Great Expectations

Remember yesterday when I said that I hoped we would have some real Arsenal news to discuss today? That seems optimistically naïve now… the silence, she continues..

I guess in truth we are still three days away from the game against Sunderland and the players that have been away on international duty don’t return to the club until today so team and injury news is pretty thin on the ground right now.

One man who has been talking is Andrey Arshavin, the little Russian has been telling Arsenal fans that they should expect more from him. When I first saw the headline yesterday afternoon I must admit I thought he was on a wind-up because frankly we’ve been expecting a lot more from him for a couple of years now and any extension of the expectation level would surely be no good to our already fragile state of supportive mind.

It seems that with the European Championships starting to creep into view the diminutive midfielder has realised he needs to up his game. Having been so disappointed by his nations failure to reach the last World Cup the Russian captain may have realised that this could well be his last chance to lead the mother land to victory in a major finals, he’ll be 31 by the time the tournament comes around and most likely knows as well as we do that by the time the 2014 World Cup arrives he could be out of the international picture or at least demoted to a mere squad player, no longer the wearer of the Sbornaya armband.

If you think we Gooners may have got on the former Zenit players back at times it’s nothing compared to the stick he has taken from Russian fans, pundits and former players – Viktor Ponedelnik, one of the heroes of the USSR’s 1960 European Championships victory, has more than once called for Arshavin to be stripped of the captaincy stating – “Arshavin is a nominal figure… He play’s on his own – we should say good-bye”

Sovetsky Sport columnist Yuri Tsybanev has suggested that Dick Advocatt, the Dutch coach of the Russian team, is picking the player on reputation alone while former USSR defender Yevgeny Lovchev has gone so far as to suggest that Gunners boss Arsene Wenger talks Arshavin up for no other reason than to make sure his value doesn’t drop… I think we know that is pretty far-fetched, we’ll never get anywhere near the reported £15m we paid Zenitchiki back in 2009. Even if  the reported interest from big spending Russian Premier League side Anzi Makhachkala is true surely they wouldn’t be prepared to pay that much? *They probably would actually.

We shouldn’t belittle the weight of expectation the Russian nation places on its football teams shoulders and in particular those of Andrey Arshavin. He is more than a footballer to his country, he is an ambassador and an icon who should, it is felt, be leading the side and indeed the nation to victory. It is no exaggeration to say that he is the Soviet David Beckham but in a country of 142 million people Arshavin’s status across the federation makes old Golden Balls look like a gurning milk man who enjoyed five minutes of fame on the ironically titled Britain’s Got Talent.

While we let Beck’s dazzle world leaders and foreign dignitaries on occasion Andrey is  bestowed a far more politicised role back home. It’s possible that the heartfelt speech he delivered and which helped Russia clinch the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Zurich last year brought the player to tears not just because of his genuine belief in the immediate impact and cultural legacy the tournament will have on his country but also because of the level of expectation placed upon him, he wasn’t just a well-known footballer there to do the celebrity schmoozing he was expected to bag the biggest show of them all.

None of this is an excuse for his sometimes lifeless Arsenal performances but it certainly must all have some kind of impact. Lets hope that he is determined enough to take up the challenges laid down to him and that his performances can indeed improve for both club and country starting with  Sunderland this weekend. I’ll admit that at times I’ve had my doubts about the true ability of the man who scored those four goals at Anfield, we’ve seen that vision drive and determination all to rarely during his time at the club and I, and I’m sure every other Gooner, would love to see him fulfill that early promise and become a catalyst of this current Arsenal side – we could certainly do with it right now and what better way for the player himself to prepare for the Euro’s.

In other, perhaps more vanity type, news I’m delighted to be part of the Arsenal.com ‘Talking Heads’ section once again and you can read my thoughts on the game by clicking this link and visiting the site.

Big Dave is here tomorrow so be sure to check out his very interesting look at those player contracts that are running down.

Thanks for reading.

Paul

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