Modern football has brought us a diverse cast of dislikeable characters and unappealing personality types. Because of the game’s increasing detachment for its fan base, a lot of the animosity towards these players is based on assumption rather than fact, and on the interpretation of an on-field persona rather than any knowledge of the individuals themself.
We imagine John Terry to be loutish and offensive, Ashley Cole to be a philandering, money-obsessed tosser, and Wayne Rooney to spend all of his time indulging himself in the seedier aspects of Manchester’s nightlife.
Maybe, maybe not.
Similarly, it’s easy to make assumptions about Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin.
When the Russian arrived in England in 2009, he had been the subject of many a gossip column for the past few months, and after he completed his convoluted move to North London the initial signs were that he was worth all the bother. He was bright, technically gifted, and played the game with an infectious enthusiasm. He was an asset to the league.
Fast-forward four years, and he’s the polar-opposite: the idle stereotype who represents all that is bloated and odious about English football.
Defending Arshavin for the deterioration of his attitude is a thankless task, because the conditions at Arsenal have always been perfect – he is very much an ‘Arsene Wenger player’, the team around him is taught to play pass-first football, and London’s Russian population should have guarded against any fish-out-of-water syndrome. Arsenal should have been his home away from home. This is not someone who failed to adapt, or couldn’t settle into English life; he was a force in the Premier League long before he became an afterthought.
He’s the worst type of professional; he who has all the tools to succeed, yet shows an unwillingness to use any of them. Just as we admire those who extract the very most out of their limit natural ability, it follows that we should truly loathe those let their plentiful talent rot and decay.
From the outside, it looks very much as if Arshavin has been embroiled in a three-year sulk from which he’s refused to emerge. Instead of looking for an opportunity to redeem himself in the club colours, he now looks actively resentful whenever he’s asked to play any kind of role by Arsene Wenger.
It’s easy to blame Wenger for not keeping the player motivated, and it’s simple to attribute Arshavin’s malaise to Arsenal’s generous wage-structure, but isn’t the root of this problem a lack of professional pride on his own part? That’s an extraordinarily damning thing to say, but what other explanation is there for the nosedive in his career – he looks almost flippant at times, and hasn’t influenced a game in as long as most of us can remember.
He just doesn’t seem to care, and that’s very jarring given how capable we all know he was at his very best. A great shame.