The end of the 2014/15 season saw two Russian legends leave their clubs to become free agents. Since returning to Russia from the English Premier League both Andrey Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko have failed to live up to the fans’ expectations, and this summer they both found themselves without clubs as their contracts expired. Now a couple of months later they have the chance to shine for Kuban Krasnodar, with the pair linking up for the first time since August, 2012, when they both played in a friendly for Russia against Côte d’Ivoire, Fabio Capello’s first match in charge after the dissapointing Euro tournament in 2012. Arshavin hasn’t played for the national time since, and Pavlyuchenko retired from international football in 2013.
Since returning to Russia permanently in the summer of 2013 Arshavin has failed to impress, and he has scored just four goals in thirty-nine appearances for Zenit St. Petersburg. Despite his legend status at Zenit, many fans disliked his attitude, and performances weren’t great either. Because of this, most of Arshavin appearances came from the bench. Arshavin is one of Zenit’s favourite sons, and the all time assist leader at the club, and despite his flaws the fans were sorry to see him leave the club. He was offered a coaching role at his childhood club, but he decided to decline, and instead he went to Kuban in hope of proving those who deemed him over the hill wrong. Before the Super Cup match against Lokomotiv Moscow, Zenit’s fans made a stunning tribute to Arshavin, and his now former teammate Aleksandr Kerzhakov, with a giant banner across the ultra section, which proves that despite his fall from grace, Arshavin is still incredibly popular in the Venice of the North.
As for Pavlyuchenko his time back in his homeland has been a bit more successful, and he has managed to score sixteen goals during his time at Lokomotiv Moscow, with the best season being the 2013/14 where he grabbed six goals as the club surprisingly challenged for the title but dropped off towards the end. Like Arshavin, Pavlyuchenko had to settle for a role as a backup, and despite making seventy-eight appearances for Lokomotiv Moscow a large proportion of them were off the bench, as he only made thirty-two starts during his four seasons as a Railroader.
Lokomotiv did want to keep hold of the striker, however the two parties couldn’t agree terms, and Super Pav later revealed that Lokomotiv had offered him three times less than what he earned at his previous contract. Pavlyuchenko obviously fed up with life on the bench now has a chance to prove himself at Kuban.
Kuban aren’t the most stable of clubs at the moment, and with the signings of Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko they’ll be hoping that the two rediscover some of the impressive form that made them famous. Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko need to find their spark again in order to give Kuban theirs back, something they’ve been missing since the departure of Viktor Goncharenko as head coach last autumn.
The first game of the season saw both players step out onto the Kuban Stadium pitch for the first time. Arshavin managed eighty-four minutes, while Pavlyuchenko was given a small run out of twenty-five minutes. Neither of them had much of a pre-season, so it will most likely be a couple of weeks before we see them in their best shape. Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko are both yet to play a full match for ‘the Toads’, but with Pavlyuchenko getting his first start last week against Ufa, things could lighten up soon.
When both are fully fit they should have key roles to play in this Kuban side. Arshavin is most likely going to play behind the lone striker, who could be either Pavlyuchenko or Ibrahima Baldé. So far this season Kuban have played a 4-2-3-1 system and against Ural Arshavin was in the middle of the three front midfielders. Pavlyuchenko may have to wait a bit longer to make an impact with Ibrahima Baldé in front of him in the pecking order, and with both of them having similar strengths it is unlikely that they will both be on the field at the same time.
It’s all ifs and buts in these early stages but Kuban are in need of something that can separate them from those at the bottom of the table.
Both players are approaching the end of their careers, and could well be grabbing one last big pay check before cashing out. However, I hope they both knuckle down to show some fight and rediscover themselves at Kuban in order to finish their careers on a high rather than a disappointing end which they are currently heading for, an end which their reputations do not deserve.
Article for RussianFootballNews.com.