After failing to make it out of the easiest group at Euro 2012 under Dick Advocaat, Russia now lead their World Cup qualifying group under Fabio Capello with four wins in as many matches and no goals allowed. Now they prepare to take on Northern Ireland and they will once again be without 31-year-old Andrei Arshavin, who captained the Euro 2012 squad. Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill says he knows why.
From Fox Sports:
"I think the biggest difference is that Capello's Russia work harder than Advocaat's Russia," said O'Neill.
"I saw them in the Euros under a different manager and the players who have come in since then give Russia a higher work ethic than they have when Arshavin plays.
"Arshavin was arguably one of the players of the tournament back in Euro 2008. There's no doubting his quality, but he's in a difficult position in his career at the minute and the national team is probably stronger without him."
A DT investigation revealed what Arshavin has been doing with himself while not playing very much for Arsenal this season and it seems Arsene Wenger has reached the same conclusion about him as Capello. It's a shame that it's come to this for Arshavin with both club and country. As O'Neill said, the man has enviable talent and 31 isn't all that old. Arshavin apparently isn't too bothered though, as he reportedly visited Russia's training session in London on Monday.
Still, it sounds like it might be time for a change in Arshavin's professional life. With that in mind, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power recently offered Arshavin a bit of career advice (as they did for Fernando Torres) on a billboard outside Emirates Stadium...
Billboard reads: "Andrei we've got somewhere you can really put a shift in... block D toilets. What's Russian for plunger?"