Zenit dangle £20m Arshavin in front of Arsenal
Tuesday 23 December 2008
Zenit St Petersburg are optimistic that Arsenal will make a club record bid for Andrei Arshavin in the next few days. Arsène Wenger has money to spend after Arsenal made a £37m profit last season and, despite questioning Arshavin's physique as he dazzled at the Euro 2008, the Arsenal manager is understood to have highlighted him as the man to restore a creative zip to his faltering side. "The price tag for Arshavin is £20m, and we are hopeful that Arsenal will make such an offer soon," Zenit's general director Maxim Mitrofanov told Radio Echo Moskvy last night.
Arshavin has been given leave by Zenit to negotiate his own transfer and visited both Arsenal and Tottenham's training grounds last week before heading off on holiday with his family to the Dominican Republic. Zenit valued him at £23m in the summer, enough to end Spurs' interest but, having exited the Champions League, they are now keen to be shot of a player who has lost his focus.
"A professional cannot lack the desire to play when he walks on to the field," Arshavin said earlier this month. "I try and play for Zenit the best I can. But I repeatedly told the president of the club that I didn't want to remain in the side any longer. If they don't let me leave, I'll be listed as a Zenit player, but on paper only."
Given that he has been substituted in five of his last seven games, there are those who would argue that is already the case. The local Communist Party organisation condemned Arshavin last week for "displaying for sale his body for many months in front of covetous Western clubs", something, they said, causes "all Communists and patriots to feel shame and disgust".
Overblown as that criticism may be, Arshavin represents a gamble for Wenger. Although he was superb in helping Zenit to the Russian league title in 2007 and the Uefa Cup in May, it is generally accepted that it was problems with his temperament that made him a late developer, something that has only been highlighted by his recent loss of form.
Emmanuel Adebayor maintains that Arsenal "still have the chance to do something" in the title race despite slipping out of the top four of the Premier League. The Togo striker must now sit out the Gunners' next match, away to Aston Villa on Boxing Day, after he was sent off for a second caution during Sunday's 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium.
The 24-year-old and Wenger were heavily critical of the referee, Howard Webb, for the dismissal but the pair will not face action from the Football Association for their comments.
Adebayor insists Arsenal have shown they possess the character needed to force their way back into contention. "I can say it is a point gained because we were playing with 10 men for the last 30 minutes," he said. "We are not happy, but we can be pleased with the performance of the team. Every single player has shown character and that is what is good.
"We just have to keep going now and have shown that, even with 10, we can play good football and so with 11 we have a chance to win. Against Liverpool, you could say the referee took those two points away. We are still there and have to keep going. The title is still open for everyone to win it."
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