With Andrei Arshavin looking to dodge British taxes and the Emirates bench, Arsène Wenger should look no further than Schalke 04's Jefferson Farfán to replace the Russian.
At the back end of last week, Talksport reported that Andrei Arshavin was being lined up as part of a potential swap deal with Schalke 04 involving their Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfán . Were I Arsène Wenger, I’d snap Shalke’s hand off for a deal like that. Despite the optimism Arsenal fans had about him after his performances at Euro 2008, Arshavin has been distinctly underwhelming in nearly three years at the Emirates. Farfán, on the other hand, has been one of Schalke’s best performers since joining from PSV Eindhoven in 2008.
Farfán was already known to some football fans in England when he signed for Schalke. In four seasons with PSV, he quickly established himself as a first team regular. He was prominent in the Dutch club’s run to the 2005 Champions League semi-finals and was also in the side that knocked Arsenal out of the same competition in the first knockout phase in 2006-07. And slightly more recently, he scored at White Hart Lane when PSV defeated Tottenham in the quarter-final of the UEFA Cup in 2008.
At Schalke he’s also been a pivotal first team player, leading the club’s assist table for the last three seasons and scoring 33 goals in all competitions for the club in his three and a half seasons in Gelsenkirchen. In his first season in 2008-09, the club underachieved somewhat, finishing in 8th place. A year later, however, Schalke finished runners up and five points behind Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich, with Farfán himself having another impressive season. He managed eight goals and 12 assists in his 33 league matches, including scoring the winning goal in the derby away at Dortmund in September of that year. But it was last season, amidst Schalke’s shock run to the semi-finals of the Champions League that Europe’s top clubs began to take note of Farfán . He scored two sublime goals at home to Valencia in the last 16 and was a thorn in the side of the Inter Milan defence when they were embarrassed 5-2 in the San Siro in the quarter-final first leg.
This season, with new manager Huub Stevens in charge after the unexpected resignation of Ralf Rangnick in September, Schalke’s season is going well after a shaky start. They were on the verge of being knocked out by HJK Helsinki in the qualifiers for the Europa League, but turned it around with a convincing home win in the second leg. In the league, they are one of three teams tied for 2nd place, five points behind Bayern. Farfán has also made a good contribution to their recent run of good results, including scoring the winner away at rivals Bayer Leverkusen last month, slotting home ten minutes from time after a lung-busting 70-yard run.
Arshavin has, in effect, been an impact substitute since midway through 2009/10.
Arshavin has, on the other hand, been utterly underwhelming since arriving from Zenit St Petersburg. The four goals against Liverpool, the 25-yard rocket past Ben Foster at Old Trafford, even the winning goal in the first leg of the Champions League tie against Barcelona last season; they were fleeting glimpses of what he can do, but has failed to do with any regularity in an Arsenal shirt.
It probably hasn’t helped him that he’s been at a club where success has been scarce in the last few seasons, and an end to a season like the one Arsenal suffered last term , where the club won nothing after at one point being in the hunt for four trophies, would do anybody’s confidence serious damage. He must have had high expectations after winning the UEFA Cup with Zenit in 2008 and starring at the Euros a month or so later. But the improved form of Samir Nasri for Arsenal since the middle of the 2009-10 season saw him dropped to the bench, and he has, in effect, been an impact substitute since then. The ease with which new signing Gervinho has acclimatised to the demands of the Premier League, the signing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton and the improved form of Theo Walcott have all meant that the Russian is, for the league and Champions League games, a perennial sub.
Swapping Farfán for Arshavin would be a great deal for all four parties involved. Farfán has been reluctant to speak about his contract at Schalke, and it seems clear that he does not wish to extend it beyond next summer, so it would be in Schalke’s interest to sell or swap him. A move to the Premier League would suit the quick and pacey winger, as would a move to a club like Arsenal. For Arshavin, he needs a new challenge. He hasn’t settled well at Arsenal and it would be in both his and the club’s interest to let him leave. Schalke, a club on the up in Germany, would definitely provide him with that new challenge. There’s every chance that they will qualify for Europe this season, and at least for the Europa League. Arshavin has said that he will try to move if he remains ‘glued to the bench’ and that situation doesn’t look like changing anytime soon. At 30-years-old and with the European Championship to come next summer, regular football is what he and Russia need.
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