Arshavin's days look numbered

 

It was an unprecedented event in Arsène Wenger's tenure at Arsenal: the furious, contemptuous reaction to him replacing 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 so much of the Emirates crowd been united against their manager. Never before has an Arsenal crowd been so scornful of one of their own. Arshavin cannot possibly have any more use at the club.

In 2008 Emmanuel Eboué was booed by some Arsenal fans after a poor performance against Wigan. It was distasteful, but the fans realised that, and Eboué was better received in future.

Arshavin, though, is different. He seems now to have exhausted the reserves of trust and patience which 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 can be 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 ought to have no future role in the first team. But he has 18 months left on a generous contract at Arsenal, and finding a willing suitor is not as simple as many would hope.

Arshavin will surely continue to slip further away from the first team. Gervinho is first choice left-forward, with Oxlade-Chamberlain and, for now, Thierry Henry, seemingly ahead of Arshavin. So 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 of touch and imagination 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, for a club-record fee, it was with the expectation that he would take Arsenal closer to success. He started well, with his famous haul of four at Anfield that April. But that was the peak of his Arsenal career, and he has been on the down slope ever since. The Arsenal 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 precisely the opposite.

Lost in translatio: Arshavin on the web

Andrei Arshavin may be struggling on the pitch, but he is a big hit off it, regularly answering fans' questions on his website, www.arshavin.eu. Here's a selection of his musings.

Gender politics "When girls like football, I think it's OK. But I think that the level of women's football is too low to take it seriously."

Learning the lingo "I'm not quite happy with my knowledge of English and want to study it more seriously. We went to the premiere of Harry Potter and I felt quite uncomfortable when the audience around broke out in laughter and you sit there turning your head from side to side."

The environment "There are strict laws here. The Greens protest often, sometimes they block the streets."

On Thierry Henry's return: "Everything turned out like in a fairy tale. The legend of Arsenal came back and magically sent the ball where it was supposed to go."

Snow in London "The city is not geared up to handle the snowfalls. So it's better to miss the snow."

Paperback writer "Maybe after my career is over I'll take up a pen."

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