Andrei Arshavin: Born To Be a Gunner

R LSenior Analyst IMarch 28, 2009

Arsene Wenger has always emphasized an attacking style among his players. Although it lacks the finish at times, there's no denying the entertainment and success his strategy brings to Arsenal.

The Emirates Stadium is a place many dream of playing, but only a select few are granted the privilege. In Russia, there was a footballer who had all of the attributes that Wenger desires when searching for new talent.

A man who could add to the Cesc Fabregas', Robin Van Persie's and Samir Nasri's. That man was Andrei Arshavin. Graduating out of the 'Smena' Football Academy, he made his first-team debut in 2000 for Zenit St Petersburg.

Arshavan displayed the ability to perform as a winger, playmaker and striker all with equal efficiency. This earned him the Player of the Season Award in the Russian Premier League that year.

With much of media and fan attention going towards the English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga, many still didn't know who Andrei Arshavin was.

A few months can change everything. First, he guided Zenit to the Russian League title in 2007, contributing 10 goals and 11 assists along the way. However, it was the international stage where Arshavin displayed his superb potential to a wider audience.

Euro 2008 was the tournament. Serving a suspension, he was unable to compete in Russia's opening two group matches. His debut came in the final group contest which was against Sweden.

The 27-year-old buried the Swedes by setting up Roman Pavlyuchenko's opening strike and scoring one of his own in the second half. In the quarterfinals, a Holland side that had easily disposed of France, Italy and Romania in Group C awaited.

Arshavin hadn't lost his magic and was the hero once again. With the score levelled 1-1 in extra time, he provided a lovely cross for Dmitri Torbinski to tap in easily on the goal-line.

A few minutes later, he added another goal to give Russia a comfortable 3-1 win and eliminated a Holland squad that many had fancied go all the way. Declared Man of the Match in both games, Arshavin's heroics were lost in the semifinals as Spain cruised to a 3-0 victory.

UEFA included him in their Euro 2008 Squad for his inspirational performances. Returning to Zenit St Petersburg, Arshavin was once again Man of the Match in the UEFA Cup final victory.

A number of Europe's top clubs were interested in acquiring him, in particular for his displays with the Russian national team. Arsenal declared Arshavin as their newest member on Feb. 2 and his first goal in mid-March was one to remember against Blackburn.

Denilson sent an excellent pass to the Russian, who side-stepped Danny Simpson and lifted a shot over Paul Robinson from a seemingly impossible angle. Along with the goal, Arshavin has added six assists in all competitions.

Seemingly fitting in perfectly, he is six assists shy of Van Persie's club-leading 10. Passing it would be quite the accomplishment considering Arshavin has only been in the EPL for two months.

While some players get a fortunate chance to play for a club such as Arsenal, others don't quite fit into Wenger's agenda.

Andrei Arshavin was born for it.


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