Goal.com Profile: Andrei Arshavin

Goal.com looks at the career of new Arsenal arrival Andrei Arshavin in the aftermath of his switch from Zenit St. Petersburg...
The name of Andrei Arshavin has never been far from the transfer rumour mill since his rise to prominence with Zenit St.Petersburg and his virtuoso performances for Russia at the 2008 European Championships.

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham, Juventus, have all been linked with the highly talented forward, but it is Arsenal who have finally clinched his signature.

Exactly who, though, have they managed to snap up?

Early Days

Andrei Sergeyevich Arshavin was born in Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg on May 29, 1981. His was a typical working-class family and his father was by all accounts quite a gifted amateur footballer, although he never played professionally.

Like many youngsters Andrei began playing football at an early age and at age seven he was enrolled in the ‘Smena’ football academy of Zenit St.Petersburg. 

Even at an early age his talent soon became evident. Sergei Gordeev coached Arshavin from the age of 11 and saw than that the boy had superb ability.

"Arshavin was always quite small. He didn't stand out, but as soon as he received the ball he was a totally different person," Gordeev explained.

"He was very good at draughts. Unusually for a footballer he had strong mathematical abilities."   

Clearly, then, Andrei was a boy of diverse interests. Arshavin also opted to take a fashion design course at a technology and design school in St Petersburg where he opted for a sewing course. Later he suggested that the reason he chose the course was that he was the only male amongst a class of 20 attractive females. He once wrote a thesis on the development of the sports wear production process, and graduated with a diploma in fashion design.

By 1999, he had progressed to play in the Zenit reserve team imaginatively named Zenit 2, and trainer Yuri Morozov handed him his first team debut in an Intertoto Cup tie against English side Bradford City in 2000 which the Russian side won 3-0.  That night in Yorkshire was the start of great things for Andrei Arshavin. 

At the start of the new millennium, Zenit possessed a trio of highly promising youngsters in Arshavin, Alexander Kerzhakov and Vladimir Bystrov and their clique soon became the great hope for the future for the St. Petersburg club.


Arshavin quickly made himself an indispensable part of the Zenit side although both Kerzakhov and Bystrov were eventually disposed of after falling foul of trainer Vlastimil Petrzela.  He played in various positions, starting as a right midfielder, then as an attacking midfielder and finally adopting the second striker's role behind a target man.

In 2001, Zenit finished third in the Russian first division four points behind champions Spartak Moscow.  In 2003 they finished as runners-up to CSKA and won the League Cup. In 2006 he was crowned Player of the Season despite Zenit only finishing fourth. A season later though in 2007, and Arshavin led his side to their first ever Russian Premier League title. 

His talent was never in question, but his attitude was often a stumbling block and was seen a major obstacle to him making the breakthrough as a world-class individual. His self confidence was often misconstrued as arrogance. The Russian press also criticised him for laziness, a lack of willingness to get back to help defend and a lack of fitness.

There were further signs of his precociousness in 2006 when Zenit’s Dutch trainer Dick Advocaat dropped Arshavin from the squad and demoted him to the B team for breaking a curfew and going to a nightclub the night before a vital league game with Spartak.  He reacted like a spoilt child and his football suffered as a result when he was recalled.  

Arshavin however returned to his very best and was an instrumental figure in Zenit’s UEFA Cup winning campaign last season which culminated in their impressive 2-0 win over Glasgow Rangers at the City of Manchester Stadium. He was voted Man of the Match after a sublime performance.

However, with his star in the ascendancy and the number of ‘big clubs’ reportedly chasing him in the summer of 2008, Arshavin threatened to alienate himself at Zenit when it seemed a proposed move to Tottenham wouldn’t be sanctioned by the Russian club. He allegedly threatened to go on strike. Arshavin's agent, Dennis Lachter claimed that his client was “being treated as a slave”.

That ‘slavery’ is now at an end however with a big-money switch to Arsenal. After over a month of negotiations, conflicting reports, tall tales, monetary wranglings, and even an 11th hour declaration from a Zenit director that the move was off, Arsenal finally announced that they'd got their man.

So complex was the transfer that the Premier League's rules over late moves - ones that begin before the window closes but can only be finalised after - were called into play for hours, along with other late signings like those of Ricardo Quaresma at Chelsea and Robbie Keane at Liverpool. But Arshavin's delays dwarfed even theirs - that's fitting, perhaps, given how hard the Gunners fought to get him, how fiercely Zenit battled to keep him, and, we are told, how doggedly Arshavin dug in his heels to secure his exit from the club that gave him his football upbringing but that he felt he'd ultimately outgrown.

International Career

The move to the Emirates would probably not have been possible without his performances in the white and red of Russia.

Arshavin made his debut for the Russian national team in May 2002 against Belarus, but was overlooked for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea and for Euro 2004, meaning he was to miss out twice on the biggest stage.

His first goal for his country arrived in a friendly against Romania in 2003 and since then he has scored a total of 15 in 45 appearances for the national side.  The pinnacle of his international career, however, came at the European Championships in 2008.

Such was his importance to the side that he was included in Guus Hiddink's squad despite being unable to play the first games after picking up a red card during qualifying. But it was in that preliminary campaign, during which he scored three goals, that he'd started to make a true name for himself as a Russian hero. Austria and Switzerland were just to continue this path.

After sitting out the opening day defeat to Spain and the narrow win over Greece, Arshavin announced his presence on Europe's top stage with the final goal in the 2-0 win over Sweden. Then came the knockout match against on-form Netherlands, who were put to the sword in the most energetic of extra time finishes - one that Arshavin once again capped with a goal.

For both of these games he was judged by UEFA as the best player on the pitch, and although he was largely a bystander during Russia's 3-0 loss to eventual winners Spain in the semi-finals, he had done enough to repay Hiddink's faith and alert a whole slew of suitors - such as Arsenal - into the bargain.

With three games played in World Cup qualifying, he has already scored twice, and all eyes will once again be on him on March 28 as lowly Azerbaijan come to Moscow for another encounter.

But before that will come his Arsenal debut...

Did You Know?

Arshavin makes no bones about being a massive Barcelona fan. As a youngster he spent hours playing football manager games on the computer and would always boss the Catalan giants.
Name: Andrei Arshavin
Date of Birth: 29/05/1981
Place of Birth: St. Petersburg, Russia
Height: 1.72m
Weight: 69kg
Position: Forward

Mathew Burt