he has scored 23 times for Arsenal in over 55 games in all competition. A decent tally for someone who's more of a versatile attacking midfielder than a striker.
Although he has savoured enchanting moments at Anfield during his relatively short stint in English football, Arshavin's stay at Arsenal has been more of a topsy-turvy affair.
His first few months in the Premier League has been nothing short of a flamboyant dream which saw him becoming the Premier League player of the month in April 2009. After casting his magic spell on the world stage through one of the finest competitions in Euro Cup, it was only expected of him to have the kind of start that he had.
Arshavin's quick feet and elegant dribbling skills won him numerous fans from Arsenal as well as from rival clubs alike. He also has a few memorable goals to his name; some of them underline why Arshavin is a rare gem.
For instance, his stunning goal against Blackburn from a near-zero angle just reminds you of how good a player he is. Unfortunately, people start doubting his ability when he goes through rough patches from time to time.
What lead to the decline of such a classy player?
He was never known for his persistence and team-play. He thrived on moments of inspiration to get into the game in his own unique style. You wouldn't see him passing the ball around and waiting for things to happen with a slow and steady build-up.
He likes to take on defenders with his direct approach. He has a commendable knack of taking on and beating defenders with utmost ease. Add to that his ability to find the back of the net with awe-inspiring thunderbolts, and you have the worst nightmare for any defender to deal with.
However, in recent times Arshavin hasn't been able to reach anywhere near his best. The stats wouldn't lie but that doesn't tell the whole story.
Greater things were expected of him, in particular, after the showpiece 4-4 draw against Liverpool at Anfield in which he scored all four goals for the Gunners. Things haven't been so rosy since then.
He was expected to bring those improbable moments in tough games when Arsenal failed to break opposition down with intricate passing sequences. Initially he did that more on a regular basis, but as time passed by, his moments of magic had become as rare as a fantastic save from Almunia.
His most potent weapon—dribbling—seems to let him down more often than not nowadays. He misplays even a basic pass more often now than ever before. And more importantly his body language at times does seem more of a disinterested soul than of a player who wants to win things at Arsenal.
He's slowly but steadily losing his charm. Even more worrying is the fact that quite a few Arsenal supporters are calling for his head.
Those who admire Arshavin might harbour a feeling that part of the reason behind his lack of form is Wenger's decision to play him out of position. Whenever Arshavin has played through the middle he looked more dangerous. Having said that, he doesn't have the passing range or discipline to play as an attacking midfielder.
His best position is the role of a second-striker.
However, Wenger likes to operate with a lone striker supported by an attacking midfielder and two wingers on either side. That means the Russian has to take up either of the two wings.
Being on the left flank allows Arshavin to cut-in and have a crack at goal with his favoured right foot, hence Wenger sensibly deployed Arshavin on the left flank plus Arsenal's versatile midfield allows him to exchange positions readily.
In short, position has got nothing to do with Arshavin's less than impressive outings in recent times.
If indeed he's disinterested, a transfer could work for him to regain his form that took him to the most fruitful realm of world football.
Arshavin once proclaimed that he would welcome a move to Barcelona one day. That land is fertile at the moment, but would he find his feet if he did make a move to Barcelona?
Metaphorically, that's far less likely to happen than Wenger spending in excess of £19.9m for one single player.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's chaotic stint at Barcelona explains why Arshavin wouldn't have a great time out there if he did make the move. Both Ibrahimovic and Arshavin aren't the most active of players. Instead they have the in-born ability to change the phase of a game singlehandedly with flashes of individual brilliance.
Barcelona, on the other hand, focus on team play and follow a footballing philosophy that is as disciplined as the Barcelona fans, where players like Ibrahimovic, Arshavin et al don't fit in. Of course exceptions are there as you would expect, and Leo Messi is one of them!
What Barcelona need is hard-working players who are willing to press hard to win back the possession when they lose it.
Another quality that Barcelona expect in their players is impeccable passing skills. Arshavin doesn't sport any of these qualities. So it would be too naive to envisage that Arshavin wouldn't find himself in a position similar to that of Ibrahimovic when the latter was a Barcelona player not so long ago.
All the Barcelona sideshow aside, Arshavin is a class act. He may not be a superstar as of yet.
He just needs to buckle down a bit and combine his natural talents with sensible football by showing the right attitude to achieve the elusive precious little thing called consistency, which is one of the most important aspects for a footballer vying for the topmost spot in the world of football.
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