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Andrei Arshavin – The Little Russian Master
It’s not often that Arsene Wenger pays big money in transfer fees. It’s even less often that the wily Frenchman cashes in on a player approaching his 28th birthday. The Arsenal manager is known for his preference for signing younger players who can develop into global superstars and then sell on again at a huge profit when the time comes – think Henri, Anelka, Adebayor and many more.
So buying Andrei Arshavin, already recognized as one of Europe’s best players, was out of the question – but this season we’re really starting to understand the logic of the move. Playing chess at the age of seven, Arshavin has brought the perception and acumen of a grandmaster to the Premier League, making the likes of Fabregas and Van Persie look even better.
Andrei Arshavin spent his entire career at Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg before signing for Arsenal in February 2009. Playing as a right midfielder, central midfielder or ‘second’ striker, he soon became a recognized key member of both. Zenit and the Russian national side – helped his club win their first league title for 23 years in 2007 and was named Man of the Match in the 2008 UEFA Cup Final victory over Rangers at the City of Manchester Stadium. His performances for his country at the 2008 European Championships earned him a place in the team of the tournament, despite missing the first two matches.
It was clear that Arshavin is both a scorer of goals and a creator of chances for others. His ability to “spin” and dictate plays marked him for what seemed an inevitable move to one of Europe’s glamor clubs. In the immediate aftermath of the European Championship, there was talk in the papers that Zenit’s hierarchy had rejected bids from Barcelona and Spurs, which were said to hold around £22 million.
When he eventually signed for Arsenal at the very end of the transfer window, there was speculation about how easily the Russian would settle into English football and life in London. When stories began to circulate that his wife hated the country and that he had to fly in his personal hairdresser from Moscow, some fans began to fear the worst, but thankfully on the pitch the transition seemed less problematic.
The highlight for the player in his first half of the season for Arsenal undoubtedly came in the stunning four draw at Anfield where Andrei scored all of the Gunners’ goals.
However, this season saw the true creative spark of Andrey Arshavin. Always ready to receive the ball, a great one-touch player and, according to his manager, a player who ‘stands for everything we love about football’, Arshavin is one of the reasons why it is not fanciful to think Arsenal will lift the major trophies this year. Although he has only made 22 appearances for Arsenal and scored 10 goals at the time of writing, Arsenal fans already know they have a potential legendary midfielder in their ranks.
Russia’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa will prevent him from performing on this important stage, but perhaps Andrei Arshavin will light up the Bernabéu Stadium in the Champions League final instead.
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