Coming off the back of two highly satisfying away wins the Arsenal now have a run of six home games out of the next seven.
At our last home game great joy was had by ITV’s cameramen in capturing the negative reactions of the Ashburton Grove support to our number 23’s struggles to impose himself on the game.
Opinions varied as to whether there were murmurs of disappointment or outright booing of Arshavin whenever an ambitious through ball failed or a shot ballooned skyward instead of towards the goal.
It is ITV’s job to pick up anything newsworthy or a “story” developing and the camera director would have been alerted to the dissatisfaction being shown in certain sections of the crowd. Of course they will follow up on this angle and naturally their well acknowledged dislike of Arsenal would have meant they needed little prompting in order to portray us as a club in crisis and turning on our last big money transfer into our squad.
Certain quarters have also made great play of the fact that after spooning a shot over the bar or failing to latch onto a pass, rocking back on his heels in the manner that TH14 did in his last season with us, he smiles – clearly proving he doesn’t care and deserves to be shipped out in the summer, if not sooner.
What I see when Andrey is in such a situation is not a “smile” more a “grimace”, an external symptom of the internal conflict and lonely struggle to recapture the form of a month or two ago.
Arshavin is the archetypal enigma wrapped in a puzzle, bound together by a riddle, couched in a conundrum. His
behaviour will not be that of your typical footballer and his almost self-lacerating honesty can make some of what he says appear to be at best detached and at worst arrogant. Like any person he is a product of the environment of his formative years and having spent all of his life in “Mother Russia” his interaction with our support will not be of the same quality as, say, Walcott’s.
He is as truly Russian, and can be as breathlessly exciting, as this passage of Shostakovich sounds to me(and check out the crazy conductor):
His website reveals a quirky, cheeky side when it comes to things like his chauvinist views on women drivers but like any true Russian there will, in my view, always be an underlying melancholy which is exacerbated by his artistic temperament. I consider what he is capable of artistic in the way DB10’s abilities seemed to transcend mere sporting endeavour.
When he arrived in the snow of February 2009 we knew what we were getting, a creative mercurial midfield talent, who scored 51 goals in 232 appearances(approximately 1 goal in 5 games) for his only previous club Zenit St. Petersburg. Currently his record with us stands at 26 in 83, tending towards 1 goal in 3 games so he has shown his class over the long term.
For some what is grates them is his lack of tracking back and offering cover for the left back, given that he is predominantly deployed in midfield wide on the left.
This raises two questions, firstly are we expecting a Dirk Kuyt type midfielder who runs and runs but whose moments of inspiration are rarely, if ever, seen and secondly are we exploiting his abilities out wide?
Firstly, we all know Arshavin is not about being a trundling workhorse putting in the hard yards, like a Flamini or a Vieira would.
With our surfeit of playmaker midfielders not every player will be able to play in their favoured positions so the second point can be viewed as a case of “Needs must” as in the case of last season where, as Raspers has pointed out previously, Arshavin was employed as the lone striker up top.
In the FA Cup replay there was an occasion where he lost possession on the left wing to the Leeds right back and he chased the ball all the way back to our right full back position to win it back. Would he have done this a few games ago, when his confidence was probably at low ebb? Our game does function better when all the team presses the opposition when we do not have the ball so while it is not necessarily Arshavin’s strong point he is capable of offering some cover yet I feel he should be favouring demonstrating his strong points, namely creating openings, and occasionally finishing them.
I feel that while Arshavin may publicly appear to display some of the Cold War stereo type of being aloof and indifferent (for example he rarely joins in post-goal team huddles with a fan-pleasing gusto) negative feedback from the Arsenal support will surely have a detrimental effect.
“So what, he gets paid handsomely so he should just man up and get on with it” I hear some of you cry.
For a creative midfielder if you feel inhibited enough by reaction to a mistake to then prefer taking the safe option of a lower risk pass the moments of magic you close yourself off from mean your play will be that of a water carrier type of midfielder, and is that what we want from Arshavin?
Another complaint levelled against our attack is that we don’t shoot from distance enough, as one of the few that attempts long range shots will persistent groaning from the terraces could mean less shots from him also. Talk Spite had already tried to engineer a campaign for opposition fans to boo him for supporting Russia’s world Cup bid because they saw him sitting with the Russian delegation when the bid winners had been announced.
Our number 23 remained seated and clapped his approval in a very dignified manner whereas the Chavs owner bounded up and down, jumping like a dog trying to grab a bone being dangled above him. Perhaps unsurprisingly there were no protests from Talk Spite directed against Abramovich, one can’t imagine why.
It would be ironic if Arshavin’s own team’s supporters resorted to something that Talk Spite, a known anti Arsenal media outlet, was trying to get the opposition fans to do to undermine our team.
Eboue came back from the actual booing he received a few seasons ago however the crucial difference is that we HAVE seen what Arshavin is capable (and recently too) whereas the Ivorian’s abilities had been seen less regularly up till then.
My wish, as an unashamed admirer of “The Owl”, for anyone lucky enough to be going to any of the home games coming up is to drag our Russian out of his slump in form with your support.
When Nasri and/or Cesc are unavailable is it not better to have another option by which to unlock the defences of the many teams who will come to the Grove with a defensive approach?
In those games, the ones which could stand between us and silverware this season, the contribution of our Russian maestro could well be critical.