With the January transfer window coming up, it seems worth looking at one of the positives and negatives involved in the potential signing of Newcastle's rumoured targets: ex-Russian national team captain Andrey Arshavin, who has fallen well out of favour at Arsenal and is reportedly seeking a move elsewhere.
On the one hand, Arshavin does bring plenty of flaws with him wherever he goes. Being something of an A-lister in terms of status if not necessarily ability, he would demand very high wages coming from a major European club like Arsenal.Even if his transfer fee would be fairly low given that Arsenal are supposedly eager to be rid of him, he would still be a costly signing.
It would be comparable to Liverpool signing Joe Cole on a free transfer with £90,000 per week wages in 2010, though hopefully a far more productive piece of business. Another parallel Arshavin shares with the Cole of 2010 is his age – at 31, his best days are numbered, and it would not be wise for Newcastle to sign him on anything more than a two year deal. On the pitch, despite his obvious quality a certain perceived laziness has long frustrated Arsenal fans.
The other problem is that to get the best out of him, Newcastle would probably have to change their tactical system. He is at his brilliant best usually when playing in the hole in a 4-2-3-1 system, which allows him to get away with doing little defensive work. For Arsenal he was usually used as a left-sided attacker in a 4-3-3 – currently Gutierrez’s role – and in a position which requires hard work defensively in terms of tracking opposition fullbacks and pressing the other team when they have the ball, at Arsenal he frequently drifted in and out of games and compensated for every moment of genius with less noticeable moments of defensive laziness which could have cost the side a win.
Putting him in such a role would be a shock to the system for Newcastle fans who are used to the energy machine that is Jonas Gutierrez, steaming up and down the pitch as if he could do it for days on end. Clearly, then, it would seem that a tactical reshuffle would be needed if Newcastle were to get the best out of Arshavin, and with the club’s league form already stuttering, it could take things from bad to worse.
On the other hand, Arshavin does bring many positives to a side. His outstanding performances at Euro 2012, and games such as Arsenal’s dramatic win over Reading in the League Cup show that he still has bags and bags of class left in his locker – in just 10 appearances this season he has still managed to notch seven assists without being a set-piece taker, although admittedly he has usually played against weaker opponents.
When played in the hole, his ability to drift into space and drag defenders and defensive midfielders around off the ball and his touch, dribbling ability, creativity and eye for a through ball are almost at the level of the likes of David Silva and Juan Mata.
If deployed correctly, and if his attitude and mental state was in order, he could provide the spark Newcastle need for a more positive second half of the season. Provided his lack of work rate is not too harmful, his “wow” factor – that is, his ability to create moments of brilliance out of nothing – would make him very popular with the fans and the idea of Cisse and Ba feeding of the chances created by and on-song Arshavin is a mouthwatering prospect.
In conclusion, provided he didn’t demand too much in wages, Arshavin would be a very worthwhile signing if Alan Pardew can keep his head straight and is willing to risk a tactical reshuffle in order to get the best out of him – Arshavin does not have to be the prima donna in a team, but nonetheless he comes across as the kind of player who likes to be reminded that he is important in his own right.
If all the above factors are dealt with, Arshavin could be the player whose flair and skill inspire Newcastle to a much stronger rest of the season.
What do you think?