Search This Blog

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Return of the blog.

After a lengthy absence for reasons relating to idleness (and essay writing), I will be resuming this blog over the next coming months. This is due to the fact that I'm starting a new career as a TEFL teacher and feel it appropriate to document my travels and the experiences that I'll be hopefully enjoying. It also gives you, my ever so loyal audience, the chance to see how I'm getting on and to correct any grammatical mistakes that are now inexcusable for a qualified language teacher.
We begin in Austria in a small town called Neusiedl am See which is located to the east of Vienna and was formerly part of Hungary. Other than being famous for its lake and some watersports events, that's all the information I know at the moment. I'll be travelling to different towns and cities each week, so I should be providing a fairly varied read at least.
Speak soon, Auf Wiedersehen!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Amsterdam, 1st and 2nd August, 2011.

Day 1

After scrupulous planning, careful consideration and much anticipation, our venture across Europe began in earnest at Ramsgate train station, Kent on 1st August 2011 at 5am. One of the major benefits of living in Kent is the excellent transport links to continental Europe, and we capitalised on this by travelling to Ashford International and then making the hour and a half Eurostar underground train journey to Brussels, Belgium. For the record, the InterRail ticket cannot be used in your native country for bureaucratic reasons and thus it is imperative to plan and obtain tickets from an alternative source. Fortunately, being under 25 allows Eurostar journeys to be heavily discounted and it cost us 35 pounds each for the journey- cheaper than it would be for me to travel to University in Exeter on any given day.

As our stay in Amsterdam was limited to 2 nights, we decided not to stick around in Brussels and test its reported reputation for being the most boring capital city in Europe. The 5 hour journey to Amsterdam was fairly uneventful, although we managed to unwittingly sit in the first class section for 3 hours, before being told to move by a sharp Aryan looking chap, who also reported a couple of North African men. Racism? Or perhaps it had something to do with the fact that they didn’t have tickets, a passport, were sitting in first class and freely enjoying cigarettes.

Luckily, Northern Europe was in the midst of a heatwave with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees and arrival into Amsterdam ensured a friendly greeting by the smiling sun. Prior thoughts about the Dutch capital centered around its meandering canals, baroque architecture and its frivolous, liberal side. The latter came into direct attention as we wondered out of the train station and en route to our hostel in, you guessed it, the red light district. Sex and vodka museums, an abundance of tourists (mainly British judging by their pale skins and ill advised tattoos), and international restaurants accompanied our stroll through what appeared to be one of the main strips. Canal confusion led to a delay in finding our hostel, before the neon lights of ‘Hostel Globe’ enticed us into their grungy, dingy surroundings.

The Hostel
Name: The Globe- also a sports bar
Price (per night per person): 23 euros
Positives: Terrific location next to a canal and inside the red light district and a 10 minute walk from the Central station. Friendly, helpful staff who offered a map of the city, and even stored Nadia’s cheese in the fridge. Shows lots of live sports in the downstairs bar, has a happy hour of half price beer (Amsterdam is extremely expensive, and any offers need to be taken advantage of), and overall, a very relaxed atmosphere.
Negatives: Expensive, but to reiterate, this is to be expected when visiting the capital. Dorm of 16 people could have proved a bit annoying, although luckily the crowd we were with were respectful of others. No lift and an inadequate luggage compartment, meaning it is not very convenient for travellers. Bathing facilities were not the best.
Overall rating: 6.5/10- Would happily go there again.

Once we’d settled, and had a little rest, it was time to venture into the red light district and experience its rather bizarre atmosphere. Some people stumbled out of coffee shops (too much caffeine?), whilst others took window shopping to a new level by frequenting the services on offer. It amused me how most of the men visiting the delightful ladies in the brothels were middle aged, and probably had a family at home totally unaware of their activities abroad. Guess that’s why the oldest profession in the world has little chance of ever ending. The less said about the ‘models’ with the neon blue lights in the windows, the better (Trannies). Moving on, we managed to eventually escape the degenerate, decadent trappings of the red light district and casually made our way to a cultural museum. The sex museum that is.

