29 Comments

Oh Andrey, Don’t Leave Me This Way

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.

LadyArse@LadyArse 19 Jan

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

29 comments on “Oh Andrey, Don’t Leave Me This Way

  1. Anyone who disagrees will be taken out and shot by my friends in the KGB

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  2. *coughs* Excuse the slight tangent:

    http://www.101greatgoals.com/gvideos/basel-v-tottenham-penalty-shooutout/

    Paul I fell asleep and missed the tinies tumble. That bribe to the Basle ‘keeper worked a treat : )
    I suppose that I should not wish injuries upon the vastly superior Tottenham squad.

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  3. That cross for Henry’s last goal was legendary. I can’t describe it: off balance, on the half step…incredible is the right word. There are few players out there who can pull such things off when it matters. It’d have been nice for him to have come on against Milan, but that is not a bad way to sign off (I know he has played this season but after he went on loan to Zenit that was it I guess). Arsenal’s last title charge ended in a home game against Sunderland. For some reason which I do understand know the referee somehow missed two trips/kicks on Andrei whilst inside the pelanty area. Floodlights in the eye? One of those tiny tiny birds (anyone know the species?) that hunt moths & insects at TNHOF got in the refs line of sight? I don’t know. Anyway, Andrei took that game by the scruff of the neck. Lazy? I don’t think so. If his competitive instinct was dulled a little after that game, well, I can sympathise.

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  4. typo > for some reason which I do not understand…

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  5. Nice blog George and I genuinely mean that (not just because you said very nice albeit untrue things about me… everyone knows I talk out of my arse… or least that’s what I’m told).

    I had forgotten that I had said that about Andrey and am surprised you remember but I think I am right (am I allowed to agree with myself having forgotten what I said?). Andrey’s game was never about 100% effort 100% of the time and that is what made him so unsuitable for the role he was asked to play and maybe why he should be respected for doing that role to the best of his ability. Sure he could have tracked back more often but that would have negated the reasons why he was picked in the first place and as such would have made him a waste of a pick.

    He was bought and played to make the attack tick and for the best part he did. I once said that I don’t care if a player does sod all for 89 minutes as long as what he does do in the remaining 1 counts for something (which I was widely ridiculed for as usual… are you sure you don’t want to delete what you said about me? :)). Andrey falls into that. He often contributed very little in the overall game but when he did something it mattered and I’m not just talking about goals and assists. Andrey for me was even better at an underrated talent than another maligned ex-Soviet star was (Hleb) and that was the pre-assist-assist. He was excellent at making a pass to the best placed man to make an assist or making a pass to a man and then making a run that drew defenders away from the next destination of the ball.

    I’ve always said that Andrey was ruined by the stint up front where he was kick to shreds by typical EPL defenders who were 3 times his size for the good of the team. A part of me still wants him to have a future but only if he can play in the position that Rosicky is so admirably filling. I think he can offer what Rosicky offers and I’ve long said (and been ridiculed for…. there’s a theme here) that Santi is more effective out wide and Rosicky (or Arshavin) should play through the middle. It is often pointed out to me that Santi’s best work from the wings comes when he cuts inside and that is why I am an idiot and Santi should play in the centre. I would agree with them but stupidly I have taken into account the fact that Santi spent 97% of his career pre-Arsenal on the wings cutting inside and the fact that EPL teams quickly “wised-up” to Santi in the middle and marked him out of games and playing him wide makes it almost impossible to man-mark him without leaving a gap that Rosicky et al or whoever will exploit.

    Long story short. I’d like Andrey to rise from the ashes but sadly it will not happen and I too will lament his empty place at the Arsenal legends table as his talent deserved no less.

