Where is the genius we adore?
After last night’s game, I was worried, not because we had just lost to a Championship side, or because we had not scored a goal from open play in 3 games, or because we had struggled to match the desire shown by the two lower league sides we had played consecutively. I was worried because these matches only helped me come to terms with the fact that we just might be losing one of the best players of his generation in Andrei Arshavin.
Arshavin’s poor form this season has been a subject of debate among gooners and our loss to Ipswich brought him to a new low. It was his second consecutive start, after being out of the starting eleven for a while and he did his cause no good as he put in another pitiful performance.
When he signed in February 2009, majority of Arsenal fans thought (and rightly so too) we had struck gold; I was particularly surprised he chose us. I mean, he was Zenit’s best player by a country mile, just had an amazing Euro 2008 appearance and had a host of top clubs chasing him.
He announced his arrival with a sumptuous goal against Blackburn, a game in which he supposedly played with a foot injury. But if there is any game which encapsulates the ingenuity of this Russian supremo, it was that game at Anfield. He had 4 shots and 4 top goals in a pulsating encounter. The last of those goals is a collector’s item. Every journalist in the land was singing his praises and Arshavin’s goals and all-round play was arguably the reason we qualified for the Champions League that season.
His second season was not as explosive as the first one. Due to injuries to key personnel, he was forced to play in an unfamiliar role as a lone striker. Arshavin scored 12 goals in a season that was interrupted by a couple of injuries.
Roll on 2010, Arshavin is definitely having a torrid time. He is a big game player and seems to relish the big encounters but his problem is the inconsistency of his performances. The stats disagree though as he currently has 7 goals and quite a handful of assists; but if the stats were a yardstick, then Mikel would one of the best midfielders in the English Premier League. You get my gist, don’t you?
Wenger has stuck by him through all his troubles and you can hardly fault the manager. Arshavin is the sort of player who needs just a minute of focus and desire to turn the team’s fortunes around. Take a look at games against Everton,Wigan,WBA, Arshavin cut his usual dejected figure for majority of the game but he gave telling contributions when needed. Players of Arshavin’s class just don’t go bad overnight, and as such I feel there is a reason for these poor performances.
The most obvious explanation could be his position on the field. Arshavin has not hidden his dissatisfaction at being played on the wings to accommodate Cesc. He is most dangerous from the middle, just behind the striker but there is currently no space for that in the Arsenal team at the moment. His game at the moment requires an excellent work rate, something he is not noted for. This has seen him dropped for the more hardworking Nasri in recent games, with Walcott filling the right wing slot.
Arshavin is not a natural leader; he depends on the inputs of others to make his game effective. That is the reason why when everyone has a bad day, so does he. There is also the debate of whether he has fully settled in England. This is particularly surprising considering that he is in his 3rd season in Premier League. He’s had his run-ins with the press and has complained about the tax and life in England generally.
Whatever it is that has robbed us of the genius we once sang his name, should please release him back to us. Wenger has led by keeping faith in this mercurial Russian and I bet he sees something we fans cannot see. I won’t say I have not been frustrated by his performances but he needs us now more than ever. He won’t get better by us booing him.
We have the big games coming up soon, Barcelona most especially, and I have a sneaky feeling he will be the key to us having a productive end to the season. He thrives on games like the Barcelona one and we need him firing on all cylinders for that game and the ones to come after.
He needs get his confidence back and then we will all see the man Arsene put his trust in and spent so much money on. It’s very possible but believe you me, it’s not going to be an easy task.
I can wait, can you?
9jabred takes his bow!