Some thoughts on Arshavin and the Arsenal defence

Arshavin has made a great start at Arsenal and will be missed against UnitedHello again – hope you’re doing well.

I was doing some planning for the blog this morning and was shocked to discover that there is only a month left to go this season. Just one month!

Of course, in that month we jam in five Premier League games and the two Champions League matches against Manchester United and maybe the final it we’re lucky, but it is strange to think that Arsenal’s season will be over so soon. A little bit sad, even, given the state of our league campaign and the recent disappointment of missing out on the FA Cup final by one game.

We may have had plenty of ups and downs in a very strange season, but one of the undeniable positives has been the signing of Andrey Arshavin. The little Russian has been nothing short of magnificent since his arrival from St Petersburg and continued his fine start to his Arsenal career with that four-goal haul against Liverpool. However, Arshavin has been quick to downplay his unbelievable effort at Anfield, indicating that there will be much more consistency in his game as he gets used to his new teammates. In his own words:

“If you look at the first half you never saw me except for one moment when I scored. It is difficult for me but I will try and I need time. Everybody else is [used] to playing with each other. I still have to go through pre-season and after that everything will be in a good place.”

If what Arshavin is saying is true then we can expect quite a player next season. Since his very first appearance against Fulham, where he fired a long-range shot narrowly wide and had another fierce effort saved by the keeper, Arshavin has looked the part in English football. It took him a few weeks to get up to full fitness but since then he has become an integral, almost irreplaceable member of our team and his absence from the Champions League squad has become more apparent.

Arshavin’s place in Arsenal history has been assured with his four-goal effort against Liverpool, but it has been his willingness to get involved and above all his obvious character that has made him a fan-favourite so far. Seriously, the guy is so cool! He rarely goes to ground when he can stay on his feet, never talks back to referees or has a bad word to say to any of his teammates. He seems like a genuinely nice guy and every time he makes a contribution he is quick to downplay his effort and speak up for the team. It’s wonderful to see.

As I mentioned before, Arshavin’s ineligibility for the Champions League means he will not be able to play against Manchester United next week. It’s a huge game for the club and although we always knew he would not be eligible, his performance against Liverpool just served to underline what we will be missing.

When you add Arshavin to our list of absentees you realise just how difficult a task our team – and indeed our defence – will have in getting past United. They weren’t particularly impressive in the 2-0 win over Portsmouth but aside from a couple of blips by Patrice Evra, they also never looked too stretched at the back. Contrast that with the shambolic performances of our defensive unit against Liverpool and there is certainly some cause for concern.

If we are to get a result at Old Trafford the defensive performance of the entire side has to improve. That means Mikael Silvestre and Kolo Toure communicating better, Bacary Sagna stepping up and Lukasz Fabianski and Kieran Gibbs maintaining cool heads in a pressure-cooker atmosphere. The midfield needs to press quickly when United are in possession and ensure we get the ball back as soon as we can if we lose it. The team needs to hold their positions, cover for each other and perhaps most importantly, maintain their composure and encourage each other to keep the workrate up.

Despite an admission from Arsene Wenger that the side will be rotated, this style of high-pressure defending is one that needs to be practiced on Sunday against Middlesbrough. We’re not in a position where every single league game matters anymore and pretty much everything we do in the Premier League should be focused on improving our chances of winning the Champions League. As such, I see this week’s game as another opportunity for the defence to get familiar with each other and build some confidence in the lead-up to next week’s game.

Anyway, that’s all I’ll say for today. There will be a full preview of the Middlesbrough game in tomorrow’s blog including any injury news if it comes through. I’ll also have a bit of a word about the the very first Arsenal FC Blog Podcast that will air on Monday next week, so don’t miss it.

Talk to you then.

Have your say on Andrey Arshavin, our dodgy defence or the Middlesbrough game by leaving a comment.



