Archive for January 12th, 2009

Arshavin Latest: You can’t get “really special class” at a really special discount

116 comments January 12th, 2009

Andrei Arshavin would greatly improve our team

Yesterday morning came the ‘news’ that Zenit St. Petersburg have rejected a bid from Arsenal for Andrei Arshavin that amounts to around £10m.  Zenit spokesman Alexei Petrov said:

“I can confirm that Zenit did get an official offer from Arsenal about Andrei Arshavin. It was rejected as insufficient. They offered about £10m. No new offers have arrived from them since. At the moment, Arsenal are the only club to have approached us about the player.”

It remains to be seen whether or not this was the first bid of a lengthy negotiating process, or the culmination of talks that had taken place beforehand.  Opinion among the press is split, with some sources suggesting we will return with a £12m offer, and The Mirror convinced we will be gazumped by an £18m bid from cash-flushed Manchester City.  It’s hard to know what I believe, but I would say the following things:

  • I find it hard to believe that bid was rejected after Friday afternoon’s press conference, and at that stage Arsene did little to suggest his interest in the player had ended;
  • The paper who claim Arshavin is headed for Manchester are the very same publication who earlier this week ran an “Exclusive” saying that he was “on the verge” of a £10m move to Arsenal.

If City have come in, then Zenit will be delighted.  Their sole reason for making our move for Arshavin public was to drum up interest from other clubs, and now that Tottenham seem to have ended their interest in the player, City are the obvious candidates: they have a need for quality players, and what’s more, they have the money to make Zenit (and probably Arshavin) drool.

Whether or not City are interested, it’s important we push this one as far as we possibly can, even if they have a bid accepted.  Should the player makes his preference to join Arsenal clear then that could still swing the deal in our favour.  But having had a £10m bid rejected, it’s clear we’re going to have to rummage down the back of the sofa and see if we can go that little bit higher – be it £12m, or maybe even £15m.

£10m for Andrei Arshavin is not a realistic price.  This is the player who was voted the sixth best in Europe just a few weeks ago.  The players above him were Ronaldo, Messi, Torres, Casillas, and Xavi.  Immediately beneath him were David Villa, Kaka, Ibrahimovic, and Steven Gerrard.  He is in the company of players who are worth £30m and upwards.  I sincerely doubt that even Arsene believes that kind of player is worth as little as £10m – hell, we got £12m for Aleksandr Hleb…

Hopefully the bid is just an opening gambit, and we are realistic enough to know we’ll have to go higher to get our man.  Arsene has said:

“What I want, if we do add somebody, is really special class.”

However, you cannot expect to get really special class at a really special discount.  Sometimes, when a player fits the bill, you have to be prepared to go that extra mile, or pay that extra million pounds.  We all know how much our refusal to pay the £2m difference between Liverpool’s asking price and our offer for Xabi Alonso has cost us – not financially perhaps, but certainly in terms of points.

There was a time, a few weeks back, when I was so convinced of the weakness of our squad that just about any arrival would be greeted with open arms.  The likes of Jimmy Bullard and Mark Noble seemed attractive alternatives to Song or Diaby.  But now it has become clear our spending is going to be limited, and wholesale changes are not just likely but impossible, I actually concurr with Arsene, and the quality of the player(s) that we bring in is all-important.

There aren’t many footballers who have the quality not just to walk straight into our team, but also to improve it – Arshavin is one of those.  The arguments against his signing are not convincing:

  • the Russian league is extremely physical with very cold conditions, so he ought to be better suited to the Premier League than many of the mediterranean players we sign;
  • he may be 27, but the Russian mentality is so different to the Western one.  One only need look at the (admittedly somewhat) extreme threats aimed at Arshavin over his desire to ‘Go West’ (as it were) to understand that the inward-looking effects of Communist rule still linger.

How many players do we have whose inspirational style has guided a team to UEFA Cup victory?  How many players do we have that have been lauded as one of the stars of a high-profile International tournament?  How many players do we have with a degree of the skill, invention, and direct running Arshavin displays in the video below?

Answer: not enough to justify pinching pennies over the price of a player who would improve us immediately.  Not when he’s ‘all grown-up’ – now.  It’s not often a player in that class becomes available; for one to be available in January is almost unheard of.  The match against Bolton made it clear how much we require a player to combat our lack of creativity.  We need to compensate for the combined missing attributes of Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky, and Theo Walcott – that’s not something any old player could even contemplate doing.  Arshavin is a unique opportunity and one I’m convinced that, much like in the case of Alonso, we would regret missing.

The potential competition from City is nothing new to us.  In one Summer we infamously lost out on Shawn Wright-Phillips, Julio Baptista, and Robinho as the vultures of Chelsea and Real Madrid swooped on Arsene’s targets.  When we missed out on those players, we didn’t settle for the second best available, because second best is not enough for Arsenal.  Arsene recognises that much – now he simply needs to recognise that he has to push the boat out that little further to secure players of the requisite quality.

This one could run longer than Mathieu Flamini powered by a duracell battery.*

*though, obviously, it won’t run beyond 5pm on January 2nd.

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