Football fans are not the most patient of breeds and short memories are part and parcel of the game. As Arsenal hit top form and sit comfortably within the coveted Champions League places, few Gunners will recall that spell between January and February when their attack floundered haplessly.
Shorn of their captain Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal stumbled to three consecutive goalless draws in the league at the Emirates and left Arsene Wenger’s side desperate for extra attacking impetus. Since the beginning of March Arsenal have scored 22 goals in just seven games in the Premier League and are repaying their manager’s abundant faith in their ability.
Attacking abandon has returned to North London and is encapsulated in the form of Russian wizard Andrei Arshavin. Arsene Wenger’s theory of a six-month bedding in period for foreign players arriving in the Premier League has been thoroughly tested by a player who has provided six goals and six assists since his big money transfer from Zenit St. Petersburg in January.
Wenger’s distaste for the January transfer window is well known but this season he cast those prejudices aside and spent big. That confidence is now being rewarded in spades by a player who looks to the manor born in the hectic pace of the Premier League.
From his stunning strike against Blackburn to his four goal spree at Anfield, the diminutive Russian has added an extra dimension to Arsenal’s attacking play. Arshavin’s blend of vision, pace and technique has spurred the Gunners on and dovetailed superbly with the return to the team of captain and totem, Fabregas.
Against Middelsbrough on Sunday the Spaniard and Arshavin once again hinted at a creative partnership that could be the envy of the league next season. With Fabregas deployed in a more attacking role the pair linked up fabulously throughout the match, Arshavin displaying a sublime range of passing. There may have been a couple of comical efforts on goal thrown in but once again Arshavin was bright and industrious. Arsenal followers must wince at his omission from the starting line-up for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.
Arshavin’s signing has been hugely important on the pitch as his arrival has re-ignited Arsenal’s season and seemingly put to bed the challenge of Aston Villa for the last Champions League spot. Equally significant though has been the symbolic effect his transfer has had at the North London club. After losing established players like Flamini and Hleb last summer many in the media have been labeling Arsenal a ‘selling club’ that fails to hold on to their big players.
This perception may be off the mark but there certainly seemed to be an unease emanating from the dressing room over Arsenal’s transfer policy. At different times this season both Fabregas and Robin Van Persie have commented publicly on Arsenal’s need to show a little more ambition in the transfer market. By signing Arshavin Arsenal have certainly done that and shown that when the player is right Wenger is not afraid to loosen the purse strings. Arshavin has adapted to Arsenal’s distinct style almost immediately and is clearly revered by his teammates.
Arsenal fans may have to sit through another summer of transfer speculation over Cesc Fabregas but this signing should go a long way to convincing those at the club that Arsenal mean business. It is amazing the difference a couple of months and an infusion of Russian class can make.