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Euro 2012 Player Spot: Group A: Russia: Andrei Arshavin

Arsenal fans might be relieved having seen the last of Andrei Arshavin for the rest of the season as the Russian international virtually ended his largely frustrating three year spell at the Emirates Stadium with a loan move to his hometown club Zenit St. Petersburg at the end of February. The diminutive forward might have warmed the bench for the Gunners for most of the season while disgustingly earning a reputation of being over rated yet when it comes to featuring for the national side Andrei Arshavin is undoubtedly the man to look up to if Dick Advocaat’s side are to repeat their brilliant Euro 2008 run.

In the eyes of Mr. Advocaat Andrei Arshavin is the captain and the driver of a Russian team that have developed gradually from Guus Hiddink’s era and even with the change of management the core of the side still remains intact from the days of Hiddink and consistency of this well drilled side over the course of the qualifying campaign has impressed many including the current manager.

The leader can guide Russia through to the next round

That the thirty year old Arshavin has not lost his touch despite a forgettable season with Arsenal was evident enough when he produced the sort of performance last month, in a 2-0 friendly win over Denmark, which prompted Arsene Wenger to splash fifteen million pounds to lure him away from St. Petersburgin 2009. Young CSKA Moscow playmaker Alan Dzagoev may be the name that is tipped to shine in the summer but if the Sbornaya are to progress further from Group A against the likes of Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic, Andrei Arshavin is the man to look forward to.

Considered to be the most talented Russian player of the modern era, Andrei Arshavin’s gradual slippage from Arsenal stardom was strangely coinciding with a rather interesting international renaissance. Since being primarily blamed for the World Cup play off loss to Slovenia in November 2009 that led to the player being in a state of desperation and depression, Dick Advocaat’s appointment as the coach of the national team and subsequently Russia’s near flawless Euro 2012 qualifying campaign against the likes of the Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Armenia and Macedonia made Arshavin upbeat. In fact under Dick Advocaat’s prudent guidance Russiahave developed more maturity in terms of competing in big matches. Most of the team is comprised of home based players and the former Glasgow Rangers boss knows the Russian mental set up more than anyone having successfully coached both Zenit St Petersburg and Andrei Arshavin to a league title and the UEFA Cup in 2008. The chemistry that works between the national coach and Arshavin which developed immensely over the years of the two’s involvement with Zenit has worked well for Russia since the nation’s failure to qualify for South Africa 2010.

His experience of sixty eight matches would come in handy come this summer and the bonding of the players that have been around for the past four or five years has always made Arshavin comfortable and rendered him a completely different player in the international arena. Dick Advocaat’s faith in his old diminutive warrior was proved yet again as Arshavin started all the ten qualifiers and played an inspirational role in guiding his troops forward.   The St. Petersburg born player is still capable of taking on any defence and the work out that he is getting since his loan move from Arsenal would make him mentally and physically fit enough to carry Russian hopes in Poland and the Ukraine. Undoubtedly a talent to admire, confidence is low in Arshavin and time spent on the sidelines of North London made matters worse although Arsene Wenger should be thanked for letting his most expensive buy return to his homeland to find his feet ahead of Euro 2012 and restore some of the lost aura that always tends to surround the soft spoken football phenomenon. One thing for sure Andrei Arshavin is the captain of the Russian national team and he reserves his best while playing for his country and Group A might just be the right platform to showcase Russia’s growing threat as a combative football nation that thrives on international success.

Russia conceded just four goals in qualifying, second only to Italy, and the Euro 2012 campaign is likely to be built around a solid defense and the expectation that the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Roman Pavlyuchenko and young hopeful Alan Dzagoev can inspire them as far as the attacking game is concerned.

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