Arshavin wrecking Arsenal's season Surely it's the other way round
Remember the Andrey Arshavin who dazzled against the Dutch at Euro 2008 The one who scored four goals at Anfield in his debut season for Arsenal
That guy hardly bares resemblance to the No 23 who left the Emirates with criticism ringing in his ears on Sunday.
So what went wrong His detractors, led by their new spokesman Gary Neville, would have you believe he doesn't care – he's lazy, invisible on the pitch and isn't prepared to get stuck in.
Number's up: Arshavin came in for stick over his performance against United
But while Arshavin can't be held blameless for his current malaise, isn't it also the case he has been ruined by Arsenal
Gradually diminished in a system that doesn't suit him and in a position he had barely known in a decade or more at Zenit St Petersburg.
His biggest crime on Sunday seems to be that he was brought on for a player who was enjoying a flying first league start.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, with his dynamic wing play, hunger and demeanour, represented the antithesis of Arshavin, but the substitute can hardly be blamed for his manager's decision.
The over-the-top criticism and analysis of his role in Danny Welbeck's winner would not have come had it not been for the displeasure at Oxlade-Chamberlain's departure. Singling out Arshavin fit the narrative, the scapegoat easily identified.
Yes, a more defensively apt player might have dealt with Antonio Valencia better, but Arshavin was not the only man culpable if we break it down.
With the game stretched, he was caught
out of position in tracking Antonio Valencia. But, without a left back
in sight, he still managed to get close to the Ecuadorian, guiding him
inside where Arsenal were strong, towards Alex Song and Thomas
Defensive blunder: Arsenal were carved apart for Welback's winner which Arshavin was powerless to stop (below)
Song was easily bamboozled into stepping aside while Vermaelen stood square as Valencia passed. Arshavin stuck with Valencia and prevented him from shooting when receiving the ball back, seven yards from goal.
Valencia instead returned the ball to Welbeck, who scored, unmarked, as the rest of Arsenal's defence looked at each other. This was obviously all Arshavin's fault.
Forget that Arsenal had been vulnerable down the flanks all game (see United's opening goal) or that Arsene Wenger has been fielding defences without full backs having got three weeks into the transfer window without signing reinforcements.
Neville has been a revelation as a TV pundit, with his pre-match analysis on Sky's Monday Night Football show often more entertaining than the subsequent game.
Yet instead of dwelling on the detail he resorted to playground criticism of Arshavin not liking England and thinking our women are ugly. It's hard to imagine why a 30-year-old with two children settled in London a long-term partner who loves Oxford Street hasn't seduced a string of British beauties.
Nigel Winterburn, who also knows a bit about defending, has a slightly different view.
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'Arshavin has been smashed to pieces because he didn't tackle Valencia,' Winterburn told the Sovetskiy Sport newspaper. 'But he is only partly to blame.
'Andrey is not an experienced defender and it is not so easy to stop guys like Valencia. But he still keeps going to the end and tried his best. Where were the defenders The blame must be shared by all the defensive players, and Andrey too.
'I agree with Gary Neville to some extent. If he doesn't get pleasure from playing in England then of course it would be better to go to Wenger and say, “Arsene, I want to go home”. But I think it's just Andrey is suffering bad form. He can return to his previous level, he just needs to make an effort.'
Arshavin acknowledges his performances have not been great, but the stuttering nature of his involvement – eight starts in 22 Premier League games this season – is not conducive to regaining match rhythm. It is a n obvious vicious circle.
But he is never likely to regain his lustre on Arsenal's left wing.
It is hard to understand why Wenger bought Arshavin, possibly for a club-record fee (between 12million and 16.5m depending on who you believe) in a time when he hasn’t lavished a lot of money on signings.
The Frenchman rightly identified Arshavin as one of the most talented players of his generation during those magical displays against Sweden and Holland four years ago, but brought him into a system that fails to embrace his vision.
Four of the best: Arshavin's career started so well in north London
After early development in midfield positions, Arshavin established himself playing in a front two. He was best playing as a No 10 off a figurehead No 9, drifting in and out of space, in and out of games, stealthily and so effectively delivering killer blows.
The closest Wenger has come to using this role was when he pushed Cesc Fabregas into a more advanced position than normal.
So, why was he signed Was an established 27-year-old expected to transform his game into that of an industrious winger
Neville attempted to say Arshavin looked the least interested player in the Premier League. Never mind that his demeanour has always been as it is now, when the chips are down fans want to see you haring about like Scott Parker, sweating blood for the shirt.
Show some passion – the most overrated attribute in the game, often held in higher regard than invention or calm, calculated competency.
If you think Arshavin doesn't care, you may wonder why he hasn't responded since Sunday. His Twitter has remained silent for over a week and the interview he usually gives after every game has gone unpublished.
Remember the excitement when he first said, 'Now I am Gooner' The next words he says may well be, 'Do svidaniya' – and I for one won't be pleased to see the back of him.
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