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Andrey Arshavin Can Be A Central Man For Arsenal

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It's hard to take anything of great significance from a fixture where the starting XI are unlikely to ever play together again. With Ignasi Miquel at left back and Nico Yennaris at right back, Arsenal had two players out of position, though, in the case of Yennaris, someone who is at least comfortable at their new position. Surely, if Ignasi Miquel plays regularly for Arsenal, it'll be in the middle, as he lacks the pace to flourish in a wide area. Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin were industrious but erratic with the ball, leading to Bolton's opener. The aspect of the match that was most important for Arsenal now was the performance of Park Ju-Young and of Andrey Arshavin, who was finally given a place in the middle of Arsenal's 4-2-3-1.

First, though, a word on Park, who was very good against a decent Premiership partnership in Zat Knight and Gary Cahill. His movement was very good, and different to Robin van Persie. Unlike the Dutchman, he didn't drop deep as much to help out the midfield, though he did play one fantastic ball to Francis Coquelin in between Arsenal goals. Instead, he played on the shoulder of the last defender, getting caught offside a couple of times, but always moving and creating options for Yossi Benayoun and Andrey Arshavin. He could've had a couple of goals if the linesman hadn't called him wrongly offside on two occasions. As a substitute for Robin van Persie, Park seems to be the best option at the moment. While Marouane Chamakh's tendency to drop deep is a underrated trait, it's hard to imagine him scoring a goal like the two that Robin van Persie scored at the weekend, while one could see Park scoring that type of goal. 

Arshavin, too, was impressive. While he did, frustratingly, give the ball away very easily in the midfield at times, he was also the main creative outlet for Arsenal. A wonderfully taken goal and a very good assist highlighted the freedom he gets playing in his preferred role in the middle. There is no other player at Arsenal who is as good as Arshavin at making creative decisions on the run, now that Cesc Fabregas has left. Furthermore, Arshavin is always direct in his play, a trait that is useful against sides that try to choke Arsenal's play in the middle. He has the pace and skill to get away from defenders, something that Arsenal have lacked in the middle since the days of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, and that allow him to create pockets of space that doesn't happen when he's out wide (mainly because it's easier to show someone to the line than to stop them in the middle, as the middle has more space).

There are, of course, question marks about Arshavin's defensive qualities, and whether he'd apply pressure. The question becomes "Can Arsenal afford to carry him in the middle", which is yes, if they're playing against a side that sits back, and if two other conditions are met. Those conditions would be the striker, either Park or Robin van Persie or Chamakh, pressing the opposition centre backs, and if Arsenal's two in midfield drop back when they're not in possession. It also means Arsenal may not retain possession as well if they come under pressure, as they did tonight against Bolton. In that scenario, one would expect Arsene Wenger to make a change (such as Ramsey or Rosicky). But, it seems illogical to not try Arshavin in the middle. It is where he is most comfortable, and, it seems to be where he can cause the most damage.