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  6. Just emerging from the bunker George…

    to say…I agree with every word of that. A fitting tribute indeed. Bravo to the little Russian maestro. A great pity it didn’t work out in the long run. A lovely footballer, bags of natural talent. One of them there “trophy players” I believe they call ’em. Already seen the odd person trying to shove some of the blame on AW (if these folks trip over a loose paving stone or snag themselves shaving do they shout “f*cking Wenger!”) for Andrei’s career nosedive. I don’t know why it didn’t really work, lots of theories, and ultimately, that’s all we are left with.

    Actually that’s not all we are left with. We are left with some cracking memories of moments of breathtaking skill. Too few maybe, for his time with us, but more than many players could ever hope to conjure.

    And if he really did suss out the lil’ Dutch boy…then one more reason to love him.

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  7. i think that the answer is in the details between the 433 and 4231 arsenal plays. …in the 433 the two side attacking players of the forward 3 defend in fornt of their fullbacks..in the 4231 like we played with reading at home we have the two wingers of the forward 3 in 433 playing right behind the targetman together with rosicky.

    i think that when we played liverpool we were on 4231 and he scored 4…him cesc and nasri were playing what cazorla rosi and gervinho were playing last week with reading ..in anfiled bendtner the targetman in reading giroud. we had the same setup against barca in second half – highline 4231 …again song wilsh the two mids , nasri cesc arsh the three amc;s behind bendtner…whereas in benitez 4231 the two side attacking players of the 3 behind the striker will be seen to hug the by-line ( rieira, kuyt, garcia…now mata and hazard) ..in wengers they all play central ..all in the hole..when we play 433 though poldi and theo play on the line..and they are also asked to defend, something which was a bit too much for arshavin at the rates the premier league is played..in zenit or in international football even when played on the left he barely defended..not the same in epl… in the years we had arshavin our majority of players were more suitable for the 433 and perhaps it cost him a bit.

    tremendous player, i felt too that he would become a historical player for arsenal (i.e win the big one for us) …but truth be told,,.when/if he decides to PLAY he can destroy anyone in front of him….very clever player.

    gervinho shudlnt be dropped….in 1vs1 he is the best we have , he toys with opponents …if the first dont lead to a goal or assist , the second will, if not that then the thrid…he will keep doing it and doing it ..in 90 mins he will create a lot. open play or closed spaces , no problem he can work in both..and with cazorla who can work both feet its just incredible…advanced football technologies = arsenal ….destroy them all..

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  8. Is it out of the question that he might play now that TV has a slight hamstring problem?

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  9. There are players who had everything they needed to become true Arsenal legends. We all know who they are but they were robbed of the chance or chose not to take the chance through injury, homesickness, greed, spinelessness or on pitch criminal assault. But in the case of the little Russian wizard I just cannot say where it went wrong. He had everything and that video shows us just what we’ve missed.
    Perfect tribute George and I was right when i said the Zenit loan was not the end despite all and sundry telling us he’d never play again so maybe there is a tiny chance it’s not too late?
    But I have to say this time I believe it’s over. A real shame. The legend that never was. He joins an illustrious list.

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  10. A very bright and talented player who flourished with Zenith and in his opening year at AFC.
    Probably no one reason that tipped him from among the best footballers in Europe to a marginal player at our club – Russian players have historically found it difficult to settle in other leagues, that he played as a central striker at times, that we were not firing anywhere ion the pitch at times as we had done, that he had never been used to rotation or time on the bench, his WC disappointment …………………….

    Still for those few starburst performances thank you very much Andrei – you have made your permanent mark in N5

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  11. Very good article and a quite sad, regarding the fate of Arshavin. I saw him first at Euro 2008 and he was indeed unplayable. I think your reasoning regarding where it went wrong is also spot on.

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  12. Wenger: ‘Tottenham out of Europe? I don’t care,’

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  13. i will say this.

    arshavin was overplayed when his form was poor.

    arshavin then wasn’t given too many chances when he showed glimpses of improvement.

    apparently it was bad management.

