Arshavin's days in north London appear numbered


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It was an unprecedented event in Arsène Wenger's tenure at Arsenal: the furious reaction to his decision to replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with Andrei Arshavin on Sunday.

Never before have the Arsenal fans been so vocal in doubting one of Wenger's decision. Never before has an Arsenal crowd been so scornful of one of their own. Arshavin cannot possibly have any more use at the club.

The Russian seems now to have exhausted the reserves of trust and patience that he found when he arrived at Arsenal three years ago. Instead, he is viewed with disdain: the result of at least two seasons of feckless, uninterested performances. Without the ball he is lazy, with it he is sloppy. For such a gifted player, his inability to pass to another red shirt is remarkable.

"He looks the most disinterested player in the league," Gary Neville said in a fierce television condemnation on Sunday. "I think he wants to go back to Russia. Well, go back. The Arsenal fans don't want him out there."

Arshavin has 18 months left on a generous contract at Arsenal, and finding a willing suitor is not simple.

He will surely continue to slip further away from the first team: Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain and, for now, Thierry Henry, are ahead of him. He may have to sit out the next 18 months, making occasional appearances but otherwise a sad example of a move gone wrong.

Arshavin arrived at Arsenal as one of the most exciting forwards in the world. He was the creative catalyst for a great Zenit St Petersburg side: he guided them to the Russian title in 2007 and the Uefa Cup in 2008. Weeks after that final, he placed himself within the very top category of European football, at Euro 2008. A remarkable performance won Russia their quarter-final, 3-1 against the Dutch, with Arshavin creating the first and scoring the second of Russia's two extra-time goals.

So when he arrived in January 2009, it was with the expectation that he would take Arsenal to success. He started well, with a famous haul of four at Anfield. But he has been on the down slope ever since. The fans were so furious to see Oxlade-Chamberlain taken off on Sunday because to them he represents youth, pace, promise, energy and commitment. Arshavin, now, represents the opposite.