Entry was 3 euros and well worth the money if you can handle the screaming Asians inside. No no, none of that, they’re only tourists. The museum exhibits how sex has been an important part of society for hundreds of years, and uses rather explicit ways to demonstrate this, such as a gentleman flashing and then ejaculating into a glass phone box. Other highlights included a manufactured couple having sex, a history of various sexual genres such as bondage, and condoms and dildos that have not been used for a very long time. Let’s hope not anyway.

All these sexual connotations made me very hungry, and we made our way out of the seedy surroundings and headed in the direction of the Anne Frank museum where we found a traditional Dutch café on the way. A very nice snack platter was served up containing sausage meat, cheese and various other side dishes, accompanied by a glass of Amstel. The murdered Jews would have to wait for tomorrow as we were put off by the deceptively long queue, and instead lost our way again, before walking back to our haunting ground in the red light district. A juice drink was enjoyed, followed by a few beers in the evening, a Gyros kebab for me from an overpriced Greek takeaway, before we went back to our not so cosy rooms and slept in preparation for a busy second day.

Day 2

Our first night’s sleep was OK, but my paranoia led me to waking up a few times and checking whether our sealed steal locker had been perpetrated. Whilst paranoia may be a symptom suited to the trappings of Amsterdam, checking our locker at regular intervals in the night became a consistent feature of my hostel experience. Nadia, on the other hand, slept like a baby.

An early start was accompanied by a pastry snack and a dash of lemon ice tea, something continental Europe always has an abundance of. With this, we headed towards Anne Frank’s House, one of the most popular museums in the city, and patiently queued for about 20 minutes. Luckily, we managed to get away with being 17 year olds, despite my scruffy stubble, and paid just 4 euros each; a 6 euro saving if I can remember correctly. The museum effectively portrayed the conditions in which Anne and her family lived while hiding from the Nazis, and it has got to be noted that the house itself was incredible. There could definitely be worse places to hide in the world, but discovering that Anne had not encountered fresh outside air for 5 years gives its own sense of perspective. For some reason, photographs are never allowed inside museums such as these, and Nadia’s attempts to defy this were consistently prevented by an oversized woman in front of us who kept getting in the way of the shot.  

Talking of fat, the Amsterdam guide books had frequently mentioned the necessity to try ‘traditional Dutch chips’ which were apparently fried in a different manner to the usual in Blighty. Unfortunately, the decision to include ketchup back ‘fried’ and we were instead greeted with overly soggy remnants of potato. With the sun still blazing, we strolled on and walked aimlessly across the meandering canals and ended up at busy square, complete with a joyful cover band, cafes, restaurants and a water fountain to boot. All very pleasant.

Before long, it was time to go to the Central train station and arrange our travels to Berlin the next morning. Expectations to pay a supplement train fare, the InterRail website constantly claimed that a 10 to 20 euro extra charge would be required upon high speed journeys, were gladly not fulfilled and the 5 hour trip to the German capital was organised for 7.30 am. On the way back from the station, we popped into the vodka shop, or ‘museum’ as it loosely labelled itself, and chatted to a friendly Russian man. Bit too overfriendly maybe, he keenly enquired as to whether we were descendants from the former Soviet Republic, giving me an opportunity to display my linguistic capabilities: ‘Niet’, I replied. Interestingly, or not, Alexander and Nadia are popular Russian names.

Going back to the cesspool, I mean hostel (it was ok, just a bit dingy, like an endearing swamp), we grabbed some warmer clothes and walked into the red neon lights and party atmosphere that characterises Amsterdam. For some, this atmosphere could be seen as just a bit too seedy and uncomfortable, as exemplified by our walking past a ‘live sex show’ arena and a particularly greasy haired chap becoming frustrated by his failed attempts to entice people in. It seems his frustration finally boiled over after we declined him, as he delightfully muttered to Nadia something along the lines of: “Come inside and you’ll see men with much bigger dicks than your boyfriend”. Whether this insult tactic ever proves successful remains debatable.

Anyhoo, we eventually found a bar along a canal and sat and watched as men snuck into brothels and then sheepishly emerged again half an hour later. The barman himself was a bit of an oddball, who’s English was slightly unclear. This led to the following exchange:
Me: “What beers have you got?”
Him: “Lots of beers”.
Me: “Erm, which ones?”
Him: “What do you want?”
Me: “What have you got?”
He then quickly and incoherently listed them, expecting me to understand. I realise that I’m the foreigner who should be speaking Dutch, not the other way round. Maybe Double Dutch would have been more suited to this man though.
Me: “ Can I have a Corona?”
Me: “ Oh, fair enough, two Amstels then please”.

