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.