Saturday, 17 September 2011

Andrey Arshavin set for Arsenal 'Playmaker' role

Tomorrow, Arsenal face Blackburn with no less than three first team midfielders missing, as well as a lingering question mark over Aaron Ramsey’s fitness ahead of the game. This has led to speculation that Arsene Wenger has been considering playing Andrey Arshavin in a new role within the side.

The rumours started earlier today; stating that the 30-year-old Russian is set to play in the advance midfield role, which has been occupied by three other players this season; by Yossi Benayoun against Borussia Dortmund, Aaron Ramsey against Swansea, and the departed Samir Nasri against Liverpool.

Cesc Fabregas played the majority of this position last season, with Jack Wilshere and Alex Song the two deeper players. Now it seems, with Tomas Rosicky and the aforementioned Wilshere both out with injuries, it seems Wenger could overlook Benayoun and play Arshavin in support of Van Persie.

Now of course, every Arsenal fan knows Andrey Arshavin has undoubted ability. He has a fair amount of pace, and relies on his tricky footwork and skill to take on opponents. He has spent the majority of his Arsenal career on the left side of the front three in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation. More of an inside forward rather than an out and out winger (which Walcott is on the right flank).

It paid dividends last season, as he racked up 17 assists in all competitions last season. His best tally since the 2007 season, where he was playing in Russia with Zenit St. Petersburg.

Now, this opportunity for Arshavin, would allow him to revert to the position he played so successfully for Zenit and for Russia. Most recently, Russian national team manager Dick Advocaat criticized Arsene Wenger saying he was using Arshavin incorrectly, and that he would more affective playing behind the striker. In the manner of how Dennis Bergkamp used to play.

Now, obviously Arsene Wenger doesn’t pay attention to what other managers say, but it would seem that option was always in the back of his mind, more so with the two big departures this season, and tomorrow he’ll get the opportunity to prove his worth.

With Gervinho brought in to play on the left flank, effectively taking Arshavin’s place, it seems that with the exit of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas, that attacking midfielder/playmaker role is up for grabs. Tomas Rosicky was the obvious option, but after his injury two seasons ago, he hasn’t been the same since, and hasn’t impressed. With Jack Wilshere out injured, our ready-made replacement for Fabregas, Arshavin could now step in to fill the void.

Arshavin hasn’t overly impressed over past two seasons, and his bad habit of cutting back in when playing wide left, taking on a defender, cutting back onto his right foot and eventually losing the ball, which has been frustrating for all. He’s also always been a candidate for substitution due to his average performances.

To play in this attacking midfielder role, he’ll need to be more disciplined, as he gets extremely lazy out on the left, and doesn’t track back. This new role can’t be used as an excuse for him now calling himself a forward, and not press from the front. His tracking back has become anonymous, and it has frustrated a large majority of the Arsenal supporters.

He was excellent in this playmaker role at Zenit, under the management of Advocaat. His creativity during this periods, as well as his form, was superb. His vision, threading passes to the forwards, after receiving the ball on the turn and running at defences. He’d receive these passes from the likes of Tymoshuk, Zyranov and Denisov in the 4-3-3 formation which led to Arshavin in a free role behind striker Pavel Pogrebnyak/Fatih Tekke. This is the side that won the 2008 UEFA Cup and the basis for this example.

football formations

Blackburn are expected to line up with two central midfielders, N’Zonzi and Dunn, however due to their precarious position in the league, and the pressure on manager Steve Kean, I think they might put another midfielder in the middle. This would mean an extra man to deal with the threat of Arshavin and gladly it show Arsenal fans whether AA23 could actually play that role.

If it was a simple 4-4-2 by Blackburn, the two Arsenal centre midfielders would compete with Rovers two, leaving Arshavin to roam behind the midfield and in-between the lines. Pretty much giving him the opportunity to play effectively. One way to combat Arshavin, would be to have one of the centre backs step up and interject whenever he picks up the ball. I don’t exactly think Samba or Dann are quick enough to afford to get caught on the turn so it’ll be intriguing to see how Steve Kean plays it.

football formations

I hope to see an improved Arshavin this season. He was culpable, just as much as anyone else in the side that were responsible for the 8-2 hammering. Hopefully will grasp this new opportunity with both hands, as it could rejuvenate him and his Arsenal career.

This was a guest blog post by a Tumblr blog called "Real Talk Arsenal" which can be found here

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