An extremely elongated conversation that must have thrown him off track, as he forgot to charge us. Seeing him as the aggressive type, as we left I approached him and tried to pay which again led to another exchange:
Him: “What do you want?”
Me: “Erm, to pay”

A bizarre end to a city that thrives on the bizarre and the extreme. All aboard the train to Berlin!

Friday, 29 July 2011

InterRailing across Europe, August 2011.

For 21 days, my girlfriend and I shall be venturing across Europe in a journey encompassing 7 different countries, before eventually ending up in Greece. The hiatus from this blog will come to an end, and I shall be bringing you exclusive coverage of our adventure. Come back in September at some point to read a detailed analysis and account. Ta ra!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Thanet- Advantages and Disadvantages.

The Isle of Thanet, situated in North East Kent, was once the 'place to be', and a popular tourist resort for many. Spearheaded by the town of Margate, people from across the country used to make their way to the friendly, charming South East of the country. Not only was it blessed with terrific scenery and marvellous beaches, but there were also numerous entertainment facilities available including the theme park Dreamland, an outdoor swimming pool, historic museums and a popular greyhound racing track. Over the years, the district has attracted influential figures who were lured by the beauty of the area including Queen Victoria who spent many summers in Broadstairs as a child, famous artists Vincent Van Gogh and Joseph Turner who lived in Ramsgate and Margate respectively, as well as groundbreaking philosophers Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels. Oh, and it would be impossible for me not to mention the fact that British Prime Minister Edward Heath was a pupil at my school, Chatham House Grammar in Ramsgate.

However, starting with the invasion of the Mods and Rockers in the 1960's, together with the rise of unemployment and poverty, and the destruction of the entertainment facilities,  Thanet has taken part in a steady decline, and whilst the beaches and scenery still remain, there is a feeling of despair and deprivation attached to the towns in the district. Statistics demonstrate this grim appraisal:
  • In a study of resilience to economic downturns, Thanet was poorly rated at 295th out of 324 districts.
  • Unemployment levels are nearly twice the South East of England as a whole.
  • Health is worse in Thanet than in England on average.
  • Life expectancy is lower than for England.
  • Teenage pregnancies are high compared to the England average.
  • Significantly higher than average rate of mental health problems.
 Nevertheless, despite this, I've always had an affinity to Thanet and can become rather defensive when it is lambasted by sneering criticism. Whilst there are obvious negatives to the area, it would be churlish to ignore the positives that come from living and visiting the towns and villages across the Isle. Let's get the bad news out the way first, shall we?

