The Ath­let­ic pub­lished mate­r­i­al about the Russ­ian foot­ball player’s pok­er at Anfield.

The Ath­let­ic is one of the largest sports media out­lets in the world. Get­ting on the pages of this por­tal is a seri­ous achieve­ment for any ath­lete. The com­pa­ny’s offices are locat­ed in New York and Lon­don. The Ath­let­ic writes a lot, includ­ing about Russ­ian hock­ey play­ers, but mate­r­i­al about our foot­ball is a real rar­i­ty on its pages. On April 19, a large mate­r­i­al was pub­lished on the site ded­i­cat­ed to the 15th anniver­sary of Andrei Arshavin’s pok­er vic­to­ry against Liv­er­pool.

Andrei Arshavin: “I don’t con­sid­er the match at Anfield the best of my career. I put the quar­ter-finals with Hol­land in first place.”

“SE” pro­vides an adapt­ed trans­la­tion of an arti­cle for which the author spoke with one of the best play­ers in our foot­ball.





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A select few have entered foot­ball folk­lore, but Arshavin is one of them. Arse­nal and Liv­er­pool played quite a few match­es, and one of the most mem­o­rable ones was played 15 years ago. On 21 April 2009, Arse­nal arrived at Anfield less than a week after reach­ing their last Cham­pi­ons League semi-final to date.

Andrei Arshavin was on his team for the cham­pi­onship match. Record sign­ing at that time Arsene Wenger — 15 mil­lion pounds were paid to Zen­it, plus two more went lat­er in the form of bonus­es. The diminu­tive Russ­ian strik­er was poised to cre­ate unfor­get­table mem­o­ries for mil­lions of fans by scor­ing all four of Arse­nal’s goals in a 4–4 draw with Liv­er­pool. The Merseysiders fought for the title, but fin­ished sec­ond, four points behind Man­ches­ter Unit­ed. Arse­nal took fourth place at the end of that sea­son.

We remem­ber Arshavin’s cel­e­bra­tion of the first goal with a “hush” ges­ture, a gor­geous shot into the far cor­ner in the episode with the sec­ond ball, and also four fin­gers after the pok­er design. North Lon­don and far beyond will remem­ber these moments for­ev­er. How­ev­er, the hero him­self has dif­fi­cul­ty remem­ber­ing those episodes.

“He’s on the same lev­el as Mes­si and Ronal­do!” How Arshavin con­quered Eng­land

“It’s hard to remem­ber how I felt after every goal I scored,” says Arshavin. “He prob­a­bly thought some­thing fan­tas­tic was hap­pen­ing.” I scored three, then four. In fact, it was one goal after anoth­er. I couldn’t believe we were vis­it­ing Liv­er­pool and I was scor­ing all these goals. Anfield is def­i­nite­ly a spe­cial place. This sta­di­um has huge stands, but when I played there, there were only two big ones. There were typ­i­cal old Eng­lish ter­races. The fan song You’ll Nev­er Walk Alone also makes it spe­cial. I can’t say that I got goose­bumps, but it sound­ed very loud! Plus, when you walk onto the pitch, there’s a sign above you (in the play­ers’ tun­nel): “This is Anfield.” This is part of the his­to­ry of Eng­lish and world foot­ball. This is a foot­ball Mec­ca, a world famous sta­di­um.”

Andrei Arshavin cel­e­brates a goal against Liv­er­pool in his sig­na­ture style.
Pho­to by Get­ty Images

In addi­tion to scor­ing all of Arse­nal’s goals, Arshavin had only four shots on tar­get — two from each foot. The first was a ric­o­chet off the cross­bar, the sec­ond was through Reina into the far cor­ner, the third was under the Spaniard’s armpit, and the fourth was a clear shot into the near cor­ner. Arshavin was well known for his abil­i­ty to play with both feet, and this served him well that night.

“I didn’t plan this,” Andrey recalls. — At foot­ball school, coach­es taught me that if the ball is under your left foot, then you need to play on it with your left foot. I was taught how to per­form tech­ni­cal­ly with both my left and right foot. But to be hon­est, my left is not that good.

I trained with Andrei Kobelev (when they played togeth­er for Zen­it in 1999–2001) and watched how he did every­thing — shoot, pass, take cor­ners with his left foot, although he was right-hand­ed. I tried to do the same as him. I also saw the match­es of Andrei Tikhonov (for­mer mid­field­er of the Russ­ian nation­al team) on TV — he drib­bled the ball with his left foot and then struck with it. I tried these skills because I saw how effec­tive they were».

“Arshavin is one of those rare Russ­ian play­ers who suc­ceed­ed in the West.” Decline of a career at Arse­nal

Arshavin, Cesc Fab­re­gas and Samir Nas­ri (posi­tion­al­ly list­ed from left to right) were the tech­ni­cal trio behind Nick­las Bendt­ner, Arse­nal’s cen­tre-for­ward on the night in place of the unavail­able duo of Robin van Per­sie and Emmanuel Ade­bay­or.

The free­dom giv­en to these tech­ni­cal play­ers to rotate posi­tions opened the door for Arshavin to be cre­ative. Fab­re­gas’ shift to the right towards Nas­ri led to the first “shush” cel­e­bra­tion, which Arshavin had long ded­i­cat­ed to the crit­ics who called him an aver­age foot­baller at Zen­it.

“Play­ing with tech­ni­cal play­ers like Fab­re­gas, Nas­ri and Rosicky cer­tain­ly made the sit­u­a­tion eas­i­er,” recalls Arshavin. “When your team­mates rarely lose the ball and can direct it any­where, the game becomes eas­i­er.”

Add to this the incred­i­ble speed of Theo Wal­cott in the sec­ond half, who assist­ed the Russ­ian on the fourth goal on the counter-attack. Back then, Wenger had a team capa­ble of caus­ing prob­lems for any Pre­mier League team.

Andrei Arshav­in’s goal against Liv­er­pool.
Pho­to by Get­ty Images

View­ers saw a live post-match inter­view with Arshavin in a Liv­er­pool T‑shirt, swap­ping jer­seys with Fer­nan­do Tor­res (who scored a dou­ble in that game). How­ev­er, this exchange was rather an excep­tion for Arshavin.

“I very rarely, maybe almost nev­er, asked for anoth­er player’s jer­sey,” he says. “I promised to give it to the first coach Sergei Gordeev. He col­lects No. 9 jer­seys, so I had a plan to trade with Tor­res.”

When asked if he still has the ball from that game, Arshavin replies: “All the play­ers signed the ball, but I don’t have it. My ex-wife kept it.”

“You can delete a post, but you can’t delete your his­to­ry.” Arse­nal can­celed Arshav­in’s con­grat­u­la­tions due to out­rage from Ukraini­ans

Arshavin con­sid­ers these four goals to be his most mem­o­rable for Arse­nal. After them — the debut goal in the Gun­ners shirt against Black­burn a month ear­li­er. And the third is his win­ning goal in the 1/8 finals of the Cham­pi­ons League against Barcelona in March 2011 (2:1).

“I wouldn’t say I was real­ly amaz­ing at Arse­nal,” says Arshavin, who returned to Zen­it in the sum­mer of 2013 after scor­ing 31 goals in 144 appear­ances for Arse­nal. “I would like to achieve more, but I tried to play as best as pos­si­ble.” My stay at this club and scor­ing four goals against Liv­er­pool made me famous through­out the world. To this day, when I go some­where and peo­ple rec­og­nize me, they remem­ber that match first. When my chil­dren trav­el and see me rec­og­nized, they also hear about this game. There­fore, my time at Arse­nal brought me world­wide recog­ni­tion.”