2009-02-06

Arshavin words after latest Arsenal transfer


As we know, for most soccer players now, the tag 'a dream move' is increasingly becoming a cliche; a statement made just to endear themselves with fans at their new clubs.

However, as far as Andrei Arshavin is concerned, his deadline-busting transfer from Zenit St Petersburg to Arsenal is indeed beyond his wildest dreams.

Indeed, so much so that the Russian star did everything he could to make sure the deal remained a possibility.

Case in point: at the time severe snow threatened to cripple the London transport system on transfer deadline day, he jetted into London first thing in the morning on a private plane and camped himself in a Hertfordshire hotel, just a stone's throw away from Arsenal's London Colney training ground.

And at the time the reported £15 million ($31.5m) deal was on the brink of collapse after an impasse over financial terms, Arshavin offered to take a pay-cut to ease through the deal.

What's more: he also reportedly agreed to pay 'compensation' to Zenit for leaving the Russian champions.

As you can tell, the talented 27-year-old really wanted to join Arsenal. Desperate even.

'Arsenal are one of the leading football clubs in the world, with a group of fantastic young players and a great manager,' declared Arshavin after his move was confirmed by the Premier League on Tuesday - almost 24 hours after the transfer deadline.

'I am looking forward to making the Arsenal supporters happy and helping this great club victory trophies.

'I am so happy to be an Arsenal player, it was my dream.'

One suspects that he really means it. Arsenal supporters will be heartened by Arshavin's show of determination, commitment and sincerity throughout this protracted transfer sage.

No fan likes it better at the time a soccer player appears to be devoting his life to the club.

All Arshavin needs to do is to replicate these qualities on the pitch, and he'll do alright.

Chances are he will. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has made no secret of his admiration of the Russian playmaker.

The feeling is mutual, it seems.

Arshavin, one of the leading stars at Euro08, revealed the prospect of playing under Wenger played a big part in his decision to move to Arsenal.

'I moved because I like the Arsenal style, Arsene Wenger as a manager and I like some of their players,' Arshavin said.

'Every time I talked to Arsene, he said: 'I want you to come to Arsenal'. He had confidence in me.'

But it wasn't Arsenal who made the first move, though.

After his personal success at Euro08, Arshavin - who has 15 goals from 41 caps for Russia - was flooded with enquiries from major European clubs.

Barcelona came calling, but the Spanish champions' 15 million euros ($30m) bid was turned down by Zenit.

Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham, too, made a bid worth £16m.

It was again rejected by Zenit, prompting Arshavin to blast his club for pricing him out of the market with an exorbitant £22m price-tag.

When Arsenal started their pursuit at the start of the year, their advances were thwarted at every turn by Zenit.

Barbaric

Incensed, Arshavin described Zenit as 'barbaric' and vowed never to play for them again.

Negotiations went back and forth over the course of January and finally, the drawn-out deal was done.

It was tough work, admitted Arshavin, but it was worth it.

'It was a very tough time for me, but now it doesn't matter because I am a Gunner. It is great,' said the 2006 Russian soccer player of the Year.

Arshavin will be cup-tied for the Champions League, but his goals and creative play will be needed to propel Arsenal beyond fourth place in the Premiership to secure automatic Champions League qualification next season.

Even though Arsenal's title bid is all but decimated and the League Cup exit still smarting, the new Arsenal No. 23 has his eyes set on silverware this season.

The FA Cup - with a replay against Cardiff coming up on 16 Feb - is very much a possibility.

The EPL title? Mission Impossible, isn't it?

But Arshavin is not about to give up, just like how he refused to give up fighting for his dream move.

'Trust in me and Arsenal,' he assured. If your deliver your promise, Arshavin, all will.

Wenger reasons to leave Van Persie on the bech

The Gunners were held to a goalless draw at the Emirates, which meant they were unable to make up ground on fourth-placed Aston Villa, who also drew at home.

Despite having around 70% of the possession, Arsenal Football Club rarely threatened the Hammer goal.

And although Wenger sent on van Persie with 15 minutes to go, there was to be no late goal as if often the Arsenal style.

In fact, when asked whether he regretted the decision to leave the Dutchman out of his starting line-up, Wenger insisted: "No.

"When sides defend like West Ham did you normally expect to score a goal in the last 15 minutes or so and van Persie was on for the last 15 minutes.

"It was done not to get him injured.

"We have to be cautious with him and he had played every minute against Cardiff and also Everton.

"We have bad experiences at the time we pushed him to play lots of encounters."

The Dutch marksman, who is the Gunners' leading scorer with nine Premier League goals, currently has 18 months remaining on his Emirates deal.

Both parties sat down to open negotiations two months ago, but they were postponed as the club underwent a boardroom reshuffle.

Although Arsenal are reportedly just shy of matching Van Persie's £80,000-a-week demands, Wenger is confident an agreement can be reached.

"He knows how much it means to me and we will try to sort him out," said Wenger. "I'm convinced it means a lot to Robin to stay here.

"I've invested a lot of time in them (Van Persie and Theo Walcott) because I feel it is important to them and it means something to them to be at this club.

"He wants to be part of the club and, of course, we have to satisfy his demands as well. I don't think that we're far away."

Van Persie's blistering form has coincided with an injury-free spell and Wenger's main concern is not trying to rely on the 25-year-old services too heavily.

"I believe him being fit has helped him greatly. He is a player who has made an extreme improvement," he continued.

"When you consider the player who arrived here, and who he is today, it's absolutely fantastic. He has ingredients which are very important - talent and motivation.

"The danger is to overplay him at the moment because we still have to be a bit cautious with him."