Disadvantages of Thanet:
  • Job Prospects and employment- Unfortunately Thanet does not offer many opportunities in the job market. Of course there is work available; however the variety is severely limited. As aforementioned, the statistics revealing unemployment rates do not make pretty reading.
  • Nightlife- Despite the presence of a large younger generation, the district does not contain any night 'hotspots'. The nearest things to nightclubs are 'The Dolphin' (Broadstairs) and 'The Sovereign' (Ramsgate), but these, whilst being popular, are nothing more than Pubs. Arguably there are two clubs in the region, 'Club Caprice' and 'Escape', however the former is not an enticing proposition in the slightest (could be funny, though) and the latter is now only open for specially booked events. The commute to Canterbury has now become a welcome antidote and regular occurrence for many Thanetians.
  • Feeling of depravity- When walking around the towns across the Isle, it must be acknowledged that there is a general feeling of despair and desperation. Maybe this is linked to the numerous ugly buildings as encapsulated by terrible eyesore 'Arlington House' in Margate. Who in their right mind commissioned for such a horrific building to be constructed? It looks like something out of George Orwell's '1984' dystopian novel. Margate and Ramsgate, in particular, often seem rather run down with this being demonstrated by the hordes of people that frequent outside the Job Centre's in the towns.
  • Margate and Ramsgate High Streets- Leading on from this, it would be foolish to ignore the poor quality of the High Streets in Thanet's biggest towns. Both are fairly dreary and can resemble a ghost town, due to the numerous shops that have closed down in recent years.
  • Westwood Cross- A rather controversial choice due to the number of jobs it has created and the way it has expanded commercial interests across the Isle. Nevertheless, the shopping centre, in between Margate and Ramsgate, has directly led to the demise of both these towns. Once it was a necessity for people to do their shopping in a town, but this has been replaced by the arduous trek to Westwood. Unlike all the towns and villages in Thanet, Westwood severely lacks any charm or character, and instead resembles a soulless, characterless and materialistic wasteland.
  • Declining number of events and 'things to do'- Largely due to the incompetence of the Thanet Council, there is now a dearth of events and enjoyable facilities available to the population. No longer is there an outdoor swimming pool complex, a greyhound racing track, a theme park, a nightclub, a hovercraft from Ramsgate to Belgium, a motor museum, or a powerboat weekend. The list really could go on forever. However, instead of concentrating on rejuvenating and investing in the area, an implausible decision was made to spend SEVEN Million Pounds (probably more) on The Turner Centre- a soon to be Art Gallery. Ludicrous.
  • Cliftonville- Once regarded as the 'posh side' of Margate, Cliftonville, despite having some lovely houses and architecture, has been transformed completely. Partly due to the influx of thousands of refugees from Kosovo and Albania, and disregard by the government, the place has no resemblance to the attractive town it once was. A great shame.
  • Live Music, Comedy and Sport- Well, I may be being a bit picky here, but it seems incredibly difficult to attract top Music Artists and Comedians to Thanet. This sort of entertainment would be a very attractive proposition for the population, and would stop the moan that there is 'nothing to do'. Oh, and finally, wouldn't it be nice if we had a decent Sports team to support?
Advantages of Thanet:
  • History- There is no doubting the tremendous History of the Isle. This is illustrated in the following link:
  • Beaches- As has been allured to previously; Thanet really does have some of the most beautiful, sought after beaches in the country and a decent(ish) climate to match. A lot of people spend copious amounts of money to visit the seaside, yet the beauty of the North Kent Coast is situated right on Thanet's residents’ doors. Indeed, mainly due to the illustrious coastline, Thanet and surrounding areas has been named in among the dozen most desirable destinations in the world for 2011.  Here are a few examples of the magnificent beaches:

  • Proximity to France- A definite benefit of living in Thanet is the closeness of France. Travelling by ferry from Dover, just outside the Isle, to Calais takes only an hour and a quarter, and can sometimes cost as little as a pound for a foot passenger. Modelling itself as the 'gateway to Europe', Ramsgate has begun offering journeys to Ostend, Belgium, via the North Sea. Furthermore, for those preferring a direct route to Paris in the shape of the Eurostar, it only takes half an hour driving to get to Ashford International.
  • High speed rail: Combined with this is one of the most exciting developments in recent years; the launch of the High Speed Rail service between Ramsgate and London, where it now only takes 84 minutes to travel. Not only does this make visiting Thanet a more feasible option, but it also allows those working in London the opportunity to live in the Isle and commute to their daily jobs.
  • Kent International Airport, Manston- That's right, Thanet has its own international airport!  Expansion in recent years has ensured that the country's longest runway now offers flights to other countries for keen travellers, as well as maintaining its cargo links.  For those interested, this year the airport is offering flights to Madeira, Greece, Croatia, Scotland, Spain, Italy and Portugal. As interest gradually increases, the variety of destinations are also likely to expand. Despite the recent absence of the military, there is still an RAF Manston History Museum on site, as is the Spitfire and Hurricane memorial for aviation fans.
  • Canterbury- One of England's most beautiful and traditional cities is only a short drive or train journey (roughly 15-20 minutes) from Thanet. Containing a historic Cathedral, a city wall, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, a Norman Castle, the oldest school in England, The Marlowe Theatre, two Universities, and The St Lawrence Ground, home to Kent Country Cricket Club, living in or visiting Thanet makes a day trip to Canterbury an essential requirement.
  • Broadstairs Folk Week- One of the major highlights of the year is always Broadstairs Folk Week; a popular summer festival which constantly manages to bring the community together. Featuring some of the biggest Folk artists and bands in the country, activities for the young and old, and impulsive street parities, Folk Week is something worth anticipating and definitely frequenting.
  • Theatres- Margate has in its ranks the second oldest theatre in the country, The Theatre Royal, and the smallest one, the appropriately named 'Tom Thumb'. Both are wonderfully designed, archaic throwbacks to a former world.
  • Broadstairs- Talking of former worlds, entering Broadstairs is similar to being transported into the Victorian age. With lots of independent shops, carefully constructed buildings, and streets, Broadstairs is the most idyllic of Thanet towns.
  • Sunsets- Britain’s greatest artist, Joseph Turner, used to go to Margate to capture the magnificent sunset, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for everyone. There aren’t many better sights than watching the sun set in North Thanet above the sea on a glorious summer’s day.
  • Schools and education- Grammar schools still remain strong in Thanet, despite the governments increasing insistence to abolish them. The merger of Chatham House (all boys) and Clarendon House (all girls) in Ramsgate has certainly been a controversial one, but the higher tier education system in the region remains strong. The High Schools/Comprehensives are also improving, as has been encapsulated by the steady rise and improvement of the Marlowe Academy, once regarded as the worst school in the country.
  • Margate Old Town- The high street may leave a lot to be desired, but the Old Town of Margate is a charming area. It comes alive in the summer with live music acts, and fun fairs.
So there we have it, a lengthy appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of living in or visiting Thanet. Of course there are things that I’ve missed out, and if anyone feels that there have been any major admissions, I’ll be sure to include them. Rather than listening to the media, the only way to get a true understanding of a place is to visit it, and I would definitely encourage you to do so.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Junk Mail.

