Tuesday night against Everton might not have been the most memorable game for most people, or if it was it may have been for the wrong reasons, but it could be one of the most important games of Arsenal’s season, because it signaled the return of Andrei Arshavin. His goal was the climax of some improved performances and hopefully the end of his bad form.
This article, using the four P's, will look at just what Arsene Wenger has done to coax the class back into Arshavin’s game.
Although it may have been frustrating at the time, we have to give Wenger credit for the way he man-managed Arshavin early in the season, when it was clear the little Russian magician was not quite up to his usual tricks.
The statistics told a different story. His assists/goals to game ratio was solid, but the amount of good chances he wasted was almost unforgivable and his lethargic gameplay massively frustrating. But Wenger persisted, for a little while.
Eventually, there was only so much he could take, and with Theo Walcott impressing off the bench, Arshavin found the two swapping roles. Sometimes it was Arshavin not coming on at all and often Walcott being used as the spark plug needed for an Arsenal win, with Arshavin often making way.
It’s quite rare that a team repeatedly substitutes its star players and most expensive signings, just 18 months after they bought him, but this was the case for Arshavin. And frankly, the way he was playing, it was what he deserved.
Wenger made it no secret that he was looking for players who played in a similar position to Arshavin, namely Eden Hazard and Alex Chamberlain. It wasn’t as blatant as saying “we need to replace Arshavin,” nor do I suspect Wenger was even inferring that, but an out of form Arshavin must have taken this as a hint that he needed to improve his play.
Arshavin is an intelligent individual. He told Arsenal.com, "I feel that I’m making mistakes that I shouldn’t be - not giving good passes and losing a lot of balls. It’s hard to give reasons but I am working hard to get back to my best and am confident it will come. It’s an unusual situation because I’m not used to being on the bench this much. Maybe I had one period like this back at Zenit St Petersburg but it was a bit shorter. I can’t complain when the team is doing this well, though - our recent form in the league has been excellent."
By no means am I saying Arshavin is playing as well as he ever has for Arsenal, but the last few games have shown the desire return to his game. Against Everton he scored one, against Ipswich he set up two massive goals, and his determination to do well for the team has resurfaced.
Samir Nasri may be injured, but the blow is softened slightly knowing Arshavin is back to show just how dangerous he can be.