Arshavin Ready to Retire From Football: Reviewing What Went Wrong
Memories of Arsenal visiting Anfield are somewhat sweeter than Arsenal’s visits to Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and some other Premier League grounds.
This season, Arsenal’s trip to Anfield will be fondly remembered for Abou Diaby resurgence as he put up one of his finest performances in Arsenal colors. This game also marked the introductions of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla to the Premier League in grand style. Last season, a late Robin van Persie goal from another trademark Alex Song pass saw the Gunners grab all three points from Kenny Dalglish’s side.
There have so many memorable outings in Anfield for both sets of fans. Liverpool fans will never forget Neil Mellor’s last-gasp long range drive that condemned Arsenal to defeat or Peter Crouch’s stunning hat-trick against the Gunners. They also won’t be quick to forget the enthralling 2007/08 Champions League quarterfinals where they scored two late goals from a Steven Gerrard penalty and a Ryan Babel strike that canceled out Theo Walcott’s individual moment of brilliance that saw him run the length of the pitch before teeing up Emmanuel Adebayor for a tap in.
Despite all these great outings at Anfield, none (with the exception of Michael Thomas’ moment of glory in the 1989/90 campaign) can be compared to that night in Spring 2009, when Arsenal visited a Liverpool side battling hard with Manchester United for Premier League honors.
Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun scored braces for their team, but the star of the night was undoubtedly Arsenal’s red-hot new signing, Andrey Arshavin.
The first goal on the night 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 started by Walcott.
That night, the Russian magician was simply four-midable and the Gunners were disappointed to know that he couldn’t be part of their impressive Champions League campaign because he was cup-tied from his involvement with his previous and only club, Zenit St. Petersburg.
After scoring six goals and supplying nine assists in just 15 games for Arsenal, Arshavin came second in Arsenal’s 2009 Player of the Season Poll despite coming in the second half of the campaign. Arsene Wenger, his teammates and most importantly, the fans waited anxiously to see what he could accomplish in a full season with the club.
In his first full season with the club (2009/10 season), Arshavin was tipped for great things and he made a huge statement with his 30-yard screamer against Manchester United in Old Trafford. An unfortunate Diaby own goal and a Wayne Rooney penalty resigned the Gunners to defeat but the Russian’s struggles began when Robin van Persie suffered a terrible ankle injury in a meaningless friendly against Italy.
RvP’s deputy, who is also referred to as the World’s Best Striker, Nicklas Bendtner, was nursing an injury as well, so Arsene Wenger attempted a failed experiment by drafting Arshavin to the center forward position. It was believed that the Russian had a foot injury as well, but he played through pain for the good of the team.
While in his newly-found center forward role, Arshavin was easily picked on by “bigger” defenders and he obviously offered no threat whatsoever in the air, but he managed to score vital goals against Stoke, Bolton and Liverpool (in Anfield again) before suffering an injury in Arsenal’s 2-2 first leg encounter with Barcelona at the Emirates. Lionel Messi ran riot in the second leg by scoring all four goals in the 4-1 thumping of the Gunners in Camp Nou.
In the end, it was a somewhat productive season for Arshavin, as he scored 12 goals and laid on seven assists in 39 appearances.
The 2010/11 campaign saw Samir Nasri go into full bloom but Arshavin’s place came under threat with Theo Walcott knocking on the door, and as the season progressed the Russian went on a downward spiral as he eventually lost his place to the English speedster. Despite falling out of favor with the manager, the 2010/11 campaign was Arshavin’s best in Arsenal colors as he managed to score 10 goals and supply 17 assists despite some appalling displays as the season progressed.
At the end of the 2010/11 campaign, Arshavin held a meeting with his manager to review his future with the club. Wenger indicated that he would not be considered a first-team regular but was welcome to stay and fight for his place. He took up the invitation but found first-team appearances hard to come by.
As his chances at Arsenal further diminished, his place in the Russian National team was under threat, it became glaring that he needed to play regular football to improve his chances of playing for his country in the forthcoming European Championships. His previous employers, Zenit, came with an escape route and he grabbed it with open arms.
In his return to Zenit, Arshavin scored three goals and supplied four assists before earning a place in the Russian team that was paired with Czech Republic, Greece and co-hosts, Poland. Russia was knocked out thanks to the cruel head-to-head rule but Arshavin sparked up some controversy when he harshly declared that he didn’t care how the fans felt in the wake of Russia’s elimination.
He apologized afterwards but it turned out to be the last straw and the diminutive Russian was stripped off his captaincy and hasn’t featured for Russia since then, leaving him with 17 goals for his nation in 75 appearances.
This season, Arshavin has become a peripheral figure at Arsenal and he’s bracing himself up to search for a new club, as his contract is set to expire this summer and Arsenal has clearly shown that they have no plans of renewing it. To make things worse, Arshavin allegedly dumped his wife (the mother of his three children) for a British model.
With his contract expiring this summer as well as the absence of viable alternatives, Arshavin is ready to retire from football at the age of 32.
While the highest point of his Arsenal career will undoubtedly be his four-goal haul against Liverpool in April 2009, I can’t think of any lower point in his career than that moment when Arsenal fans went berserk when Arsene Wenger brought him on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in January 2012 against Manchester United.
If he had any ounce of confidence left in him, that must have dealt a heavy blow in its own special way.
In 143 games for Arsenal, Andrey Arshavin scored 31 goals and created 42 assists for his teammates in four seasons with the club.
There was a period when he was regarded as one of the brightest stars in world football but Arshavin’s career is so dark that it’s currently heading into oblivion.
When he leaves this summer, I’ll always remember that technically proficient, blushed cheeked and hobbit-like owl that began his career in the club like a house on fire but plummeted into mediocrity due to his lethargy and lack of work ethic.
Arsene Wenger should take part of the blame for consistently playing Arshavin out of position on the left wing, as he was renowned for playing in the hole behind the stirker. Then again, which sane manager would fathom the idea of benching Cesc Fabregas in the heart of the midfield, when the football resolves around him.
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