Lack of enthusiasm from all parties
3 July ~ Andrey Arshavin's move back to Zenit St Petersburg from Arsenal was one the club's fans, along with everyone else, have been expecting. It's just that as the years have moved on, the return has become less tantalising to supporters – as well as to some at the club. Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti's comments following the signing were hardly a ringing endorsement: "It wasn't an easy choice as he hasn't had much match practice for two years, but we know how much emotion he has for the city," he told the Russian website Championat.com.
Arshavin himself sounded no more positive about his new boss, telling the newspaper Sport Express he was "as a minimum not against" the move.
As far as the fans are concerned, it would seem that Arshavin's recent lack of interest at Arsenal and arrogance following Russia's Euro 2012 exit have not been forgotten. Particularly notable were angry responses by posters on Championat.com to Russia goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev's assertions that Arshavin could copy Andriy Shevchenko's return to Dynamo Kiev after a poor spell at Chelsea: "Shevchenko played several seasons at the highest level! He won the Ballon d'Or… Crisp-Eater played half a good season then polished the bench. Shevchenko wouldn't have allowed himself to make the kind of comments the St Petersburg hero has!" "Crisp-Eater" Arshavin was once the face of a snack company's advertising campaign; alongside the anger, there were plenty of withering comments about this being an opportunity for them to bring out a new flavour.
The transfer is competing for attention with other notable close-season moves, including that of Ukraine captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk, also returning to Zenit. Though two years older than Arshavin, he played far more frequently at last club Bayern Munich and is seen by many as having the personality to unite Zenit's fractious dressing room – unlikely to be true of Arshavin. Elsewhere, Anzhi Makhachkala have bought Russian captain Igor Denisov from Zenit and look likely to sign Aleksandr Kokorin – one of Russia's brightest young players – from Dynamo Moscow. So far, it is a close-season in which their signings have easily outshone Zenit's.
Arshavin says that he always feels comfortable in St Petersburg, regardless of what the fans think of him. Some pundits point to his successful loan spell there last season when suggesting that he'll do well. It seems a golden opportunity for such a talent to waste – a chance to be remembered for football rather than for being a crisp-eating bench-polisher. Saul Pope