Andrey Arshavin must learn from Barcelona’s Ballon d’Or trio of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi and work harder when his team are out of possession, according to former Gunners’ boss George Graham.
The 29-year-old Russian international has sparked ire among the Emirates Stadium faithful this season with his lack of impact going forward and unwillingness to track back.
He has been publicly lauded by manager Arsene Wenger for his efficiency, but Graham believes Arshavin has to earn the right to play by providing more help for his team-mates.
The 66-year-old Scot told Sport.co.uk: “In football, sometimes you get these multitalented individuals where that’s all they want to do: when the team’s got the ball, I’ll play but, when we haven’t got the ball, I’ll go and have a rest.
“When you see the great Barcelona players – Iniesta, Xavi and obviously the world player of the year – they actually do both. They’re wonderful in possession but they also work hard when they’re without possession.
“That’s the only thing I would say that I wanted from all my players: to have that philosophy of hard work when we haven’t got it and perform when we have got it.”
Graham has plenty of experience of dealing with gifted creative players, having led Arsenal to two league titles in 1989 and 1991 with a side which boasted the likes of Paul Merson, Anders Limpar and David Rocastle.
He then controversially took over at the Gunners’ North London rivals Tottenham in 1998, and believes the problem Arshavin poses for Wenger is similar to the one he faced with David Ginola, Spurs’ own mercurial talent of the time.
“I had a similar problem with David Ginola. When you have players like that, if they’re not willing to work without the ball as well then you do get inconsistency which can spark off and filter throughout the whole team.
“They [such players] used to win us games, there’s no question about it. Sometimes their individual brilliance would win a game that we probably wouldn’t have won but sometimes, if they’re not turning it on, you’ve got to leave them out or substitute them.”
By Liam Twomeycomments