The North London Derby Without the Little Russian Assassin
Andrey Arshavin has returned back to Siberia to represent the club he made over 300 appearances for and was instrumental in their league win in 2007.
He also gave the two assists that were needed to sink Rangers in the 2008 Europa League final. In the same year, he dazzled Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup to win the trophy for his Russian side.
On the international scene, he helped his country to win the bronze medal in the last European Championships that took place in Switzerland and Austria in 2008. He was very distraught when his country missed out of the 2010 World Cup but he played a major role in his country’s bid to win the hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup even though he won’t be among the 23 men that will represent his country by virtue of his age.
He’ll be 37 in 2018 and he’s certainly no Roger Miller.
In his first season at Arsenal, he took the Premier League by storm with his account opener being at the hands of Arsenal’s goal scoring maiden, Paul Robinson. His highest point in his Arsenal career was the incredible four-goal affair he had at Anfield in the spring of 2009.
The first goal was from a Cesc Fabregas pass after some good work by Samir Nasri, he worked the second himself after some poor Liverpool defending, his hat-trick was gifted to him on a platter thanks to more atrocious defending from Liverpool and his fourth came from a brilliant counter attack that was launched by Theo Walcott. His first full season with Arsenal was last season and he came up with the goods scoring 10 league goals in 30 appearances but he got injured when Arsenal played Barcelona in that 2-2 draw at the Emirates.
Last season, he wasn’t that little magician we all felt he could be but he still did well enough to score 10 goals and lay on a lion’s share of assists for his teammates. The most notable finishes were his match winners against Everton and FC Barcelona.
This campaign, Arshavin’s lethargic performances saw him go further down the pecking order and many Gooners asked for his head on a plate. Despite the fact that this move may be considered as a “breath of fresh air” to many, I’m quite bewildered to know that Arsene Wenger left Arshavin go with a considerable chunk of this season left to play.
Arsenal’s “first choice” wingers are Gervinho and Theo Walcott with the Ox and Yossi Benayoun raring to go on the sidelines. Judging from Arsenal’s recent injury woes, sending a player of Arshavin’s quality out on loan was a poor piece of judging from Arsene Wenger.
That’s my opinion though.
I wish Andrey all the best in his new club and I hope the Italian baldy Lucciano Spaghetti…Spalleti would play to his strengths. Shame he won’t be able to represent Zenit in the Champions League because he’s cup-tied.
The Emirates is all set to host the next edition of the North London Derby. This fixture brings North London to a stand still and it would be the 172nd meeting between these two giants. Twitchy Ol’ ‘Arry got the better off Wenger in October thanks to a superb handball controlled finish from Rafael van der Fart and a long range belter from Kyle Walker.
It’s actually puzzling to know that Arsenal is currently 10 points behind their fierce rivals and a loss today would certainly be too much distance to cover. Besides, the team plays this game on the back of two disappointing defeats so another loss would certainly cause some uprising.
So much has been made about Tottenham’s ascension but some fail to believe that Arsenal will always be better than them. For starters, Tottenham is having their best season since the world started witnessing Colored TV.
I don’t even want to to write about the amount of League titles they’ve won or the amount of years they’ve been in the Champions League. St. Totteringham’s day seems unlikely as Arsenal is running out of games but a win would go a long way in restoring the balance to North London.
To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to replace Lukasz Fabianski in goal. The elder Pole has probably been shortlisted among the Gunners that may be axed this summer but I’ll prefer him to stay because he still has some glimpses of quality in him.
The club is sweating over the fitness of Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny but this game might come too soon for them. Bacary Sagna would man the right flank while Thomas Vermaelen would be deployed on the left flank. This would mean that Alex Song may be dropped back to partner the shaky Johan Djourou in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.
Song’s potential exit from the midfield would mean that the trio would certainly pick itself with Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky taking their positions in the middle of the park.
The exit of Arshavin might have raised a few eyebrows (mine included), but I expect Robin van Persie to lead the line and he’ll be supported by Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on both flanks.
A schematic illustration of the possible starting XI would be:
The Ox-RVP-Le Forehead
To be frank, I’m not too optimistic about Arsenal getting a victory because a part of me has lost some faith in this team’s ability…till the summer at least.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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