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The one that got the ball roling

He’s 5 foot 4, He’s 5 foot 4, Thank you Arshavin, …… Adebayor

Is one of the many variations of the song that would probably get some time during the derby tomorrow. Andrey Arshavin has returned to Zenit St Petersburg on loan until the rest of the season and we have probably seen the last of seen in an Arsenal shirt. 30 goals in 133 games for Arsenal Football Club. That’s an average of 1 in every 4 games, which is a very decent output from an attacking midfielder.

He came to us at the very last minute of the transfer window and he left us in a similar circumstance. It’s hard not to feel a little sad to see him go. Arshavin left us with a lot of wonderful memories. The 4 goals at Anfield in a single game is one most talked about in terms of individual brilliance but there were many others too. That run down the byline before scoring his first Arsenal goal against Blackburn, playing as the sole striker and still scoring the winner in a 2-1 win against Liverpool and last but not least, that superb winner in the win against Barcelona.

Yet, it is also hard not to see the other side of the fence. The fact that a player coveted by the world after his exploits at the European Championship in 2008, Arshavin has become what is effectively the back-up player in this current Arsenal side. Players ahead of him either in wide areas or the central attacking midfield role. Rather than just one solitary reasons, I think it’s a culmination of several things that has cut short his Arsenal career.

First and foremost, he’s not a winger. Being played out wide has not help Arshavin in any way. While it is true that players have to adapt to the system that the teams play in, it is very difficult for a player of his age who is normally the central attacking midfielder (CAM) / free role / in the hole to change. That’s not to say he has not done well in those wide areas. Arshavin has the talent and the quality to be able to find that magic touch or a pass that has seen him succeed on occasions out wide.

The criticism of him being lazy and doesn’t seem to bothered is one that I, myself have thrown at him in the past. Some of it could be attributed to his fitness, some perhaps to his confidence. One could argue that he was not able to play in that CAM role because Cesc Fabregas was there. Fair point. Imagine how difficult it must have been for Arshavin to see that even when Fabregas left, he still doesn’t get a chance to try that position.

Some are sad to see him go while others are not emotionally involved in his departure, which is also fair given the output that he has given this season. However, I think for many, it is the fact that we’re now looking to secure that 4th spot and we need as much help as we can. Some are also disillusioned by the fact that we’re reducing the option to the squad at a period where we can’t enhance the squad.

By the same token, we are now only effectively in one competition, that is the Premier League. From now until the end of the season, we are probably playing only every 6 or 7 days. Injuries aside, there’s probably little chance of Arshavin getting any playing time. Yes, I still believe that from the bench, he’s the one who is capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat when all else fails but you must also agree that those magic instances have become very few and far in between.

I like Arshavin. He takes chances that many doesn’t. That is also why sometimes, he’s let down by those risky choices. Going back to Russia to rebuild his confidence and finding back his groove has to be an acceptable resolution for all parties. Missing out on the World Cup hurt him more than we could imagine. Thanks for the memories Andrey, best of luck back home.

Listen to the Arsecast yesterday and you could easily see how we’ve managed to maintain our supremacy over Sp*rs for such a long time. Lee Dixon spoke at length about the situation at Arsenal and also touch on how he came to embraced what the fixture means to us. Freddie Ljungberg also touched on it in the video here. Growing up as Gooners, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson understand what the derby means. While Bacary Sagna sees the importance but with a slight different reason.

Now, more than before (since Arsene Wenger’s reign started), the importance of this fixture has increased a little. We’ve suffered this season while they have prospered. It hurts and pride must be restored. It helps when the team themselves know that us fans wants nothing more less than a victory tomorrow. The likes of Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong could also do their part by passing the message to the rest of the squad.

Let’s hope they are pump up for it, despite seeing the back of number 23.

The one magical night