The many sides of Andrey Arshavin: An all round performance at Villa in context

A torrid week for Arsenal ended with three points after a six goal clash at Villa Park. One aspect that caught my eye this week was the difference apparent in one Arsenal player, Andrey Arshavin, so much so that it required a little more in-depth investigation.

Image courtesy of Ronnie Macdonald

Arshavin’s poor form has been criticised of late, and not unjustly either. A goal drought extending from September, combined with poor passing, and a distinct lack of fitness has contributed to a poor season by his standards.

Saturday saw a much improved Arshavin play 85 minutes, score a goal and set up another, suggesting much improved fitness levels. The key point in comparison with his previous starts was the increased passing activity, which was more accurate than any of his recent starts against Spurs, Everton or Wolves.

The chart below details his number of attempted passes and in green the percentage success over the four games. The absolute low point came against Everton; he really did disappear for long periods, a common criticism of his play.

However, in total Andrey completed 78% of his passes against Villa, compared to only 63% against Spurs. When reading that take into account the fact he attempted almost twice as many, and the difference is clear.

Apart from the passing, his willingness to track back and win the ball was also clearly visible. This contrasts with the idea of Arshavin as a player who rarely helps out in defensive duties. His tackling stats show a marked improvement compared to the previous start against Spurs.

The comparison to his tackles in the Spurs match is a revelation, and is possibly linked to a lack of match fitness. This is a long term problem for the Russian, and it can prevent him from haring back down the flank to cover. In retrospect the improved defensive play against Villa is promising.

(However, the recording of tackles in Chalkboards can be misleading, combining several data sets. The majority of these are successful dribbles. For an alternative look at Arshavin vs. check out this excellent post on Arsenal Column, highly recommended).

Whatever mental and physical issues Arshavin has been struggling with were put aside on Saturday. His poor form may have been related to Russia’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa; probably Andrey’s last chance to play in the competition considering his age. His disappointment in the summer was well publicised, and it has affected his club performances.

Only time will tell if he has put this behind him, but the manner of his improvement against Villa is promising. That he is a talented player is doubtless, but his work rate must be maintained to be able to have an effect on games.

Tomas Rosicky also deserves a mention for some fine playmaking, his role as a replacement to Fabregas is clear from the chalkboard below.

In Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 this role is crucial in providing the central link between defence and attack, and in supporting the striker. Tomas stepped up to the mark and provided a performance with hardly a pass misplaced, and an assist to boot.

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9 thoughts on “The many sides of Andrey Arshavin: An all round performance at Villa in context

  1. Henry XIV

    I don’t think the number of passes completed, or the number of unsuccesful ones is in any way a good indicator to judge a playmaker/forward by.
    He could complete 100 passes, have a 100% success rate, but what good is that if they’re all sideways passes or back-passes? I’d rather Arshavin try and go for the killer pass and only succeed once in 7 or 8 attempts and that it turns out to be an assist than have playing safe and seeing us become so predictable going forward.
    I know that he hasn’t been on top form(by his standards) before the Villa game, and he did waste many passes in the previous games, but even then, he had a good number of assists. He provides us with that cutting edge we so desperately need when teams park the bus (which they often tend to do when they play us).

    Bottom line: Arshavin wasn’t playing to his full potential, but looking at the number/success ratio of the “passes completed” stat isn’t indicative of a poor form for someone playing in a position when he can’t play it safe (à la Denilson).

    Good read nonetheless.

    1. Thanks for your input Henry.

      I have to say though that surely having a high pass success rate, and making a lot of passes is key for a midfield player. Just look at Xavi Hernandez for an example of one of the the ultimate players in Europe, and he makes hundreds of passes every game.

      In any case Arshavin is not a playmaker, but Arsenal’s approach relies on possession and perfect passing to unravel the opposition. Without attempting any passes he cannot contribute to building attacks during the match, and the team cannot build play.

      In order to make a contribution in a passing team everyone needs to be using the ball regularly and accurately, even more so for the players playing in midfield. Passing it safe isn’t the main issue.

      Regarding Denilson; his role is completely different. Denilson is used as a central midfield player who can mop up play and distribute the ball quickly and cleanly with either foot, his actual role in the team is to complete the simple pass, and to moderate possession.

      For me, passing form has to be one of the main attributes Arshavin is judged by, as an attacking midfielder in a passing side.

      Always happy to hear thought provoking opinion.

  2. Ariyo

    I think the improvement we saw in Arshavin’s game against villa, was due to the fact that he was the opportunity to play a free role by Arsene in that particular match. I think he going to perform even better than that if he given more of such opportunity…

    1. You can embed them if you look for the html code on the Chalkboards themselves when you create them. However sometimes it’s easier to print screen and paste, especially if your site is hosted on WordPress.com.

  3. Love the blog mate. I have done a bit of analysis of Arsenal recently as well (both in this game and at the start of the season). http://arsenalcolumn.co.uk/?tag=arshavin

    Here’s an enigma; mercurial but he is a great talent. May we see him play behind the striker as many Arshavin apologists demand because of Cesc’s injury? Certainly, the wingers can track back and therefore limiting the running Song and Wilshere would have to do; Arshavin on the left will not.

    NB: Also, the tackling stats are deceptive. On my blog, I highlight the take-ons – that means the attempted dibbles successful. Guardian bunch tackles, aerial challenges and take-ons together and it’s obvious they’re not the same thing. So, the number of tackles Arshavin won are not that high; rather he won most of his dribbles (12 out of 15).

    1. You’re right mate, the Chalkboards tackles definition has caught me out before. Good points.

      Always been a fan of the Column.

      As far as Arshavin goes, he is an odd player – looks off-form, and then suddenly magic.

  4. Maude Vang

    Thanks for your input Henry. I have to say though that surely having a high pass success rate, and making a lot of passes is key for a midfield player. Just look at Xavi Hernandez for an example of one of the the ultimate players in Europe, and he makes hundreds of passes every game. In any case Arshavin is not a playmaker, but Arsenal’s approach relies on possession and perfect passing to unravel the opposition. Without attempting any passes he cannot contribute to building attacks during the match, and the team cannot build play. In order to make a contribution in a passing team everyone needs to be using the ball regularly and accurately, even more so for the players playing in midfield. Passing it safe isn’t the main issue. Regarding Denilson; his role is completely different. Denilson is used as a central midfield player who can mop up play and distribute the ball quickly and cleanly with either foot, his actual role in the team is to complete the simple pass, and to moderate possession. For me, passing form has to be one of the main attributes Arshavin is judged by, as an attacking midfielder in a passing side. Always happy to hear thought provoking opinion.

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