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The Curious Case of Andrei Arshavin.

If anyone told me on April 30, 2009 that a day would come when an Arsenal fan wouldn’t want to see Arshavin kick a ball for Arsenal, I’d have told them to have their brain checked!

30th April was the day after the magical night at Anfield, a game in which he single-handedly took the game to Liverpool, scoring 4 beautiful goals. Most fans (including myself) were probably thinking then that our messiah had arrived.

Arshavin’s transfer to Arsenal was as protracted as they come, but we managed to beat the deadline for his signature. He joined at a time we were struggling, we were outside the top 4 and then ran the risk of missing out on UCL football.

But his arrival was like a breath of fresh air, the unbridled enthusiasm that accompanied him was there for all to see.

He didn’t disappoint. From January to May he gave us good game after game and took us back into the top four. I think it’s fair to say we couldn’t have made it without him.

His next season was not as explosive, he could not replicate the form he showed the previous term. As time went on, he began to lose form and his performances began to drop. He complained about being played out of position but nothing changed.

Roll on 2011 and people were beginning to complain, his commitment was even questioned atimes. Many felt he didn’t care about playing for the club, a claim I think emanated from his demeanour on the field of play.

What do I think? Arshavin is a honest individual as evident in his comments and he criticizes himself more than anyone of us does.

My fear is he’s done this to the extent it has affected his confidence. This is probably why things rarely work out for him. The cloud of invincibility around him has evaporated, the belief is missing.

What happened yesterday is sad and unfortunate. A player steps on the pitch on his home ground, and he gets booed; even the man who is supposed to be his strike partner questions his introduction.

We can all think the boos were as a result of The Ox going off. Granted that was a tactical error, maybe Theo Walcott shoud have gone instead. However if we look at it critically, it works both ways. What kind of message are we sending to the player coming on?

The second goal was not his fault as he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Vermaelen was found wanting, Arshavin tried to help, he did, twice! But because he wasn’t successful, people blamed him for the goal. It just doesn’t make sense to me!

If his own fans and captain won’t give him a chance, how do we expect anything productive? For all our noise about Andrei, he got two assists against QPR and Swansea; two great passes I doubt any of our other forwards (apart from RVP) could have executed successfully. Moments like these are why Arsene persists with him and I understand.

Arshavin has not been in the best of form and he is always the first to admit he isn’t pulling his weight; even Wenger agrees. Fans pay for tickets so they are free to express themselves in whichever manner they deem fit.

However, the manner in which he was made a scapegoat in yesterday’s game is totally unfair and I just feel no player should be subjected to such treatment, at least not in a place he calls home.

Have a good day wherever this post meet you. Do share your thoughts with me in the comments.

Keep it goonerish!

Seventh Year

Arsenal

It has been quite a summer for Arsenal with the Gunners without doubt being the champions of transfer speculations all through. Can Arsène Wenger and his charges end a run of seasons without a competitive trophy at the seventh attempt?

An answer to that largely depends on the club’s mental approach going into matches and this is in two aspects. Firstly, we must kill games when leading and in the inability to do so, be able to hold onto such advantage till after the final whistle as evident from both legs of last season’s north London derby and home matches against Liverpool, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and West Bromwich-Albion as well as the infamous implosion at Newcastle where we ironically open this season’s campaign.

The other aspect of our mental approach to games is how we fare in the months of February and March, months that have proved the Achilles Heel in the leap towards a trophy in the last four seasons.

Last season’s episode proved the most painful, we suffered defeat to Birmingham City (now of the Championship) in the League Cup final on the last day of February, before enduring a mediocre run of form in March that pretty much ended all other title ambitions on other fronts.

And there’s the additional mental jabs dealt the team now no thanks to speculations surrounding the future of Samir Nasri & Fabregas who has reportedly agreed to a deal to return to his boyhood club. Which means a new era is about to start, one without the club’s best player. But no one man or player is greater than the club.

Meanwhile the latter is once more reportedly close to completing a £22m move to oil rich Manchester City, some reports even suggesting he may do so before the protracted tug for Fàbregas finally ends.

Arsenal’s hopes of ending the trophy drought will now rest on 20 year old Jack Wilshere(albeit not solely) as it was the English international who flourished – when Fàbregas was mostly half fit or out injured last season – with consistent and assured performances. While possessing admirable mental and physical strength, the rest of the team will determine just how much impact Wilshere will have this season.

With Laurent Koscielny apparently being the notable addition to the team last season, the Gunners actually did well until those dreaded months. This term, Ivorian forward Gervinho has joined and impressed so far with his quick feet and good composure.

Other than him, Wenger has (annoyingly) kept to his policy with a roll call of highly rated youngsters such as Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Ryo Miyaichi. The transfer window however is still over a fortnight from closing so some much needed experienced players may yet arrive at the Emirates.

While awaiting those, Gooners will be banking on Robin van Persie to pick up from the fiery form of the second half of last season that saw the Dutchman finally show us his potential with a high return on goals per game. Having him fit for a whole season on such form leaves the heights attainable by the team optimistically imagined.

In the event of him being out injured as he is sadly prone to, Theo Walcott gets my nod to spearhead the front ahead of the overly disappointing Marouane Chamakh and the England international has publicly stated his desire to play upfront rather than on the wings.

Last season, he posed a real threat to defences with his raw speed that was, unlike previous seasons, complemented with much technique. This sort of form gives promise of this season being perhaps a breakthrough season for the 21 year old.

Those other than the above players that could contribute to a successful league campaign, and perhaps success in any of the other competitions, are Thomas Vermaelen, Andrei Arshavin, Koscielny and goalkeepers Lukasz Fabianski and Woijcech Sczeszny just as I’m personally looking forward to how Aaron Ramsey fares with Abou Diaby’s injury presenting the Welsh midfielder a chance to impress.

Vermaelen on his part was out virtually all of last season injured and Squillaci failed woefully as partner to Koscielny. Consequently, the efficiency of our physios this season actually comes in just behind the team’s mental maturity as deciding factors on how this season will pan out.

Arsenal’s campaign begins at St. James’ Park in Saturday’s evening kick-off having survived getting postponed due to the violent scenes that besieged streets in London and Birmingham.

That match is then followed in quick sequence by games against title rivals Liverpool and Manchester United, with the Champions League qualifier against Italian side Udinese buttered between those red encounters.

In all honesty, Arsenal are strong contenders for the title and hopefully we avoid burning out at those times aforementioned!

That said, enjoy the season ahead, it’s great to finally be getting underway!

C’mon You Smokin’ Gunners!!!