25 – Goals scored for Arsenal before January 2011
6 – Goals scored for Arsenal since January 2011
4 – Goals scored for Arsenal since the famous Barcelona goal on 16th February 2011
1/1 – Date on which Robin van Persie returned for Arsenal in 2011 ready to play for a contract at another club, scoring a goal in the 3-0 win over Birmingham.
Here’s a weird thing I noticed: if you split Andrei* Arshavin’s career into two eras, before van Persie and after van Persie, you can track a steady rise in minutes, goals, assists, and games started, to the moment that van Persie “gets healthy” in January 2011 which is then followed by a marked decline in all of the above.
Now you’ve probably already seen the numbers on Arshavin’s career at Arsenal in various places and if we take all matches played in all competitions (League, Champions League, CL Qualifiers, FA Cup, and League Cup) they look like this:
Most people would be forgiven if they looked at that record and thought that the decline happened in the summer of 2011. In fact, it looks like the floor just dropped right out that summer but Arshavin’s career actually ended in January of that year.
If we look at just Premier League play (where I have much more reliable data) we see that from August to January of the 2010-2011 season Arshavin started 17 League games and was a sub just once. In fact, in that time, he played 1368 minutes for an average of 76 minutes per game. Then from January to May he started just 8 times and came on as a sub 11 times, playing a total of just 816 minutes for an average of just 43 minutes per game.
Thus, if we divide his Premier League career into a first “half” consisting of 2008-2009 to January 2011 and a second “half” dating from January 2011 to the present, it looks like this:
For the next 2.5 years, from January 2011 to the present, Andrei Arshavin would score just 3 League goals and 6 goals total in all competitions for Arsenal.
Some people want to find a reason why Arshavin’s form dropped or why Wenger dropped him to the bench and there was a rather famous proclamation by Arshavin himself that he didn’t want to play football any more after Russia failed to qualify for the World Cup in late November 2009.
I am inconsolable and desolate at what has happened. My family keep telling me that I should forget it as soon as possible, that I should now switch to the club matters and the Champions League but that’s easier said than done. Nothing revives me so far. When Arsene Wenger asked me what state I was in, I honestly told him that at the moment I just do not want to play football at all.
But the period from January 2010 to January 2011 was easily Arshavin’s richest vein of form scoring 11 goals and assisting on 13 more. 35% of his total goals scored and 33% of his total goals assisted in one calendar year immediately after Russia’s World Cup exit looks more like a player who redoubled his efforts for the team not like one who didn’t want to play football anymore.
No, if I have to pinpoint the moment that Arshavin’s career at Arsenal hit the brakes, it was the return of van Persie. We won’t know if that’s because the two didn’t get along, or if Wenger had wanted to bench him a year earlier but couldn’t because of Robin’s injury problems, or if there’s even any causal relationship between the two events. So,while we don’t know if there’s causation we do know that there is correlation.
Yet another fact I hope will be explained one day in Wenger’s autobiography.
*I spell his name that way because I always have. His real name is Андре́й and even Wikipedia spells it both ways in English. You’ll get over it.