This comment about Andrey Arshavin, made to Sky Sports by Nigel Winterburn (apparently), speaks volumes about his future at Arsenal:
“It does look at times that he doesn’t want to be in this country and I think the way that the winning goal was set up for Manchester United – you expect a player in that position to have focus and make it hard for the winger.”
For the manager to (a) effectively blame Arshavin for Manchester United’s winner and (b) speculate that he is not happy in England is a clear statement that the pocket Russki’s time at the Emirates is up.
It is unlikely he will go before the end of January (although I would not be completely surprised if that happened). But there is no way he will be here for the start of next season.
And when you factor in the damaging psychological impact of the booing that accompanied his appearance in Sunday’s game, his departure may be best for all concerned.
It’s bad timing for little Andrey, what with panto season coming to an end and all that, but no doubt we’ll make a few bob on him when he goes (or a few roubles, more likely).
It’s sad, really.
I know that the majority of the booing was directed at the boss and his decision to remove our most dynamic attacking player rather than at Andrey himself, but it still must have felt to Arshavin like a knife in the guts.
Or as if someone had stolen his plate of borscht.
For a man whose confidence was already lower than John Terry’s morals, it just served to push him further into the rut he’s been in for the best part of a year.
In the past I have written posts speculating that Andrey was about to rediscover the form that saw him put four goals past Liverpool at Anfield; that he would fire into life and be the secret weapon to catapult us to silverware; that the departure of Fabregas and the Fat French Benchwarmer would provide the perfect opportunity for him to step up and fill the “class” gap.
I was wrong.
As secret weapons go, Andrey has proved to be as deadly as a sawn-off bath bun. And there’s been no firing into life – just more and more damp squibbery (not to be confused with damp squillacery, which is a whole other category of offence).
However, I don’t think that Arshavin’s poor form is solely down to lack of confidence and/or homesickness.
For some reason a lot of Russian players seem to peak early (around the age of 30). Andrei Shevchenko was the best striker in the world when he joined Chelsea, but quickly became an also-ran.
Sergei Rebrov was also a very good player before he went to the Theatre of Screams, but never achieved a high level there or afterwards. Pavlyuchenko remains a bit part player.
And even though Arshavin is captain of Russia, his performances for the national side have attracted a lot of criticism in his homeland over the last two years.
In other words, I think he is over the hill; he will be 31 in May and his powers are waning. Some top players can stay at a high level well into their 30s, but not many Russians do.
Arsène Wenger, with all his statistics and record-keeping, must know this and will surely offload him while we still might get some money for him.
He was a great signing when he arrived and he has given us some fantastic moments (that goal against Barcelona will live for ever in the memory) but it is time to say “do svidaniya”*.
*Russian for “goodbye”.