Wenger rested his first choice wingers, Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott and provided starting berths to the creative Andrei Arshavin and the more direct Nicklas Bendtner. The Russian captain has spent considerable time on the bench despite remaining fit because of his inconsistent performances over the course of the season.
Andrei Arshavin was signed in January 2009 and since joining the club, he has been sensational for the Gunners and has often produced brilliant moments for the club. Though he has the tendency to be off-colour on many occasions, he also has the capability to change the outcome of the game with his creativity. One clear example of this would be the Liverpool game at Anfield in the 2009-10 season where he scored a brilliant goal despite not being at his best for most of the game.
In this season, he has clearly not been in the best of form which has led to a lot of criticism and his poor work rate has not helped his cause either. Despite this, he remains the Arsenal’s best player in creating goals with 15 assists to his name. He has also scored 6 goals this season which is not too bad for a midfielder. Wenger has immense faith in the quality of the Russian which is why he is interested in renewing the contract of the versatile midfielder who has only 18 months left on his deal.
Theo Walcott has been used as an impact substitute in the last few seasons when everyone has been fit but he has finally been given the chance the start games on a regular basis for the Gunners. He has done very well this season and has shown signs of maturing and developing into a more complete player. He has already scored 10 goals this season which is his best return in his career and he has done enough to justify his selection in the team. It would take a string of poor performances from the England International to lose his place from here and it is likely that Arshavin will continue to be benched for more matches this season.
Samir Nasri has been Arsenal’s player of the season so far and he can play on either flank comfortably and though he has performed better on the right, he has played on the left to accommodate Theo Walcott. If he is fit, it is likely that he will start the game unless Wenger decides to rest the Frenchman.
Andrei Arshavin is a quality player of great talent and he will not be pleased to be on the bench at Arsenal. If Wenger cannot find him enough games, there is a good possibility that he would leave the Gunners at the end of the season. Wenger has expressed an interest in Lille midfielder Eden Hazard who is a very promising prospect and could sign the Belgian attacker to replace Arshavin in the summer. He has also been tracking the Southampton teenager Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain who can play as a winger but it is likely that he will be signed as a part of a long term project.
The Russian is already attracting interest from various top European clubs including the likes of Juventus and Chelsea while his former club Zenit has also made it clear that they have the door open for his return. Arshavin is a player of immense quality that Wenger will not like to lose but it is unlikely that the French tactician might be able to start the Russian in many games if Nasri and Walcott remain fit over the course of the season.
Arshavin has been booed at the Emirates on a couple of occasions and that could also influence his decision regarding his future of club and those supporters could well regret their decision to boo the diminutive midfielder. He has provided many moments of brilliance and joy to the supporters of Arsenal football club and it will be a sad day when he leaves the club, which will be the case should he not renew his contract in the summer.