  1. You keep hoping that the penny will drop with Wenger, that he’ll finally realise the value of experience; of buying a few top-class, seasoned players and mixing them with a couple of youthful ones. Just about everyone should agree that the balance has been all wrong over the past four/five years, that we have had far too many below-par players unworthy of a supposed top four side and far too many kiddies growing up in public and being found out. With the Pool game, Arshavin, for one, showed what bags of experience, maturity and the cool head that comes with it can do. If that could be replicated in midfield and at the back we’d once again be a force to be reckoned with. I agree with Terence. Song HAS improved recently but it would be typical Wenger to note the past few games and give him the DM role without any real competition. And that would be crazy. He needs to be learning from someone with experience in the role, someone who’ll keep him on his game. As for our defence, it, too, remains the weakest of the top four sides. It’s plain that none of our first choice have decent competition. Gibbs was a liability and was targeted all night by Pool – as I said he would be. Silvestre was also causing chaos and was made to look stoopid by Torres, Kolo struggled to compose himself or win anything while Sagna also panicked if the ball came near him, gifting Pool a goal with a ridiculous clearance. The amount of times we failed to string two passes together or just hoofed the ball away was laughable, so I’m very pleased that Wenger kept them locked away in the dressing room and read the riot act afterwards. But he should really be pointing the finger at himself – they’re the players he’s bought/brought through. But until he takes the blame, gets rid of the deadwood and brings in top-class experience, we’ll remain well off the PL pace and potless.

  2. @ rilesh – absolutely spot on mate. I’ve been saying we’ve needed 2 or 3 first class experienced players for 3 years now. It’s a laudible strategy to bring youth on and give young players a chance, and with the financial burden of the first 3 years in the new stadium it might have been essential, but there’s no way a team of kids can seriously be expected to compete at the highest level. We’ve been a yard off the pace for 4 seasons now, and that won’t change without a bigger and more experienced squad. We’ve been desperately unlucky with long term injuries this season, but it has proved that the players waiting to step just aren’t good enough yet. Gibbs is a great prospect, along with Vela, Ramsey and Wilshere. Bendtner may even make the grade (although I don’t think he will), but it’s unfair on the players themselves that they’ve carried the weight of expectation this year. I agree Song has come on leaps and bounds, but he should be the understudy to an established world class DM, playing in Carling Cup games, early FA Cup games and home bankers in the PL. I hope that AW has learnt from the Arshavin experience- that if you invest properly in experienced players you get an instant return. It would be fantastic if we get passed Man U in the CL, but logic says it’s unlikely. Football being football, it’s not impossible, but it would be a major upset if it happened. Realistically, this season is likely to go down as another “transitional” season. What AW invests in the summer will determine whether 09/10 is more of the same.

  3. the problem that we would have in embracing buying the extra players is that bench sitters in the back up positions of toure/gallas/etc will need to be earning 80-90-100k per week and in our current structure thats not going to happen!

  4. the prof need to do seriuos work on the defence cos arsenal didnt deserve to loose against liverpool. silvester is not a good defender. kudos to Arshavin.

  5. I agree with y’all. Our defence is really in shackles. I think the priority in our shopping list this summer should be defenders and not just defenders but world-class defenders.

  6. Nothing can guarantee us any silverware without defenders, and i mean good defenders. i assume you all think we have a chance at the CL, well forget it, we are not in the same league with the remaining teams in terms of defending is concerned. a confused defence is the least we need at any time. we migt as well be satisfied that we have come this far,n lets hope that AW is also noting what we see. otherwise next season will stillbe like this one.
    maybe you dnt agree, but thats whati see……………………

  7. Why give Sanderous out on loan to bring Silvestre? Silvestre said few weeks ago that his experience will be vital in April. So much of the proof!

  8. Will fabianski still be in goal for the Man U match… I thought that he may be back in the side for Middlesborough…although its not a full defensive return if he is back itll be a nice boost.

    On another note…what with the season drawing to an end…if you still fancy following football week in week out can i point you in the direction of the Brazilian league..São Paulo are vying to retain their title, whilst battling for the coverted Libertadores (South American CL) as well. The season kicks off in two weeks time so plenty of time to choose you team.