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  14. George – A very brave tribute. We all know you’ve always had a tender spot for the little Russian, the player most of us associate with your meerkat persona. Yet it would have been easy and even understandable for you to join the usual procession of online bastards who are quick to bury someone whom they once called a colossus. It is obvious that that somewhere in the past year the relationship with Arsenal hit the rocks but while we mourn we can we can sing Andrei’s praises. Thank’s George.

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  15. and it is not everyday do i question management at arsenal.

    my little russian czar brought me so much joy.. his is the only jersey i bought after the 10 Bergkamp i had for many years..

    some players score, some assist, some pass and some tackle.

    some players like dennis weave magic – arshavin was one among those.

    Will miss Arshavin like anything..never did i post when fabregas left, van persie, song or nasri – i did not care then

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  16. Oh ho hum,I have depressed myself reading that

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  17. Nice one again George, excellent, really – sincere, heartfelt stuff.

    For what it’s worth I suspect Andrey will command an entire chapter of his own when “Le Prof: I Did It Moi Way” is finally published. Could make especially interesting reading. And of course he’s (Arsh) is not alone in joining the ranks of those huge talents who, for whatever reason, fail to kick on in their careers. Torres being possibly the most glaring of those (given his apparent cost).

    Roll on tomorrow, have ticket, will travel and looking forward to probably not freezing my knacks off for the first time since about October.

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  18. For me the key was that Arshavin is a confidence player, and he needs to feel loved. Which he was, in abundance, when he first arrived, but this seemed to slowly dwindle as some fans began to take issue with the fact he was not a James Milner workhorse and began to tag him, wrongly, as ‘lazy’ and ‘disinterested’. And giving a confidence player scathing criticism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the words of Villas-Boas, a “negative spiral”. Criticism > lower confidence > weaker performance > more criticism.

    But Andrey always had the support of the manager and he continued to be highly productive despite some fans turning on him. Even when he found himself dropped for Theo midway through the 10-11 season, which must have put another dent in his confidence, he contributed well from the bench and finished the season on 10 goals and 17 assists.

    I think the big turning point for Andrey was when Cesc and Nasri left. He must have felt this was his chance of becoming a key player for Arsenal once again after spending the last six months on the bench. To then find himself even further away from the first team, behind the new boys Gervinho and even an 18 year old Chamberlain, must have been a huge blow. Then he’s booed at Old Trafford and blamed for the defeat, his absolute nadir. A spell away from Arsenal was needed and some time back in his home club could have been the thing to invigorate him for this season, but with more additions in the form of Podolski and Cazorla his opportunities have been more limited than ever.

    It’s a sad case of ‘what could have been’ but to my mind he gave us two and a half wonderful years, and many unforgettable moments.

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  19. a great tribute and encompassing one of the greatest mysteries since the great Highbury one many years ago,
    lets be honest ANDREY made us smile, however quite how his tribute video clip only lasted seven minutes is testament to the what was and not what could of been.
    as has already been mentioned he was a high risk player and in the end I believe he got the ginola syndrome where he was costing more than the rewards he was reaping.
    GP why I think it is out of the question he will replace TV I have been suggesting that if TR7 doesn’t make it against Norwich then its simples who should cause the spark in and around the area
    He will be missed and certainly not all players can have that as their epitaph

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  20. Wouldn’t surprise me if Andrei had a part to play in the last seven games.Maybe score a hattrick against the Mancs and get the cunt who shall not be named sent off.

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  21. oh yes frank…..I love you

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  22. Brilliant George but its a bloody tragedy really,what went wrong? who’s to blame? only Andre & the boss knows for sure,imagine him playing with the invincibles? I think th14 & Dennis in their pomp would have loved him,bloody hell now I’m even sadder.

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  23. I remember Arsene expressing a doubt as to how Arshavin would manage in the PL during Euro 2008, so it was somewhat surprising that he went ahead and bought him. But when you consider how down in the dumps we were and how much we needed a spark at that time, he clearly decided to take a risk. Although AA brought us some great highs, it turns out that Arsene’s fears were well founded and in the end, the PL was not the right environment for his talents. It’s sad to see his Arsenal career fizzle out in this way, but we’ll always have the memories.

