Blogs are about opinions. Or so I am told. Well I am about to open myself to ridicule and abuse by giving my opinion on Andrey Arshavin.
Before I get stuck into my gushing love fest, let me say that much of what I will say is based on memories rather than research and facts backed up by figures. And I apologise in advance for factual errors.
I read this article standard.co.uk/sport/football/arsenal-outcast-arshavin-is-ready-to-retire-at-just-32-8565388.html … and I have to admit, I felt like I had been slapped several times with a large wet fish. It was akin to the moment I realised that I had watched Dennis strutting his stuff for the last time.
Now I am not for one moment trying to compare Andrey to Dennis. That would be more than a step too far, but the little chap has given me more joy than any player since The Ice Man hung up his unfillable (is that even a word?)boots.
Just the sight of that impish little fellow brought a smile to my face.
He has in the last two years been MIA. It has been a fall from grace that beggars belief.
With his talent he should have been an all-time Arsenal legend. Well he isn’t, and he wont be. But why not?
I watched him in Euro 2008 and he was quite simply unplayable. When he stood outside the Emirates and declared “I am a Gooner now” we had a genuine world class talent on our hands.
Guus Hiddink said “Arsenal don’t realise what a great player they have gotten”. On the evidence of his first 6 months at the club, few could have disagreed.
I honestly believe he was the most talented player at the club. And that is quite something when you think that both Fabregas and Rosicky were also on the books.
He was a huge factor in us turning the season around and securing our customary Champions League berth. Something that had looked very problematical prior to his arrival. And, as I recall, scoring four goals away at Anfield in the process
The following year if not first name on the team sheet, he was likely second. He scored and assisted at a tremendous rate, and for months played as a lone striker. Something I am sure he didn’t want to, yet never once did we hear a murmur of dissent.
So what the hell happened? What went so badly wrong? It’s depressing me just thinking about it!
There are a few theories.
One of which is that he just got fat and lazy. To this I simply say: “Oh please,do me a favour”
So to the important stuff. This is what I think, if you were wondering!
First off I believe that his spell leading the line did him and his confidence no good at all. He was, for the good of the team, doing a job totally unsuited to his style of play and his mind set. So instead of feeling like a vital contributor to the team, he felt like a passenger. Something that he likely never felt before.
The next big blow to him was Russia – for whom he was the Captain and star – failed to qualify for the world cup. He admitted at the time this hit him hard. Just how hard I don’t think we ever appreciated. I suspect he saw it as his big tournament. What should have been the pinnacle of his career. Perhaps he never really recovered, who knows?
The fact remains that he was never the same player. He flickered, but never really shone again.
There is no getting away from it – you need more than just ability to be a truly great player. You need fight and determination. Perhaps something a bit thin on the ground for Andrey.
There are some who say Arsene ruined him by never giving him a run in his best position. I don’t hold with that. He played wide left, in a somewhat free role, for club and country.
I think that there was a fundamental difference in the way Andrey thought he should play, and wanted to play the game, and the way Arsene required him to play.
He is a high risk, high dividends player. He said in an interview I read that he believes if you want to win, you have to take chances and risks. When you accuse him of losing the ball you also have to balance this against the number of chances he creates. In Euro 2012 he created more chances for Russia in his three games for them than the rest of the Arsenal players did between them. That included such players as RVP, Rosicky and The Ox.
However Arsenal play a possession game. I remember him coming on as a substitute for us when we were trying to hold on to a one goal lead. That night he had 100% pass completion. He could do it. I just don’t think he wanted to.
He is often accused of not tracking back and being lazy. Well let me explain that because you don’t do the former, it does not follow that you are the latter.
I once had an argument with a belligerent chap on twitter about him being lazy in a particular game. When I pointed out that despite him leaving the field around the 80 minute mark, only Mikel Arteta had run further. I was met with a flurry of insults. But the facts were there in black and white .
When he lost the ball he did not immediately run after it and try to reclaim it. Sometimes he put his hands on his hips while he looked to see what space to move into for when one of his team mates got the ball back for him. That’s why he was often so well placed to turn defence into attack. I think he saw it as the job of the midfield to cover the full back ,rather than his. Clearly a lot of our fans – and likely the manager – disagreed with him. Perhaps even I do, too.
If you want someone to scurry around chasing the ball, buy Scott Parker, not Andrey Arshavin. But popular opinion of the supposedly ‘knowledgeable’ (that’s sarcasm, by the way) masses, condemned him as being lazy.
He even got blamed for us conceding the decider against United last year, despite it more being the fault of Vermaelen and Song.
I recall that was the very game that his introduction as substitute had been greeted with a chorus of Boos. Apologists for this scurrilous behavior claim it was not him being booed, rather the substitution. Well I saw his little face when he heard them, and it looked to me that he was surprised and upset. Also I have never had an explanation from these apologists as to why, when his name was read out as a substitute at the next home game, that too was booed.
I have to say that had I been standing next to one of these people who think part of the ticket price is to buy the right to act like a complete bastard, I would have expected a trip to either the Magistrates Court or Casualty, or perhaps both. That incident proved to me that although we have some of the best fans in the country, we also have some of the worst low-life scum imaginable.
That was also the game that despite him tracking Valencia all the way into the box . Always a step behind and unable to make a clean tackle (which it being United, anything else would have resulted in a sure penalty and red card), he did prevent him shooting, but could not stop him laying the ball off to an unmarked team mate. Perhaps he should also have been marking them, whilst dashing to the goal line to make a clearance?
I remember my good friend Stew Black saying at the time
“How can people criticise our plucky little Russian for doing nothing more than trying his best for the team?”
Well they did.
Daniel Cowan, who runs a much respected blog (North London Is Red ) and a person who knows a thing or two about the game, once summed it up in a tweet to me when he said “people don’t understand his game. It’s not about 100% effort 100% of the time”. I agree, he simply is not built physically for that. He is about bursts of extreme effort.
But don’t tell me he is lazy. And don’t just take it from me.
Francis Coquelin, when asked which Arsenal player is the best trainer replied “Andrey Arshavin works really hard”
Also Arsene himself recently said that he cannot accept the criticism of him being lazy and not caring.He in fact said “I am not having that said about him.its not true”
When we played Reading in the Micky Mouse Cup, in the 120th minute he picked the ball up on the halfway line and burst into the box, skipping past umpteen players on the way, he smashed the ball at the goal. By fluke it hit a players heel on the line and landed at Theo’s feet. Goal. Let me repeat – that was the 120 minute mark.
Anyway, I am sure that no one who thinks he is lazy, now thinks any different. But I don’t care. Because I think they are idiots.
His last telling contribution was when he came on as a substitute for a whole two minutes, on a ploughed field, cunningly disguised as the Stadium of Light, and threaded a ball through the eye of a needle for the Old King Henry to poke in the winner. An extra two points and a win that had we not won them might well have seen us condemned to Europa Thursdays. A moment of magic, if ever there was one.
Finally, a bit of pure unsubstantiated speculation on my part.
Some have suggested that RVP had it in for some players. Those players who did not bow to his will and fan is enormous ego. Ramsey and Andrey, apparently, were two of them. If that is the case I understand . Why should Arshavin bow down to any player? And if he did not like Judas, then that’s a good thing as it turns out . He was right not to like the prick. It could though explain his rapid exclusion from the team when Judas was king.
I love Arshavin and I will miss him more than anyone.
Perhaps even Dennis