On the back of a mighty impressive Euro 2008, Andrey Arshavin joined Arsenal in February 2009. The Russian’s move to the Emirates Stadium was undoubtedly the most dramatic saga of that transfer window.
He signed for Arsenal after overcoming obstacles like wage demands, transfer deadlines and even a certain Vladimir Putin. Arsene Wenger was very keen to add Arshavin to his squad and when the £15million deal was eventually confirmed Arsenal fans were justifiably excited.
The 27-year-old was a player suited to Wenger’s style of free-flowing possession football: a two-footed technician who could dribble past opposition with ease, create chances with accurate passing and score. He wore the No. 23 shirt, last worn by Sol Campbell. However, during his stint at North London the flamboyant Russian failed to live up to the promise he showed in his early days.
When Arshavin joined the North London giants midway through the 2008-09 season, the Gunners were suffering terribly from an injury crisis, key players like Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky were on the treatment table. When Arshavin made his debut, Arsenal had scored just one goal in the last three games.
Arshavin took a couple of games to settle in the Premier League. He recorded his first assist in Arsenal colours in his second game against West Bromwich Albion. The Russsian attacker scored his first goal for the Gunners in the following game against Blackburn Rovers. Arshavin bagged a healthy two goals and five assists in his first seven starts
On 21 April 2009, Arshavin was named Man of the Match after a career-defining performance when he scored all four Arsenal goals in a tight match against Liverpool at Anfield. He scored two with his left foot and two with his right in a thrilling encounter, which ended in 4-4. His iconic four-finger celebration has gained a separate chapter in Arsenal’s folklore.
The Russian was unstoppable that night every time he had the ball at his feet, he made Anfield quiet. As time goes on, larger and larger stretches of the Russian’s career will get ignored in order to focus on that one game at Anfield.
Arshavin was superb that season, he scored 6 league goals along with a good number of assists. He came second in Arsenal’s Player of the Season poll, despite only playing in the second half of the season and playing in fewer than a quarter of Arsenal’s matches all season.
The following season, Arshavin continued his good work as he enjoyed his most fruitful season in an Arsenal shirt in terms of goals. He started the 2010/11 season in style as he scored in Arsenal’s first two league games, but he failed to seize the opportunity to solidify himself as one of the best talents in the league. He ended up only scoring six league goals from 37 appearances. This was the start of his decline in North London.
In the following season, Arshavin was riddled with criticism about his refusal to track back and help with defence. He was loaned out to his boyhood club in January for the rest of the season.
The Russian came back to North London the following season but again failed to live up to the expectations of the fans as he managed only 7 appearances all season. This was this last season at Arsenal, he scored 31 goals with a sum of 41 assists which came from 143 appearances for the club altogether.