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  24. Very sad that Arshavin did not become a legend at Arsenal. However, we shall remember him! We will tell our kids/grandkids about the Arsenal we watched and the excitement seeing the name Arshavin on the team sheet brought the old man.

    I think it was George who said sometime ago that Arshavin would have done well in the invincibles as a luxury player. The combination with Henry against Sunderland was magical and perhaps it is a sign that the statement was true. He had two guys tracking him, the penalty area was crowded, the clock was ticking, Henry was flanked by two defenders. Arshavin hits a parabolic ball that is meant only for Henry and which Henry pokes through with his shin. Magical.

    It is a real shame that I never got to see my dream midfield of Rosicky, Diaby and Arteta with Arshavin on the left and theo on the right with Gervinho/Giroud/Podolski in the middle in action.

    I am not a big hugger of guys. However, seeing what was happening during the home game against manure, and seeing the looks on their faces, I wanted to hug Wenger and Arshavin and tell them to ignore the ingrates and that we were with them.

    Wenger has said today that Arshavin will probably look somewhere else this summer. I hope too that there is one more magical moment he will give us. Perhaps a curler into the top corner against Manure leaving Judas stone faced and the fickle crowd cheering Arshavin on.

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  25. AA23..our lil’ czar…sigh….

    definitely no ONE explanation can explain the withering of our mercurial cherub.
    I tag it as right man, wrong era….there were way too many wasted moments c/o many inexperienced players.
    AA always looked better with experience & grit around him not apprentices.

    I hope AW gives him enough minutes to flash his panties @ all of us before he sets sail.

    Love you Andrey Arshavin..Oh yes I do!
    for me..what’s left of that vintage romance resides now with the man aka Mozart.

    RASERS!

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  26. …oh, f**kit,
    my squad vs the Canaries…

    Fabianski
    Sagna-Kos-Verm-Nacho
    Rambo-Arteta-Santi
    AA-Giroud-Gervinho

    +Vito, Jenks / Coq, Gibbs Ox, Theo, Jack, Poldi.

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  27. i wish arsenal can give him a 1 yr rolling contract… it would be nice for him to recover his form… really nice. the pressure these last few games is much to risk a recovery of form… i would give it to him to be able to do it, but the manager cant afford that this season… has to keep his winning team going

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  28. George just reading this now. I missed it… I did expect a post of this sort from yourself so should have searched.

    I completely agree and have always tried to put these points across. I just never managed to get to this level of passion and clarity. Good on you mate.

    You can not make enough of the fact that once again in the 2012 euros Arshavin once again ran the show. Wether it was the fact he played centrally behind the striker, wether it was him feeling that he belonged more or wether it’s the fans voice that drives him… I know one thing, the fact that we didn’t get as much out of Arshavin is more to do with circumstance than the player himself.

    Perhaps it was those 2 other players you mentioned that Arshavin lost out to. Fabregas and Rosicky both played the roles I would have loved to see AA23 (*bows head) occupying. Another team another time would have seen Arshavin being mentioned in the same breath as Pires, I have no doubt.

    Arshavin was in a team that more importantly than ever all had to ‘muck in’. As you say that’s just not him. I hope that wherever he goes he is signed to a defensively solid team that can afford a player to simply dazzle. Ironically and rather cruelly I think we have become that ourselves and now more than ever we need that type of player. That’s football for you, it’s all about timings through and through.

    Chin up george, I really hope you find another Arsenal player to latch onto and champion as much you have with Arshavin!

    Miyachi anyone??

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  29. […] fellow blogger BlackburnGeorge pointed out in his article, maybe RVP’s hissy fits with players affected him profoundly, as they did Aaron Ramsey, if you […]

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