Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin has today completed the move back to the club where it all started for him in Russia after finalising the switch from the Emirates Stadium to Zenit St Petersburg on a free transfer. After originally signing for the Gunners in January 2009 for a reported £15 million, he found himself enduring a topsy turvy career under Arsene Wenger, culminating in his temporary departure to Zenit on loan in January 2012.
But he is now officially returning back to his home city as he puts end to his four year spell in London and leaves Arsenal fans wondering what could have been had he shown the potential of his early days in the red and white shirt.
He joined the Gunners on the back of his impressive contribution to Russia’s EURO 2008 campaign which saw them finish as semi finalists, and some of his earlier performances in an Arsenal shirt made him stand out as one of the best attacking talents in Europe at the time.
Unfortunately, he never reached a consistency in his game and found himself, along with 13 others, out of contract this summer.
So, where did all go wrong for the 32 year old in North London? After making 12 appearances in his first six months at the club, he was a revelation. Alongside the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky – Arsenal possessed a great aurora of attacking talent which saw them finish as semi finalists in the FA Cup and Champions League.
Arshavin’s pass completion percentage of 77% in open play was complimented with his ability going forward, scoring six goals and gaining five assists. Compare this to the following season; despite scoring double the number of goals, his pass completion percentage of 71% and only one assist suggest that he was starting to show his selfish ability going forward.
Let’s not get too hasty though. Arshavin was, and still is, a brilliant player. But there is a suspicion that he never slotted into the Wenger style of play – proof of his declining statistics in terms of an attacking midfield role.
It seems that Arshavin’s stats at Arsenal fluctuated between each season. His start to the 2010/11 season was decent, as he helped to annihilate Blackpool in the club’s first home game of the season, before scoring once again at Ewood Park as Arsenal beat Blackburn 2-1.
In truth, there was a slight improvement in Arshavin’s contribution to Arsenal during this season, making 11 assists and scoring only six goals – the same amount he managed after just five months in the 2008/09 season. It is tough to pinpoint what the demise of Arshavin was. It seemed that a lot of the Gunners’ faithful were starting to lose patience with the Russian playmaker after the pressure rose following the departures of Fabregas and Nasri to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively.
With a lack of support around him, he only managed to start eight games in the 2011/12 season, managing one goal and three assists. It was fair to say that his career at Arsenal was reaching a rapid conclusion after he was eventually loaned out to Zenit St Petersburg in January 2012.
There was hope that he would revive his career at Arsenal after returning from his home town club, but it wasn’t to be last season. He didn’t manage one start in the Premier League and only made seven substitute appearances. Perhaps he reached his peak during 2009 to 2011, and the inclusion of homesickness didn’t help matters in helping Arshavin overcome the pressure from the stands.
He now will re-ignite his career at Zenit, at whom he spent ten years with before heading to Arsenal – with the highlight being the UEFA Cup victory in 2008. He will be hoping to produce performances capable of getting himself on the plane to Brazil in a year’s time for the World Cup as Russia will look to build upon a disappointing EURO 2012 campaign.
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