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Arshavin Rejoins Zenit: A Tale Of His Sad Decline At Arsenal F.C

As Andrey Arshavin completes his free transfer move back to Zenit St Petersburg, blogger Gooner Daily looks back at his disappointing career at the Emirates.

As Andrey Arshavin completes his free transfer move back to Zenit St Petersburg, blogger Gooner Daily looks back at his disappointing career at the Emirates.

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Every Arsenal fan will forever have lasting memories of that night at Anfield in April 2009. Rafa Benitez and his Red Army were going through their best Premier League campaign in a while as they fought tooth and nail with Manchester United for the Premier League title. When the Gunners visited Merseyside, football neutrals braced themselves for what would be an unforgettable night of football.

Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun scored braces for their team, but the star of the night was undoubtedly Arsenal’s red-hot new signing, Andrey Arshavin.

The first goal on the night was from a Cesc Fabregas pass after some good work by Samir Nasri, he worked the second himself after some poor Liverpool defending, his hat-trick was gifted to him on a platter thanks to more atrocious defending from Liverpool and his fourth came from a brilliant counter attack that was started by Theo Walcott.

His four-goal haul was a reminder of what Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal hierarchy had battled hard to get – the undoubted star of Euro 2008 strutting his stuff in the Premier League. In one of the most protracted transfers I can ever remember, the Gunners secured the deal for the Euro 2008 star on the last day of the 2009 winter transfer window.

His debut campaign was regarded as a major success and the fans drooled with the prospect of what was to come in the subsequent seasons. The Gunners were also excited to see him in the Champions League because he was cup-tied from his involvement with his previous and only club, Zenit St. Petersburg.

After scoring six goals and supplying nine assists in just 15 games for Arsenal, Arshavin came second in Arsenal’s 2009 Player of the Season Poll despite coming in the second half of the campaign. Arsene Wenger, his teammates and most importantly, the fans waited anxiously to see what he could accomplish in a full season with the club.

In his first full season with the club (2009/10 season), Arshavin was tipped for great things and he made a huge statement with his 30-yard stunner against Manchester United at Old Trafford but the Russian’s struggles began when Robin van Persie suffered a terrible ankle injury in a meaningless friendly against Italy.

RvP’s only replacement, Nicklas Bendtner, was nursing an injury as well, so Arsene Wenger was left with no choice but to draft Arshavin into the center forward position. It was believed that the Russian had a foot injury as well, but he played through pain for the good of the team.

While in his newly-found center forward role, Arshavin failed to adapt, was easily picked on by opposition defenders and he obviously offered no threat whatsoever in the air, but he managed to score vital goals against Stoke, Bolton and Liverpool (at Anfield again) before suffering an injury in Arsenal’s 2-2 first leg encounter with Barcelona at the Emirates.

In the end of his first full season with the club, it was a somewhat productive season for Arshavin, as he scored 12 goals and laid on seven assists in 39 appearances.

The 2010/11 campaign saw Samir Nasri go into full bloom but Arshavin’s place came under threat with Theo Walcott knocking on the door, and as the season progressed the Russian went on a downward spiral as he eventually lost his place to the English speedster. Despite falling out of favor with the manager, the 2010/11 campaign was Arshavin’s best in Arsenal colors statistically as he managed to score 10 goals and supply 17 assists despite some appalling displays as the season progressed.

At the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Arshavin held a meeting with his manager to review his future with the club. Wenger indicated that he would not be considered a first-team regular but was welcome to stay and fight for his place. He took up the invitation but found first-team appearances hard to come by.

As his chances at Arsenal further diminished, his place in the Russian National team was under threat, it became glaring that he needed to play regular football to improve his chances of playing for his country in Euro 2012. His previous employers, Zenit, came with an escape route and he grabbed it with open arms.

In his return to Zenit, Arshavin scored three goals and supplied four assists before earning a place in the Russian team that was paired with Czech Republic, Greece and co-hosts, Poland in Euro 2012. Russia were knocked out thanks to the cruel head-to-head rule but Arshavin sparked up some controversy when he harshly declared that he didn’t care how the fans felt in the wake of Russia’s elimination.

He apologized afterwards but it turned out to be the last straw and the diminutive Russian was stripped off his captaincy and hasn’t featured for Russia since, leaving him with 17 goals for his nation in 75 appearances.

Last season, Arshavin has become a peripheral figure at Arsenal as he only featured in cup matches and his contributions in the league were few and far between. His only noteworthy performances in the Premier League was a cross that led to Mikel Arteta’s scrambled finish against Queens Park Rangers and when he was fouled by Sascha Riether for a penalty against Fulham. A usually cool-headed Arteta contrived to miss that one.

When Arshavin was summoned with 15 minutes to go against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he put in an appalling performance and that turned out to be his last appearance of any sorts for the club. In 143 games for Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin scored 31 goals and created 42 assists for his teammates in four seasons…three-and-a-half seasons with the club.

While the highest point of his Arsenal career will undoubtedly be his four-goal haul against Liverpool in April 2009, I can’t think of any lower point in his career than that moment when Arsenal fans went berserk when Arsene Wenger brought him on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in January 2012 against Manchester United. If he had any ounce of confidence left in him, that must have dealt a heavy blow in its own special way.

There was a period when he was regarded as one of the brightest stars in world football but Arshavin’s career is so dark that it’s currently heading into oblivion. In a strange twist of fate, Zenit St. Petersburg have rolled back the years to sign the attacking midfielder on a two-year contract.

As he leaves this summer, I’ll always remember that technically proficient, blushed cheeked and hobbit-like owl that began his career at the club like a house on fire but plummeted into mediocrity due to his lethargy and lack of work ethic.

It’s still shocking to know that he’s Arsenal’s record signing. It’s fair to say that the Gunners didn’t get their true value for money. A sad decline indeed.

This post was originally published on Gooner Daily – you can check out their Facebook page here.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. davi

    June 29, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    The turning point wasn’t when he had to play up front for a while (he wasn’t the only option either btw, Vela really SHOULD have been given his chance there but was overlooked and that’s another story), IMO the turning point was when he scored in (I think) his 2nd game against Liverpool, kicking the ground and injuring himself as he did so. Prior to that goal one of his major qualities was the sheer power with which he hit his shots, which allowed him to beat Gks from anywhere around the box, but since that game I don’t think I’ve seen him hit a single shot like that, and he’s been on the slide ever since. Sad but I do think he could have done more to help himself. He’s no less talented than Rosicky who’s had far more problems but Tomas has always worked extremely hard to ensure he does his bit for the team, even if he perhaps doesn’t have the same ability he had in his younger days.

    • Chris

      June 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      The rest of us remember Arshavin being used over and over – out of position – on the left wing … where he did not know how to play. This in turn was because Wenger had a one dimensional tactical approach. It ruined Arshavin’s confidence. Similarly he often made Ramsey play wide right last season … which could have ruined HIS confidence. This is called wasting the club’s assets.

  2. Mannix

    June 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Arshavin was undoutedly one of the best player if he could get a good leader to motivate him and adviced him to work on his gas,Arshavin proved to be good if he came as a sub and not a starter coz he uses alot of power to run at flanks.Wenger wasted this guy by disposition him in the flanks as he does to L.Poldosky,M. Artete and A. Ramsey

  3. Idose

    June 30, 2013 at 8:09 am

    The arsasinator is of brilliant play maker especially that of against liver fc but AW wasted him as a center forward.

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