The news of Andrey Arshavin departing for Zenit St Petersburg on a loan move signals yet another inflection point in Arsenal's decline from the top echelon of the Premier League.
Barely a month ago, Arsene Wenger defended Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain's substitution for Andrey Arshavin against Man Utd saying " Arshavin is captain of the Russia national team. I have to justify [substituting] a guy of 18 who's playing his second or third game? Let's be serious."
Wenger also demanded respect for the Russian captain from the fans.
" I personally have a huge respect for Andrey Arshavin and if you would see him behave every day you would have one as well."
When asked if the winger was contemplating a return to the Russian league, he categorically stated he was not up for sale. "For me, no," he said. Pressed if anyone else has a say in that decision, Wenger said: "Andrey Arshavin." Has the playmaker, then, intimated that he wants to leave? "No."
Three weeks later, Wenger's £15 million record signing departs without any fanfare making those words ring hollow. Arshavin's transfer was an extra-ordinarily complicated pieces of business conducted shrouded in secrecy and competing statements. Arsenal is usually faulted for blinking first as the price escalates for a player's signature. Not so for Arshavin. They fought of Spurs and managed to sign the player in a dramatic finish as the Premier League extended the last day of the 2008 winter transfer because of inclement weather.
Another track light burning out in Arsenal's dwindling fortunes shedding more gloom. But up above is a glimpse of the promise, the magic that Arshavin initially brought. A player who lit up the pitch with his movement and finish. He was undoubtedly a mercurial talent. At times too mercurial for his own teammates who seemed a step slower to get to his preternatural passes. He brought that same breezy, quirky quality to his observations of life on his website.
The Russian never lived up to that high bar thereafter struggling with fluctuating levels of motivation and desire leading to the lackadaisical displays that frustrated fans. What was once captivating became ponderous, a player robbed of the ball once too often, showing neither the requisite aptitude to track back, or more ominously to finish. Another gestalt emerged; of a player looking far removed from the game, hands on hips, indolent, disenchanted with English life, fueling stories of a Barca move.
Arshavin became too predictable on the wings with the debate shifting to whether he would be more useful deployed centrally. But Wenger used Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey as surrogates after the departure of Fabregas and Nasri to fill that gap. With the rise of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, the role of Arshavin was further limited.
Arseblog rightly wonders why this transfer took place on the eve of a defining match in Arsenal's season. But this is yet another reactive move reminiscent of Wenger dipping into the last day of the summer transfer period well after it was clear Fabregas and Nasri would depart.
Arshavin reacted to the news tweeting, "I've moved to "Zenit". On loan, will play under number 29. All the details tomorrow, when you wake up. :) " He will see immediate action in a huge match against CSKA Moscow who are trailing Zenit in the Russian league on March 3rd.
So long Andrey and farewell! You gave us some delicious memories which we will hold onto.