Andrey Arshavin - Exclusive Interview
It was a tedious transfer saga that dragged on far too long. Just over a year ago, after being continually linked with a move to Emirates Stadium, Andrey Arshavin finally landed in a snow-swept London to sign for Arsenal.
The snow, despite having delayed the completion of the transfer by a further 24 hours, will have at least ensured the Russian playmaker instantly felt at home in weather conditions more synonymous with his homeland than London Colney.
He made his debut just over two weeks later in a goalless draw with Sunderland, and later scored his first goal for the Gunners in emphatic fashion during a 4-0 rout over Blackburn at Emirates Stadium.
And if there were ever any doubts surrounding his ability to adapt to the English game they will have been dispelled late last April when the 5ft 7″ midfielder smashed home four stunning goals in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Anfield.
Arsenal’s new number 23 was an instant hit.
Reflecting on his first year in England, Arshavin’s speedy adjustment on the pitch may be in part down to his approach to life off it.
“I try to spend as much of my free time as I can learning English,” Arshavin told The Sport Review in an exclusive interview. “In a year you manage to get used to a new country; to a new way of life.”
“My family and I go out a lot. We have already visited a lot of interesting places in London, sometimes several times when our friends come to visit us here. We have been to exhibitions, museums, the cinema and we’ve managed to see several musicals.”
Arshavin spent all of his pre-Arsenal days at his hometown club FC Zenit St Petersburg where he scored 51 goals in 238 appearances. “The Premier League is stronger than the Russian League,” he continued.
“I think that the clubs here are on more or less the same level in terms of facilities and their preparation for games. And it’s also the way the matches are held here - the staff, the stadiums - that puts England on a higher level.”
Following the disappointment of last Sunday’s 3-1 crushing defeat at the hands of Manchester United, Arsene Wenger’s side have no time to feel sorry for themselves. A defeat at Stamford Bridge tomorrow will all but end their title hopes for another season and the tough encounters continue to come thick and fast with Liverpool visiting Emirates Stadium just three days later.
“I still believe [that Arsenal can win the Premier League], but the recent games are making it more difficult for my dreams to come true,” said the 28-year-old.
“After the Chelsea and Liverpool games the situation will become clearer.”
As well as Arsene Wenger, Arshavin has been fortunate to work with other talented coaches including Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocat. “Every coach has different methods and techniques, but they all have that determination to win.”
As for his new team-mates: “I’m on good terms with everybody in the team, but perhaps I’m closer to Cesc [Fabregas], Samir [Nasri] and Nicklas [Bendtner].”
And can he envisage spending the rest of his career at Arsenal? “Why not?” he remarked. “My adaptation to English football has been OK more or less, but I want to win something.”
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Andrey supports the Russian orphanage centre, SOS Children’s Village Pushkin, located near his hometown of St Petersburg.
“I try to come to the village and play football with the guys in my spare time. My friends and I try to help the kids in other ways too. We have been doing it for several years now and we are not going to stop supporting them. When I come home this summer, I’m definitely going to visit them.” Find out more here.