June 7, 2023

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Arshavin could become an Arsenal legend. What was missing?

In the elections  “100 best athletes in the modern history of Russia” on Sports.ru, Arshavin became the fourth in the overall ranking and the first among the players. We remember Andrei as a sincere genius, and Europe as a megastar of the Russian national team at Euro 2008. Then there was a transfer to Arsenal, which gave a bunch of unforgettable moments. But what place did Arshavin occupy in the club hierarchy?

It seems that there are two ways to write a text about Andrei Arshavin in Arsenal.

The first is the exploitation of nostalgia. Enumeration and artistic description of the moments that everyone remembers anyway. Approximately the same list of highlights can easily be made by any spectator of the Premier League – not even an Arsenal fan. Perhaps fans will add a few underrated masterpieces (such as Atlético’s goal at the Emirates Cup from an impossible angle ), but the essence will not change. Arshavin has a brilliant collection of such moments – and you and I have already retold them to each other a billion times.

The second way remains – to get away from chronology and nostalgia altogether, trying to summarize Arshavin’s entire English career with one fundamental question. For me, this question is: what did Andrei lack to become an Arsenal legend? It is important that here criticism is combined with a compliment. In the question itself, it is sewn up and what clearly could, and what did not, stuck in the status of a mirage of a legend. 

Any other question either underestimates his talent or overestimates his stability and durability. I’ll try to explain why.

Why Arshavin really could become an Arsenal legend

Andrei managed to lay the foundation of legendaryness, but failed to build a house on it. This foundation consists of three key areas:

1. First six months after transition. After Arsenal’s then-record £16m transfer, we saw one of the fastest and most powerful adaptations ever. At the short end of the season, Arshavin knocked out 1.09 goals + passes in terms of 90 minutes. For context: the result of Fernando Torres (the leader of the 2008/09 season among those who played it in its entirety) is 0.89. 

Such performance in that Premier League was something completely anomalous. If Arshavin took her to the distance, he would fly into the status of the main star of the league. The impact on the team at that stage was also categorically positive – Arshavin came to Arsenal, which was fifth and behind Aston Villa by 5 points. There was an epidemic of injuries in the team, Andrey almost single-handedly dragged the attack and dragged him to the Champions League zone. A worthy first page in the book of exploits. 

2. Anfield as a demonstration of potential. Possibly a false demonstration. Arshavin himself does not even include a match with poker in the top three games in his career. “If you look only at the numbers, this is my best match. But from the point of view of the style and quality of the game, I had much better games, ” summed up Andrey