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Some thoughts on the Meerkat

Whether or not he's done, Arshavin still deserves our love.

Jamie McDonald

We wrote yesterday about Andrei Arshavin's apparent desire to retire from football at the end of this year at the age of 32. While it's still not apparent whether or not this will actually come to pass, it seems fairly clear that his Arsenal career is just about finished, and the lack of production from the gnomish Rus warlock of late has perhaps shaded our perception of his time in the red and white a bit.

I'm here to argue, or to profess, or to declaim, as if from the highest mountain, that we should not be so hasty, no!

My love for Arshavin is not solely based on his four goals at Anfield. It is not solely based on his goal against Barcelona. It is not based on his six goals and nine assists in 15 games in 2008-09, his 12 and seven in 2009-10, or his 10 and 17 in 52 appearances (!!!) in 2010-11.

Those numbers, which are quite good, only tell part of the story of my love for the Karelian Sorceror. I know his defending wasn't good, and yes, he has a tendency to disappear in matches. But I really don't mind, because I've made my peace with Arsenal's, and by extension, Arshavin's, failings for the past few years. What remains, however, is a collage of some of my favorite moments not only in sports, but also in just general weirdness, which the world needs more of. So, just off the top of my head, I'm going to list the memories I have of Arshavin as they play out in my mind (which may not correspond to reality). Here goes:

- An early interview about England and cell phones. It may have been Richard Clarke who asked Arshavin if he had a mobile phone, and Arshavin replied in hilariously broken English something like "uhh, no, I do not have a cell phone, because who would I call? Bendtner? [Mimicking answering telephone] 'Hello? Bendtner? It is Arshavin'".

- The Bendtner/Arshavin partnership. There are few players whom I believe can work with Nicklas Bendtner on even a personal level, and Arshavin was one of them. He was the only one who could seem to get a public laugh out of the Dane, and Bendtner was present for some of Meerkat's finest moments, including:

- The self-deprecating "I'm as small as this girl" gif. Arshavin is nothing if not self-aware. This gif is priceless in every way. The stony faces of Eboue and Denilson contrast so perfectly as the flag waves by with the geniune, loving laughter of Bendtner and the amazingly pure-hearted smile of the Meerkat. It is so perfect. I defy anyone to watch this gif and not love Arshavin for all time.

- The "I'm going to celebrate this awesome goal by lifting my kit to reveal a t-shirt with a picture of me celebrating a goal". No undershirt goal celebration has ever come close.

- This ad, which is the best ad and charity campaign ever. He's in a shark costume! Cesc is a horse thing! Bacary's an owl! Come on!

Then there are the goals. The goals! These goals:

I know he's not been a valuable player for a couple of years now, probably, but I will never forget those goals, and I have a terrible memory. Of all the players from the past few years for Arsenal, two stick out the most in my mind: Cesc Fabregas and Arshavin. For the sea of holes that is my recollection, that's something, and I'll always have it.

And finally, this: