There is no doubt that Andrey Arshavin has been a major catalyst in Arsenal’s change in goalscoring form. Even though his first two league games ended in 0-0 home draws, as a team, we looked far more dangerous than we had in the previous stalemates in the League. Once he settled into the side a bit more, he has suddenly breathed new life into the players and the fans. In this morning’s blog I am going to look at the reasons why he has had such an impact.
First of all, I love Arshavin’s reluctance to defend at times. It’s a throwback to a really old fashioned winger. When Wenger has deployed him as a left sided midfield player, he does his defensive duties on occasion, but definitely prefers to remain up field. Don’t get me wrong, when he does track back, he gets stuck in and really wants to win the ball back. I suspect it’s a general unhappiness when his own team is not attacking, and not because he loves the defensive side of Football. Often, one can see him lurking up field, waiting for the next attack, even if Clichy is under the cosh a bit. For me, this is not exactly a bad thing. This season, Arsenal have been too negative. Centre midfield players were playing on the right or left (Diaby and Denilson), the focus was on defending a bit too much. Under Wenger, the best form of defence has always been attack. Arshavin has brought that to the side.
His positivity on the ball is amazing. He refuses to pass sideways or backwards, unless his team-mates are not working hard enough to provide options going forward. When the ball goes into Arshavin’s feet, I expect him to try and move us up a gear, find a forward pass and commit opposing defenders. Denilson and Song have been given the job recently, to break up defences and give the ball to one of the four attacking players ahead of them. People have complained about their lack of creativity, but it has not been their job. Arshavin has shown the way forward when it comes to the attacking side of our midfield. The 4-2-3-1 formation suits him to the ground as he has the freedom to show off his skill. On Saturday, against Blackburn, a ball was passed into his feet in the first half, without looking he swung a pass round the corner, behind the defence, perfectly into the path of Theo Walcott. The pass was pure quality and the sign of a great footballer.
The pass I just mentioned was down to vision and creativity. The ideas running through his head as the ball come to him set him apart from most footballers. Arshavin sees the pass that many do not see and he has the skill to execute it. During most of our season, when in wide positions, the ball has gone back to the full back, who in turn has delivered a cross into an area where there are few red shirts. Arshavin is rarely happy with this. His goal was an example of genius, talent and cheekiness. All great players have a slight cheekiness, almost an arrogance to believe they can do what most others would not dare to try. Wide on the left, no one in the stadium thought he could make himself a goal from there. However, Arshavin managed to beat a man with ease and slot the ball home. It may have looked simple in terms of execution but it was far from easy. To fool a defender into showing you inside from that position in itself is impressive. Most defenders want to show you to the by-line but Arshavin sent the defender packing and then just lifted the ball high into the net. If you look at the replay, there was only a small area of the goal to aim at but he found it. His celebration shows that mischievous side of him that shows a little spark that players like Pele, Maradona and Cantona had, and Messi and Ronaldo have today.
During the ‘Invincibles’ season, Arsenal had certain players that could unlock a defence with one moment of genius. Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, Ljungberg and Vieira all came up with something special on many occasions. In the current side, Van Persie was the only one who seemed able to do this. The fact he created or scored every goal we scored in January says it all really. Nasri, to some extent had an impact, and still is, but it is not to the same extent. Arshavin provides this. During his first home game, the fans could see this ability he had in his locker. When Sunderland sat deep, everything we did well going forward, came from Arshavin. It is clear, Wenger knew this sparkle was needed, and it seems to be £15 million well spent. His close skill around the box was missing in so many of our players. I only believed Van Persie and Nasri could beat a man and Arshavin has come in and surpassed everyone, even RVP and Sami in this area.
Arshavin has a unique quality in football. Like players like Fabregas, Gerrard and Torres, he has the ability to work well with most players. He was thrust into the side immediately but it seemed as though he had been playing with these players all season. He knew exactly where they would be on the pitch, where they would pass it and even the demands he could place upon them. I noticed that he has good partnerships with Nasri and Bendtner already. Nasri and Arshavin are on the same wavelength in terms of attacking play and Arshavin seems to work well off a target man; he made Pavluychenko look like a world beater after all.
Finally, Arshavin has shown the other players the way forward and provided them with a confidence to try things they may have been reluctant to do before. Many will say it was simply one win that changed this. I disagree. If a player comes into a new club and starts showing things in training, players automatically breath life off of him. In games now, Eboue is prepared to drive at opposing defenders, when he would have been reluctant to do so. The fans have shown appreciation for Arshavin’s desire to try something different as long as its positive and Eboue is benefiting here. Arshavin is bringing players into the game, bossing it as if he has been here for years. Even Song and Denilson are expanding their games, trying longer, more dangerous forward passes. Maybe this is just as a mechanism to cope with Arshavin’s demands of quality football on the pitch. Arshavin oozes class and those around him will always feel the need to do that extra bit more to keep up.