    Remember the brazilian teams are just training camps for the young players that all end up in Europe. youll see some fantastic individual skill that is destined for the likes of the PL and la liga etc.

    São Paulo has some great talent as well as a goal scoring goal keeper. Hernandes, Dagaberto, Washington to name but three.
    Gremio gave us a close run last year and are even stronger this year….Corintians have Ronaldo and have just bounced back after a season in Serie B. Palmeiras, our great rivals, also have a tremendous squad and have a good chance this year…..there are many others and in differnce to the English league any one of about 12 teams could win the Campenato.

    The games are mainly played at weekends, normally late afternoon, evening here (-3hrs GMT).

    Theres also a great BBC blog about South american football every monday by Tim Vickery if you fancy learning more…..

    Obviously Im a São Paulo fan so i point you in their direction…but you may be swung by your favourite players past and present…

    SF reckon you’ll be intrigued by Santos…Pele’s old team…Paulista finalists this year too.

    Anyway theres still plenty of action for Arsenal and the rest of the PL but i know how the close season can get frustrating…

  9. Arshavin is already an Arsenal legend just 3 months after joining the club. He is a great player and i cant wait to see him play a full season.

    Silvestre must be dropped. I want Sagna to join Kolo in CD with Eboue at RB until Djourou comes back from injury. We always leak goals when Silvestre plays (4-4 against spurs and Liverpool, 3-0 drubbing at Citeh, 2-0 against Stoke and 2-1 loss to Chelsea) so we cant keep playing him.

  10. I have come to realise that we are the ”weaklings” in the CL so far. But normally it would be great seeing how we overcome this and win the champions league. However it would be disappointing to see Arsenal closing another season without a trophy……. It would be san indeed.

  11. Almunia should be back for Middlesbrough and therefore back for United but our defender Silvestre worries me, He is past is big time. He seemed like a good, experienced buy but he cant defend anymore, I would like nothing more than to sell him in the summer and bring in Steven Taylor, Micah Richards or bring Harvard Nordveit to the first team but I think we can win the CL and remain unbeaten til end of season. Arshavin, we love you!

  12. thank God we all know our problem is the defence, i used to have a believe that we can win any team in the world before our injury woes started, we just hope wenger does sumthing about silvester, and thank God Alumnia will be back on Sunday. We all should continue to pray for the return of Gallas and Djouro, Gibbs is trying though and we can cope with him.

  13. Does anyone have any info on the disallowed Cesc goal? A friend who was at the match said that it was not offside. Has anyone seen any video evidence?

  14. @SF Arshavin is a great asset for the team and i do agree he will be dearly missed in the CL, hope the young lads have learnt from him, the accurate shooting on goal was awesome..he is a legend indeed.
    As for winning the CL well as @Dan aptly says, it just a pipe dream with the kind of defense we have at the moment..
    They way the season has been, with the injuries of first team players and the Galla’s captaincy content with the achievement so far. Winning the CL would be a very very early christams present, a huge bonus.
    Hopefully with the gods(no major injuries) on our side and Wenger strengthening the DM and Defense..some silverware shall surely come…keep the faith gunners

  15. Now some of you say that Senderos is not fit to play in the premier league, well he’s only 24 years old. I can assure you that training with probably the best stars in the world in Milan will bring out the best in him. It’s not every day that a defender gets to face Ronaldinho at practice.
    As far as Arshavin, he’s a world class player who has a huge upside. I can’t understand why he barely played in the FA cup. Hey, but I’m not in charge right 😉

  16. Great analysis SF as to what’s wrong in our last game, but on your comparison regarding the two games, I would like to point out that under Pool’s pressure ManU’s defence capitulated. Now, I’m not saying we did any better defending, but a tie of 4-4 thanks to Arshavin is not a bad return. We have to put this in perspective. We have to expect this kind of games where we get outplayed and somehow manage to get something out of a game. This was unthinkable the last few years. Obviously our team is much better than Portmouth, or at least I think so. I believe the loss to Chelsea has something to do with our concern much more than this tie.

