World cups and Euros are very important to the players because they not only give them a chance to show their class against other top teams but also a chance to attain “instant stardom”. Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil emerged during the previous edition of world cup with the later securing himself a move to Real Madrid.
But form at these competitions doesn’t guarantee that the players will be able to perform on the same magnitude at club level and it’s a big gamble by the clubs purchasing these stars.
Arsenal fans can surely testify to this.
And with Arsenal, the name that springs to our mind is that of a certain Russian who recently blew the Czechs away.
Andrey Sergeyevich Arshavin, a previously unknown quantity announced his name four years ago against Sweden with a master-class in a must win game for the Russians. Russia had a tough start to their Euro 08 campaign after a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of the Spaniards and a narrow win against Greece. They needed to win the last game to qualify for the quarter-finals and Arshavin who had been suspended for the first two games was given the start and the little Russian literally ran the show, capping this fine performance with a goal to send Russia into the quarter-finals.
But the good part was yet to come for both Russia and Arshavin.
Russia met tournament favourites, Netherlands in the quarter-finals where they drew in normal time, only for the Russian wizard to seal the shock win with a goal and an assist in extra time.
Unfortunately for Russia, their dream run was brought to an end by the eventual champions Spain but for their Little Architect it had just started.
Arshavin was linked with various top clubs across Europe, but with Zenith’s reluctance to bargain, Arshavin had to wait till January 09 to complete his 15 million pound move to Arsenal.
Dubbed as the next “Zinedine Zidane”, Arshavin according to many failed to live up to the billing; though Arshavin did have his moments, particularly the four goals against Liverpool at Anfield and the winner against Barcelona in the knock-out phase of the Champions League.
Arshavin had many highs and lows but lowest moment in his Arsenal carrier came when he was at blame for not marking Antonio Valencia in the match against Manchester United as the Ecuadorian winger set up Welbeck who scored the winner. The Arsenal fans booed him and Wenger who had brought on the Russian for the youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was magnificent that night.
Arshavin was eventually loaned back to his old club. Many fans thought they had seen the last of Arshavin but he seemed to have some other ideas.
After winning the league with Zenith, Arshavin was ready to lead Russia again in the Euros, this time not as some unknown talent but as a man on mission to regain his pride.
Arshavin started on the left of the three pronged attack in Russia’s opener against Czech Republic, and made a tremendous impact on the game by assisting in two goals and creating several other chances for his team mates. Not only that, he was also a constant thorn for the Czechs, constantly finding spaces and moving into the middle which made it difficult for Czechs to control him.
Arshavin’s performance has proven the notion wrong that he failed to deliver for Arsenal because he was played in the wing and also Wenger should have learnt the lesson by now that Arshavin is player who only thrives when not burdened with defensive responsibilities. Certainly questions will rise in the minds of Arsenal fans as to why the Russian who has always been so spectacular for his national side has failed to deliver for them and whether he will get another lifeline at the club next season or if he is gone for good.
But coming back to this year’s Euro, Arshavin and his side have certainly brought back memories of their 2008 team and Arshavin would certainly be hoping that this tournament is as lucky for him as the previous one was and he can get just one another chance to play for a top team before he finally hangs up his boots.
– by Pranav Agarwal