Signed from Zenit for £15 million just over four years ago, he came in on a burst of skill, speed, and even technique. He had all the makings of being just the kind of high-impact player that a team needs—and one that we seem to lack. Witness Sergio Aguero’s brilliance in Monday’s derby. We have a roster of some very talented players, but none (save Cazorla, perhaps), is capable of conjuring goals out of thin air. On his best days (not sure if that really deserves to be plural), Arshavin could do that, and his fall from grace is that much more frustrating because of how rarely he showed it.
Arsène has taken the high road in this situation, higher than I can summon myself to be. He said earlier in the year that he wouldn’t tolerate “suggestions that [Arshavin’s] attitude is not right. He is a classy player and a top professional with a great attitude”. He spends more time around the Russian than I ever do, it’s true, but it’s hard not to peek behind this to see a little PR at work. I won’t sling any more mud than I have to, but it’s a bit generous to say that Arshavin has struggled because, as Arsène suggested, “we have had plenty of options in the midfield and that has made it difficult for him.” Sure, we have a nice set of midfielders, but we’ve struggled with fitness and injuries to various midfielders throughout Arshavin’s time. When he’s been on, he’s been one of our most-exciting players, possessing enough speed and technique to make defenders tremble. Sadly, he just hasn’t impressed often enough on the pitch or in training (apparently) to earn more chances. How else do we explain his complete absence from our plans over the last year and a half?
Arshavin’s continued presence on the squad irritates me more than that of Squillaci or Santos; they might just lack the skill needed for regular first-team action at this level. Arshavin, however, had that skill and seems to have squandered it to the point that only Reading was willing to make any kind of offer for him, and he refused. Such a move might have rejuvenated him by giving him more of a chance to play and to remind everyone of his qualities, enough so that he might earn his way back to a club he deems worthy of him and in the process find his way back to feature for the Russian national team. Instead, it seems that he might be willing to throw in the towel. It’s a real shame that the towel is bone-dry.