Good morning, I’m feeling rather cocksandwich-y this morning, so forgive me if I offend but pretty much the only benefit of getting up every morning at 4:30 and spending hours of my life writing a blog is that I get to say what I want. It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to!
I completely understand the thrill that so many people are feeling right now; normally spendthrift Arsenal, who have been on this youth project now for several years, who have suffered major injury blows to our best players, and who have fallen in to the darkness of a 5th place hole have suddenly seemed to have broken all their rules and signed a 27 year old creative player. Not only that, but this deal reportedly only cost Arsenal £10m, with incentives topping it up at £15m; a huge discount on a player who was so massively impressive in those two Euro 2008 matches against Sweden and Holland.
I could figuratively hear the collective sigh of relief when the deal was announced on the dot com. Arsenal had finally admitted that the season was in trouble, made a big buy, and the fans were relieved; now we can get our Champions League place back.
As for the player, he is undoubtedly a very talented young man. I have seen all the videos — sitting through hours of shitty music (kids these days) to see the same dozen or so career highlights mixed with different runs, dribbles, passes, and steals. And as I have repeated more often than Arsene Wenger says “like a new signing” I believe that Arshavin can add width, dribbling, vision, and most importantly, the ability to stretch defenses in ways that Arsenal currently cannot.
So I understand the optimism, I really do. After all, you can’t spell “optimism” without “tim.”
But rather than throwing myself wholly into hoping Arshavin will save the season, I’m cautiously optimistic. In fact, I’m looking at this as a long term signing rather than as a signing who will have a huge impact this season.
First, he hasn’t played competitive football since December 10th, when he was substituted at half time and watched from the bench as his team was demolished 3-0 by Real Madrid in the Champions League. That was two months ago, folks. It will be at least two months before he’s up to the level that current EPL players are playing at: that’s April before we can expect to see him at his highest level, physically.
That’s just training, on match days he’s going to have to overcome the fact that he’s a foreigner and a noob: refs aren’t going to give him near the protection he receives in Russia as a national hero. In addition to the hard tackles and physical play, the EPL plays at a pace that Arshavin has never experienced and he’s going to be expected to run more and faster than he’s ever run before. If that weren’t enough, by the time he’s at the height of his physical readiness, and just getting acclimated to the pace and physicality of the EPL, he’s going to be competing with Theo Walcott, Thomas Rosicky, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, and Cesc Fabregas, players who are EPL ready, for a spot on the team.
He’s got a lot to overcome — and I haven’t even mentioned all of your expectations.
In his interview with the dot com, he said he wanted to play on Sunday and I’ve heard some supporters already hoping that he could come on against Spuds, but that is utterly unrealistic. This is a player who hasn’t played in two months and who only sporadically participated in Zenit’s pre-season. It’s a pipe dream to think that he would even come on briefly, after what, one practice? He’s good, but he’s not Jesus, or Zidane.
As Jonathan Wilson put it in his interview at Arsenal.com
He has kept himself fit but he did not play in any of Zenit’s three pre-season friendlies. It’s a long time since Arshavin played a match so we should be very cautious not to expect too much too soon.
But the flipside of that is if Arsenal can cling on and are still in the hunt come March, they suddenly get Arshavin finding fitness and their injured players back, that could be a real boost.
So, I don’t expect Arshavin to come on Sunday against Spuds, nor against Cardiff on the 16th. He is cup tied so he won’t play against Roma (unless Arsenal can somehow pull a Chelsea) so, I expect Arshavin to get his first run out for the first team against Sunderland — the game I will be attending — 70th minute, Arsenal up 1-0, Theo Walcott comes off and Andrey Arshavin comes on. That’s what I see happening.
For this season, my cautiously optimistic opinion is that given all the things counting against him, if we get the same level from Arshavin that we have gotten from Nasri, we should count ourselves as lucky. Anything more than that is icing on the Russian tea-cake.