The African Cup of Nations this month robs Arsenal of two players, Maroune Chamakh and Gervinho.
While the return of Thierry Henry, coupled with the Moroccan’s form, means not too many tears will be shed for the former’s termporary departure, Gervinho’s absence leaves the manager with something of a gap to fill.
The Ivorian has been more or less ever-present since his summer move from Lille, relegating the out of form Andrei Arshavin to the bench. But with Euro 2012 nearing it’s clear that the Russian wants to make more of an impact.
On his official Twitter account, he said, “Can’t imagine more important time in my life than 2012. I just cannot afford to relax. So I won’t.”
While Arsene Wenger praised his quality after providing the crucial assist for van Persie’s winner against QPR. “Andrey has that quality that at any moment in the game he can give you a ball to score, and that’s what he did,” he said.
“We know he can be sharper than he was on Saturday but that is linked to the fact I do not play him enough.”
And here we have the issue. He’s not sharp because he’s not playing enough but the reason he’s not playing enough is because his form has been so poor for the last 12 months. He’s scored just three times in his last thirty-three Arsenal appearances and for a player of his renown and stature (not height!) that’s really not good enough.
Wenger has other options for that left sided position. Benayoun can play there, as can Henry, and there are many who would like to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given a chance, but perhaps the upcoming summer tournament might be the carrot at the end of Arshavin’s stick.
It might well be right to question why it should take a desire to represent his country to motivate him for his club but if it has some benefit in the short-term, especially during Gervinho’s absence, then it won’t be a bad thing.
It seems likely that Arshavin will be moved on in the summer and while overall his Arsenal career can hardly be considered a roaring success it would be nice if it went out with a bang rather than a whimper.