Date:Saturday May 9 2009
Players from foreign leagues can take up to 6 months to settle into the pace and style of premier league football the conventional wisdom would have it. There is enough evidence from a number of previous signings to feel that is wisdom with some validity.
Andrey Arshavin is an exception to the rule. In only his second full month playing for the club he has been awarded the Premier League Player of the Month Award for April. Signed in the January window his debut, which lasted just over an hour, was not until late February in the home fixture against Sunderland in a dull 0-0 draw followed by another 0-0 draw at home to Fulham in which he played 90 minutes on the final day of the month. The creative influence was clear though, to the extent that the teams` creative balance is lost when he is unable to play. A deficit evident for much of this season.
His individual performance last month with 4 goals against Liverpool to earn a draw against the balance of play couldn`t fail to catch the eye but his real impact has been a little more subtle. In just 12 games plus one as a substitute he has notched up 6 goals, including that 4 goal haul, but also 5 assists. The total goal attempts he has created in 10 PL starts is 21 which isn`t too far short of Fabregas territory and a bit ahead of Nasri.
What he does bring is illustrated for me by a simple pass across the box for van Persie to lash in an equaliser in the Cup game against Hull. As Robin moved into position in the penalty box and started to spread his arms to appeal for a pass as he had done I am sure, without reward many times this season, the ball was already on his way to him from the compact Russian. It`s that ability to see the simple things early, to make the right decisions and execute them quickly that makes the difference.
We have players, such as Bendtner, Walcott and Diaby who all have quality but whose decision making doesn't always yet reflect that quality. The ability to make the right choices at the right time will come but isn`t there yet. Its Arshavins ability to make those choices correctly, automatically in fact, that marks his combination of intelligence and quality. He still has to develop parts of his game defensively, which is perhaps the adjustment he still needs to make to this league, but the ability to think quickly and get the decision right,as he does, is what our game has missed for long periods of this season. Much more so than ball winning midfielders or aerially dominant centre backs.
I doubted that Arshavin would have time in 15 or so games to have much impact this season though he answered the need for a more creative contribution. I underestimated the Russians strength of character and determination to hit the ground running. He will be 28 this month. In a position that calls for great physical demands his is a star that might not shine at the club for as long as some others have done but he seems determined to make certain that it shines brighter than most.
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Date:Saturday May 9 2009
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