Andrei Arshavin has been named as part of Arsene Wenger’s 18-man Arsenal squad that faces Coventry City in the Capital One Cup this evening. The Russian has yet to start for the Gunners this season, having slipped down the pecking order at the Emirates.
Arshavin signed for Arsenal on (technically after) the January transfer window deadline in 2009. His former club Zenit received a healthy £15million from Arsenal for the procurement of his services. He had interested several big clubs in the run-up, due to his bright performances for Russia in Euro 2008.
The Russian made his debut for Arsenal in February 2009 against Sunderland in a goalless draw but soon found the net for the Gunners against Blackburn Rovers less than a month later.
In April 2009 he was named Man of the Match as he scored all four of Arsenal’s goals in a spectacular 4-4 draw away at Anfield – a feat that hadn’t been achieved in the top division since 1946.
The following season Arshavin scored his first Champion’s League goal for Arsenal against Celtic in a game the Gunners won 3-1. He also netted a sensational goal from 30 yards out against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The little Russian was becoming a handful in and around the box – his small stature, at only 5ft7”, saw him wriggle free of his markers, his trickery and technical ability often too much for opposing defenders, only compounded by his low centre of gravity.
Early 2010 saw him somewhat surprisingly fill in at centre forward for Arsenal, as Robin van Persie’s season-long injury left the Gunners with a gaping hole up front. The Russian, a natural winger and attacking midfielder, took well to his new position; scoring once and assisting another against Stoke in a 2-0 win at the Emirates.
After an injury at the end of the 2009/10 season, Arshavin’s form in the 2010/11 season was inconsistent. With Arsenal’s Robin van Persie on the mend, Arsenal had also signed Marouane Chamakh to add to their striking options.
He seemed anonymous at times, and took criticism for his lack of defensive work – failing to chase back to protect his full back on several occasions and his passing accuracy fell as he gave the ball away time and time again.
There were hopes that he’d regain his form when he scored the winning goal in surprise overturn of 2-1 at the Emirates against Barcelona. But, in what could be argued is a vicious cycle – players need to play to find consistency, but if they don’t perform consistently, they’re less likely to play – Arshavin failed to regain his confidence.
Since then, after last season’s loan spell back at Zenit, the player has returned to London - having turned down transfer offers from several European clubs– he instead opted to fight for his place on the Arsenal team sheet, a risky move but something which he might get the opportunity to do tonight.