    Also, our most experienced players in the back – Toure, Sagna and Silvestre did not fare that well for those of you who think experience is the only thing lacking in our team. I see how unsettling it is to Gibbs and Fabianiski.

  17. There’s still a chance with CL i’m very confident.Arshavin is the best signing,as 4 the defense,we gotta wish 4 the best.Djorou does a much better job than Silvestre or even Toure sometimes.He is wonderful not 2 4get very tall also. C’mon all u gunners,woteva happnd 2 the word ‘Optimism’,u gotta have faith in ua team no matter wot.Remember that football is a combination of so many things including luck!Often times clubs like manure have gotten very lucky especially with penalties,our lack may be in otha ways,defensive blunder by the opponent team and so on….Let’s be positive and we will get something.We managed 4 goals@Anfield with a weak defense and keeper number 2,what more can we do with our usual backline,keeper and wonderful midfield with Strikers like Dudu,Van P and Ade?Keep the faith gunners

  18. @jay-jay:
    You made a great point about Silvestre. He’s struggling with covering long through balls.

    @Fatboy: I agree with you that Song should be the understudy of a world class DM. I would say M.Veloso, but he’s not well established yet!!!
    I also think the left side of our midfield needs improvements. Some may argue with this; however, I’m still convinced that bringing Babel in will do the job. Every game I see someone different (Nasri, Arshavin, Denislon). I just hope we find some stability. On the right, it’s not a problem because Walcott has got it covered!!!

  19. Now up front I would put Arshavin (a superbe scorer) with Van Persie. If V.Persie decides to leave (we have Bendtner-a great prospect).
    In the middle running things, a choice needs to be made between Nasri and Fabregas. I personally would choose Nasri because of his skills and strong commitment to the club.
    These ideas are for next season!!!!

    This season I’m still rooting for Fabregas and the gang to finish the year strong and win the CL. Go Arsenal!

  20. Defence has been our problem through out the season for our team. I think players coming back from loan will not help senderos and Traore. I always thought we should have one young English defender. Toure and Gallas are still going good but what if they get injuried ….other players in defence are not bad but they are not use to electric environment. But some time you have to blame the arsenal midfield because i thought the young gibbs was so much exposed to liverpool players. songs or nasri should have provided some sort of cover to gibbs. same applies to silvistre and toure and sagna. I think song’s job is to sit back and protect the defence. which he is not doing on an consistent basis and same goes to dani. I hope AW gets best from his team in the remaining matches……BEST OF LUCK ARSENAL…….

  21. @AlGunner:
    Pretty much everything you wrote makes so much sense, but I don’t think we can rely on Nasri for support. He has too much of an attacking mind!
    I’m hoping the english defender is S.Taylor

  22. wat can a say for a wee short arse andri arshavin is fuckin awsome.
    we threw away that gam a couple of times. it has to be sangas worst game in an arsenal shirt but he will bounce back. never thought id say id be glad to see almunia back between the sticks weve missed him badly this past few games and dont think toure is the same player with out gallas beside him.
    lets just hope arsene pulls the finger out this summer and spends some money
    my opinion is that we need one or two world defenders and and a top class holdin midfielder then wel be unstopable !
    invinceables part 2 ??????
    i sure hope so

  23. Bad News = No RVP for Man United

    Good News= Almunia, Djourou, Adebayor should be back.

    Its a shame because I thought RVP would be the key against them… Hopefully we get the away result and bring an advantage home. Cant wait


  25. our team has been doing great and i have complete faith in them… we have defeated manu before and we can do it again…. true that our defence is not the same but i think the front can manage the loss….. we all agree that arsenal need 1 or 2 great defenders but i think just 1 world class defender can work… and i would like to ask another thing that if it’s only me or all of you really think that it’s the right time to let adebayor go and find a better replacement COZ HE WASTES A LOT OF CHANCES. had the brilliant arshavin not been there in the squad… i am sure ade would have wasted half of the chances and we must have lost……… what do you say???

  26. well, wenger have to rest the key players for sundays match so that we can have the match on wednesday when we will be playing manchester.

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