Saturday, August 23, 2008

Andrei Arshavin To Tottenham. Will He, Won't He? Do Spurs Really Need Him?

With Dick Advocaat, the manager of Zenit St. Petersburg, admitting that Andrei Arshavin looks to be on his way to Tottenham Hotspur after the clubs agreed a transfer fee somewhere in the region of £20M sterling, the most protracted transfer of the summer looks to be coming to an end.

And with Dimitar Berbatov on the verge of a move to Manchester Utd, Spurs look like they've finally got their main transfer target of the summer. But is the move the right one for either club or player?

First things first Arshavin's skill is undoubted and he was a star in the European Championships for Russia, and was instrumental in them qualifying for the last four. But he only played three of the five games Russia played, granted he missed the first two games through suspension but this should have resulted in him being fresh for the semi finals.

Instead the Arshavin we saw against Spain was a shadow of the player we saw dismantle Holland with the performance of the tournament. He was also instrumental in Zenit winning the UEFA Cup last season.

Looking at these accomplishments last season, this criticism of Arshavin does sound harsh. But it should draw attention to Arshavin's physical attributes. Stamina and strength are the two most important assets a player can have in the most physically demanding league in the world. The way that Arshavin faded in the semi finals suggests he has a low level of stamina, hugely important in a league where you play almost fifty games a season at an average of two games most weeks, this doesn't include the international calender which could add 12 games on top of that.

So the stamina question is relevant. Robbie Keane who was recently sold to Liverpool for £21M is the man Arshavin would be replacing. Keane who was hardly the the physical specimen that most Premier Managers pursue, but he does have huge experience in the Premier League and comparing the two Keane comes out looking like a Dave McKay type figure.

Arshavin would be a great signing for a team like Utd, Chelsea or Arsenal who have huge squads and who can accommodate a player's like him. The point is, that these are settled teams who have the required levels of physical and technical skills needed to be successful in England. Spurs do not.

Technically, Spurs are as good as anyone on their day. Just look back to their victories over Arsenal and Chelsea on the way to winning the Carling Cup last year. The real analysis of their season is done in the league though, and finishing 11th shows a team capable of beating bad sides and losing against sides when it is literally put up to them.

Spurs have always had a soft centre, and with this lack of a physical presence in midfield it baffles why they have signed Modric, Dos Santos, Bentley (all slight figures) and pursued Arshavin through the summer. The signings are all quality players but a stiff wind would blow them over.

Players from foreign leagues take a long time to settle into the English game and Spurs would perhaps be better served going after players like Santa Cruz (Blackburn) and Dean Ashton (West Ham) who have Premier League experience, are quality players and would be a great deal cheaper than Arshavin.

How Ramos hasn't strengthened his midfield is a question that needs answering sooner rather than later. And signing Arshavin could be a disastrous move for both player and club alike.