He's a brilliant player, one of only two genuinely world-class players at the Arsenal, but he's also under-paid and running out of time. He can earn much, much more in La Liga, and he knows it. He can win many, many more trophies with Barcelona or Real Madrid, and he knows it. He's 28 years old. He's a late bloomer with maybe 4 years left at the top, and I wonder if he wants to spend his peak years gambling on the success of Wenger's youth-squad project.
At the moment, Arshavin's certainly sounding like a man about to jump:
"I am still on the opinion that to win trophies Arsenal needs more players. There is the simple fact that last summer we sold two players and bought only one. So there is an obvious deficit of at least one. Then we lost Van Persie, Gibbs and Ramsey for a long time. So for me it is natural we need new players. Without the variety of players we have less diversity in attack. That allows our opponents to read our combinations more easily. Finally, it results in less ball possession for us and our defence comes under more pressure.
"The Premier League is very interesting, at least as long as we continue fighting to win it. But without new experienced players, real stars, it will be difficult to achieve success. Ideally we need three or four such experienced players and then among our youths there should be guys who are not only good at playing football but have real character."
He's said it a number of times this season, but to say it again at such a crucial time in the league race is an open challenge to Wenger. If we win the league this year (still a possibility) we're all happy chappies again, but if we lose it, we're going to have to bring in new players or Arshavin will walk.
That said, I don't think anything he's said is controversial. We've at the beginning of the end of a youth project. Some youth players have become first-teamers (Song, Clichy, Cesc, Bendy). Others are still developing (Diaby, Denilson). And the new breed are rapidly maturing and will start pushing for places in a couple of seasons time. The multi-million pound question is whether these players, collectively, are good enough to win things for the Arsenal.
Arshavin's taken the pragmatic side in saying no. What's the use of an attractive youth side if they're always going to be too callow to win the big games? Why not stock up with senior players right now, have a real tilt at the title, and let the youngsters compete for playing time? Arshavin's the only player who's taken this side and spoken out, and I really appreciate his honesty. Instead of focussing on our boys becoming men, or sexy football, or our balance sheet, Arshavin's pointing at the trophy cabinet and saying that that's the most important thing.
If Arsenal have the financial means, I think it's their moral duty to mount a legitimate challenge for the league. Arsenal exists to serve its fans, and its fans want success. All fans want success, but not all clubs can provide it. Arsenal are one of four English clubs which can provide success, and onus is upon them to try to achieve. If that means buying Lloris and killing Almunia, so be it. If that means buying Dzeko and killing Bendy, so be it.
But I digress. What I wanted to write about was Arshavin's comment. Funnily enough, he's talking about a deficit in attack. Ask any gooner, and they'd say that our most glaring deficiency is in goalkeeping, followed by lack of depth at centre-back and defensive midfield. In attack, we're missing a power-forward a la Adebayor, but we've managed well enough all season.
But Arshavin thinks that our most pressing need is variety in attack. According to him, we've got too many dinky creative midfielders and not enough fast, tricky wingers or physical centre-forwards. He's talking about building an Arsenal which is so potent in attack that defensive pressure will be eased. I think he wants Arsenal to be like Barcelona with their constant pressing and their terrifyingly fluid forward structure. Barca have a fairly mediocre defence, but they get away with it because of their attack.
It's a dazzling vision, and I think it's very close to Wenger's dream. Barcelona built their dream from the ground up, with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all being Barca players since very young. It's what Wenger's trying to do with Wilshere, Cesc, Ramsey, Bendy and Walcott. Will it work without an injection of experienced players? Would Messi and Iniesta have gotten where they were without Ronaldinho? How about Xavi without Deco?
I have to say that I agree with Arshavin. Wenger's got a perfect vision of his squad in his mind, but it's hard to see how it'll be built without the scaffolding of a squad of experienced, proven players. Three or four players would do nicely, please, or Arshavin's going to walk.