Almost four years to the day since Andrey Arshavin put on one of the most devastating displays of attacking football in Premier League history, it has been announced that he will be leaving the Emirates this summer.
In fact he may not just be leaving Arsenal, he may be leaving football altogether.
At 31, the Russian is reportedly considering retirement from a game he was once tipped to reach the pinnacle of.
But barring that one unbelievable night in 2009 – when Arshavin scored all his side’s goals in a 4-4 draw with Liverpool at Anfield – the attacking midfielder’s time in England has been hugely disappointing, to the point of infuriating and inexplicable for those who know what he is capable of.
Arshavin first burst onto the world stage with his outstanding displays for Russia in Euro 2008. Here was a playmaker not just with innate ability, but with the confidence and experience to utilise it.
Perhaps most impressive was the fact that the then-26-year-old missed his country’s first two group games through suspension. And yet he returned in the third match against Sweden to set up one goal and score another, before repeating the feat in the quarter-final against Holland.
Two man-of-the-match performances in just two games reinforced what many admiring clubs had known for a while.
This was a player whose current club, Zenit St. Petersburg, had already turned down offers from Tottenham and Barcelona, a player who had been included in the long-list for the Ballon d’Or, and a player for whom Zenit were asking £22million.
So when Arsenal signed him the following January for £15million, it was hailed as a master-stroke.
Arshavin was a player perfectly in tune with Wenger’s footballing philosophy. And he was ready to propel the Gunners to the next level.
So what happened?
Some say he was lazy. Others say he was a one-game wonder. A few say he wasn’t played consistently in his preferred position. But most would agree it was a shocking waste of talent on his part and money on Arsenal’s.
Arshavin is the perfect example that being good at something is only the start. Hard work, passion and the desire to improve are all necessary if you wish to reach the very top.
Whatever the reasons for the Russian’s failure to consistently produce what fans saw only in dazzling patches, his time at Arsenal will be seen as a failure.
At just 31, he may be leaving the game altogether. A game he is rumoured to have fallen out of love with; but a game that his team-mates and former fans will continue to embrace without him.
Was Arshavin a wasted talent or a one-season wonder? And what memories, other than that 4-4 draw, do Arsenal fans have of him?
image: © wonker