Arsenal broke their transfer record to sign Russia international Andrey Arshavin from Zenit St Petersburg in 2009, but the winger struggles to even make the Gunners' bench these days.
In the first two seasons for the Gunners he seemed to live up to the high fee, playing exciting football and scoring goals. But something changed after that and the little Russian become stagnant.
Arshavin has received much praise and many man-of-the-match awards in a Gunners shirt but one that stood out was against Liverpool in April 2009, when Arshavin scored all four of Arsenal’s goals in an exhilarating 4-4 draw against Liverpool at Anfield – becoming the first player to score four goals in a single game at Anfield since 1946.
Other accolades include being voted Arsenal’s Player of the Month on several occasions and even placed second in Arsenal’s Player of the Season poll in his first season, despite only playing in the second half of the season. He had a good 2009/10 season as well, picking up many more goals and important goals at that, scoring in several important Champions League fixtures. But after that something happened with the Russian’s confidence and his form dipped dramatically.
He still featured in the 2010/11 season and scored a goal that will be remembered by Arsenal fans for a long time: the match winner against Barcelona in their last 16 clash of two years ago. It was the first ever victory over Barcelona for Arsenal and Arshavin was once again the fans’ hero. It was short-lived, however, and appeared to be an unusual peak in an otherwise unimpressive season for the former Russian captain.
One of the problematic facets of Arshavin’s game while he played on the left was the inability or unwillingness to track back when Arsenal were on the back foot and had to defend. He also became highly ineffective in attack and lost the ball easily. It has been said that Arsene Wenger didn’t play to the former Zenit man’s strengths and he should have deployed him through the middle.
Whatever may have been the cause for the slump in his career, in the end Arshavin can only blame himself. During the 2011/12 season, Wenger had finally had enough of the Russian’s poor form and sent him on loan to his former club in St Petersburg. He failed to impress at the Russian club and declined reported offers to return. He also turned down reported offers from the likes of QPR and Reading, opting to warm the Arsenal bench and sometimes not even being selected as substitute.
He sometimes appeared in the League Cup but added no real value to the outcomes and he featured in the 2-1 defeat against Chelsea for an unimpressive 15 minutes.
With the second leg of the Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, Arshavin was selected as part of the 18-man squad after three of Arsenal’s stars were ruled out with injury.
The Russian's inclusion in the team that will face the German giants at the Aliianz Arena this evening could very well be his last chance to prove that he still has what it takes.
Will he show some of that Champions League magic that Arsenal fans know he’s capable of - or will he fade away quietly after a disastrous end to his Arsenal career?
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