It wasn’t even close. 76% of you voted for Andrei Arshavin in the poll while Robin van Persie was a distant second at 58%. To put it another way, the difference between 5th place and 2nd place was just over 10%. It’s a comfortable win for the little Russian and here’s why.
First, he had to overcome the negative press that those racists at Zenit were spewing in order to make themselves look like the better party in this deal. They tried to make him look like the whiner, like the guy who had been given everything and that they just wanted a fair deal out of it. But the truth was that they foolishly cup tied him in the Champions League, thus devaluing the player, and the fact that the Russian season doesn’t kick off until after the January transfer window meant that Arshavin wasn’t match fit, further devaluing the player in the January transfer window. When Andrei got to Arsenal he immediately gave an interview, where he showed off his impressive English skills, and set about dispelling all the rumors. He wanted to play for Arsenal.
Second, he had to overcome his lack of match fitness. I’m not saying the guy was 200 lbs or something, just that no matter how much you work out it’s not the same as actually playing and practicing at full speed. There was a brief moment where we all thought we might see him against Spurs, only 8 days after signing, but it wasn’t to be. He remained on the bench until Feb 21st, 2009, against Sunderland, perhaps you remember the day? I do.
Still it took him a few weeks to sort of settle in. The match against Fulham a week later, you could really see that the toll of the Premier League pace had gotten to him.
And then the little Russian went on a tear, scoring or setting up goals in 5 games in a row; WBA, Burnley, Blackburn, Hull, and Newcastle. As he gained fitness, Arsenal started reaping the benefits and the club started winning games. That’s when I think we all knew we had something special, because a fully fit Arshavin was truly something to behold.
Third, he had to overcome the physicality of the Premier League. Speaking of the Newcastle game, does anyone remember Steven Taylor’s vicious attack on Andrei? No?
After the game Andrei simply said “The style of play is hard but not vicious. It is not something that I am used to but I understand it perfectly – you can’t relax for a second.” He had taken his lumps and came up a better man for it.
Which brings us to the final obstacle that he had to overcome; Premier League defenses. Despite Man U’s blistering defeat in Rome, I still believe that in league play the English Premier League has the toughest defenses in the world. If you look at the top four defenses in the EPL, they concede less than a goal a game on average. So, scoring goals, against top clubs, in league play, is very hard. One player scoring two goals against a bottom club is pretty good, but one player scoring 4 goals, against a top club, on their patch, where they had only conceded 10 goals all season?
I’m not going to put all four goals here, because one stands out as extra special and I don’t want it lost in the shuffle. It’s the type of goal that only the top, top class players take. It’s the type of goal that Gooners of the Year make.
So, for overcoming all those obstacles, for playing beautifully, for scoring wonder goals, and for putting us on your back and securing fourth place, Andrei Arshavin, you are our Gooner of the Year.
My one observant reader will notice that I have put a third page on my masthead, entitled “Players Who Didn’t Sign for Arsenal” it’s my little tongue in cheek look at all the guys that get linked to the club, that the press go gaga over, and who sign elsewhere. Today, we can add one name to that list, some Jerkoff from St. Racistberg, who signed for Chelsea. I’m hapy for them both.
Future additions to the list could be:
Gareth Barry apparently wants to come to Arsenal… for £12m. I would pay £12m for Gareth Barry. I would pay probably £20m for him, just because his passport is that all important shade of Claret that makes xenophobes like Platini and Bleater get all tingly inside. Of course, this has about as much chance of happening as I do of having sex with Christina Hendricks, but hey, a man can dream.
Supposedly, Arsenal are also targeting a striker from Bordeaux named Chamakh. You really have to check out this link, his “highlight” reel is absolutely comical. It’s two videos showing a few dozen missed goals and like one decent chip shot. A striker who misses bags of chances? Rarely do we see Arsenal linked with a man who is so truly ready to jump right into the first team.
Since Brede Hangeland is making noises that he’s going to stay at Fulham and fulfil his life’s ambition of being a second rate defender, the press have turned their attention to Ajax captain Thomas Vermaelen. Hey, he’s a defender, which is a refreshing change from all the stories linking us to strikers…
and wingers like Marat Izmailov. Signing Arshavin from Zenit seems to have had the knock on effect of getting the press to link us to every Tom, Dick, and Ivan in Russia.
And last, but not least, someone went back into their tickle file and pulled out the name “Mbia.” He’s over 6′ tall, plays as a holding midfielder, and has been linked with Arsenal in the past, practically begging to come to Arsenal in the January transfer window. But, my favorite aspect of this rumor is that when you google “mbia” you get some kind of Municipal Bond Insurance Agency.
Also, no way.