Arshavin: Effective but not sparkling
Andrey Arshavin believes he has become "more effective" since joining Arsenal - even if the Russian playmaker feels he is now "less sparkling". The 29-year-old has been something of an enigma for the Gunners since his £15million arrival from Zenit St Petersburg during January 2009. Capable of moments of sheer genius - including a memorable four-goal salvo at Liverpool - Arshavin has also been a great source of frustration for Gunners fans as he often drifts in and out of matches. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels much of that malaise was down to a combination of bitter disappointment at Russia missing out on qualification for the World Cup as well as a string of niggling injuries. Arshavin has impressed during the opening three matches of the new Premier League season, netting two goals - including the winner at Blackburn last weekend. The Russian admits he is puzzled by his inconsistencies. "The year and a half in England has significantly changed me," Arshavin told Russian newspaper Sport-Express. "I became calmer, more professional and spend more time with my family. "As for football I can say that my style has also altered - it is more effective, but less sparkling. I don't remember when was the last time I scored a really beautiful goal. "It is frustrating. I tried to analyse this, but can find no answers. "It is likely that my injuries last year had an effect, because on three occasions I was out for a month, but it is feeble to talk about injuries." The Gunners currently sit second in the table, two points behind champions Chelsea who have opened with an impressive three straight victories. Much was made of the way Arsenal came through a test of character up at Ewood Park before the international break. With the Champions League campaign kicking off later this month, there will be plenty more challenges ahead before Wenger takes his men to Stamford Bridge on October 3 in the showdown with their title rivals. The Gunners have never been short on attacking firepower, with rejuvenated England forward Theo Walcott having scored four goals already. However, the defence has been less than watertight in recent seasons, with new arrivals Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny looking to make sure there is no repeat of the 41 league goals conceded last term. Centre-back Thomas Vermaelen is in no doubt where Arsenal's championship challenge must begin. "It sounds silly, but as a defender you are happier after a 6-0 win with the clean sheet than if you have scored one goal but you concede two," the Belgian international told Arsenal TV Online. "Maybe for some people they are not happy to hear that, but for me the most important thing is to defend and to defend as a team as well, and then we will get further as a team. "If we defend first then we can win games. After that we will see." Arsenal lost striker Robin van Persie to an ankle problem at Ewood Park, but hope the Holland striker - who missed six months of the last campaign through injury - will only be sidelined for a couple of weeks. Winger Samir Nasri could make a quicker-than-expected return from his minor knee operation, perhaps even in time to face Bolton on September 11. However, it remains to be seen when Denmark forward Nicklas Bendtner will fully recover from his niggling groin problem, which has sidelined him since the World Cup.
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