Transfer deadline day 2009. A day that saw Arsenal pull off what seemed to be an impossible move. With just 8 seconds before the transfer deadline, an email from Zenit St. Petersburg saying “accepted” confirmed the deal. Andrey Arshavin was an Arsenal player.
Paying around £15m, the Russian became Arsenal’s record signing, a record that stood for another four years until one Mesut Ozil would join the club for around £42m. After a standout season before coming to the Gunners he also showed off his talent in EURO 2008.
After winning the UEFA Cup (Now Europa League) with a man-of-the-match performance in the final for Zenit, Arshavin helped Russia reach the Semi-Finals of EURO 2008. Scoring twice and assisting once in the tournament before a 3-0 loss to eventual winners Spain, Arshavin also managed to get into the UEFA EURO Team of the Tournament that year along with players like Fernando Torres, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas.
But that wouldn’t be the only time Arshavin would be in close quarters with Fabregas, making his Arsenal debut in February 2009. It was just under a month until Arshavin made a lasting impression on the fans with his first goal in a 4-0 win over Blackburn Rovers on March 14th.
Following a goal which carried some doubt to whether he had scored it, Arshavin made certain later on that The Emirates knew he scored this one. Receiving the ball in the corner of the North Bank, a feint sold a young Danny Simpson as Arshavin waltzed into the box and then bang. From the tightest of angles, he smashes the ball into the roof of the net past Paul Robinson.
And that was only the first of many phenomenal goals the Russian would score in an Arsenal shirt. It was only a few matches later that he produced an unimaginable performance. Let’s rewind to a Tuesday night in April, Anfield is the setting.
10 minutes before the break and Arshavin broke the deadlock, after some great play from Samir Nasri and Fabregas, Arshavin guided the ball onto the crossbar and in before silencing the Kop. But only 3 minutes after the break the Kop was in full voice again when a Torres header flew into the back of the net. And then, before we knew it, we were 2-1 down thanks to a Yossi Benayoun header that just crossed the line.
Enter Arshavin again, pouncing on a loose ball in Liverpool’s half, he drove towards goal before unleashing a rocket at Pepe Reina’s goal, which swerved all over the place before hitting the net. Cue the silencing celebration. We only had to wait a few more minutes before a Jamie Carragher pass fell to Arshavin in the box, who had no second thoughts before hammering the ball below Reina for his hat trick.
Unfortunately, the game wasn’t over then and there, a prime Torres managed to find some space at the edge of the Arsenal box allowing him to put another equaliser past Fabianski. But then in the dying minutes of the game, much like the season before, a young Theo Walcott was on the break. After speeding into the Liverpool half he found Arshavin, who rifled the ball home with his left foot for his fourth goal of the night and throwing up four fingers to the travelling Arsenal fans.
Yes, Liverpool did equalise again but it’s fair to say that isn’t why that game goes down as an Anfield classic. In the short time, he had been at the club Arshavin had already become somewhat a fan favourite.
The Russian’s first full season at The Emirates wasn’t short of memorable moments either. In another big game at Old Trafford, which ultimately saw Arsenal lose the game and Arsene Wenger sent to the stands, a moment of brilliance from Arshavin gave us some hope. Coming in from the left wing, a thunderbolt off his right foot arrowed into the top corner. And again, cue silencing celebration.
Now scoring more regularly in the 2009/10 season, a return to Anfield was well timed for the Russian. Again showing lightning reactions he pounced on the ball after a Glen Johnson mistake in the box, before firing the ball onto the post and in. That season saw him score 11 goals for Arsenal, assisting six, pretty decent tallies coming from the wing.
The 2010/11 season saw Arshavin in his most productive season in an Arsenal shirt. Despite only scoring 10, he racked up a total of 17 assists for his teammates, along with goal that Arsenal fans will remember forever.
It’s the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 against Barcelona. Now level after a Robin Van Persie’s equaliser, Fabregas has found Nasri in the Barcelona half. The Frenchman dummies before looking up to see Arshavin coming towards the edge of the box. An inch perfect pass is met by a first-time shot from Arsenal’s number 23, which leaves Victor Valdes to do nothing but fall backwards into his goal. A 2-1 win against Barcelona at The Emirates is secured and is possibly one of Arsenal’s fondest memories since moving in 2006.
Going into the 2011/12 season the addition of Gervinho from French side Lille on the left wing saw Arshavin drop down the pecking order at the club. However, the little Russian did have a hand in another Gunners memory, providing Thierry Henry an assist for his last Arsenal goal away at Sunderland. Hardly playing for most of the season he ended up returning to Zenit on loan at the back end of the 2011/12 season.
Coming back in the summer of 2012 Arshavin found more competition for a place in the team with Lukas Podolski coming in from Koln. Now struggling for first team action more than ever at Arsenal, making only 2 appearances that season, Arshavin returned to Russia in the summer of 2013.
Now playing for FC Kairat in the Kazakhstan Premier League, Arshavin has scored six times in 30 games this season. Reaching the latter stages of his footballing career Arshavin will always be remembered fondly for his time at The Emirates, not only for putting smiles on faces but always playing with a smile on his face.