Ah yes, that everyday nuisance which crops up into our email account. Despite enabling filters against the pesky fraudsters, desperate sellers and random freaks,  it still remains impossible to fully banish junk mail from our lives. As a result, instead of battling the hardened enemy, it would appear wiser and more appropriate to embrace and accept its endearing flaws.

Perhaps the best way to do this is by acknowledging the humour and hilarity that comes with junk mail. Take a chance to have a peek at your emails, and you'll begin to understand what angle I'm coming from. It may range from those concerned about their weight being bombarded with numerous emails from Diet companies entitled 'LOSE WEIGHT QUICK', to students being given advice on ways to manage debts. Unfortunately the antidotes provided by the emails often seem to involve the exchanging of bank account details. In order to maintain the vast levels of junk mail that is sent to us, the companies/people/criminals involved must be financially profiting. But then again, anyone silly enough to believe these obvious false promises deserves to be fleeced.

The funniest emails are those which have absolutely no relevance to our lives.This regularly happened to me when I was constantly sent information regarding offers of being a driving instructor. Needless to say, I had just failed my driving test and had no aspirations whatsoever of pursuing this profession. A classic story comes from females who receive information relating to the cure of 'erectile dysfunction problems'. Not an issue that women could (in the majority of cases) ever personally relate to. Although, I guess they could be the cause of it.

The most creative, well thought out and inevitably poorly spelt emails come from people posing as rich foreign tycoons. They offer us enviable economic rewards in exchange for rescuing them from a difficult situation. The emails are personally written, and can almost be believable. After all, wouldn't it make sense to agree to their demands and to help out by giving them a thousand pounds in return for a five thousand pound profit? Surely, it is a guarantee of making a helluva lot of money. How could we not trust someone who addresses us by our first name, is polite and offers us a massive financial outlay?

There's only one way to find out. Let me go and get my chequebook...

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Regina Spektor- Live in London.

The Russian born American anti-folk singer-songwriter and pianist Regina Spektor has provided her ever expanding audience with a double disc CD and DVD from her performance at the Hammersmith Apollo, London. Listening to the CD and watching the DVD, one is able to grasp Spektor’s monumental ability to galvanise her fervent crowd with powerful vocals, meaningful, witty lyrics and dark yet enthralling piano playing. Despite appearing to have a rather awkward and uncomfortable stage presence, the deafening cheers between each of her songs signals the appreciation and gratitude of the English public towards the charmingly, endearing singer.

Spektor appropriately begins proceedings with the popular, upbeat ‘On the radio’ where she seems to provide a breathless narrative on youth, life and love. To fit such broad subjects areas into a three minute dialogue might be difficult for some singers, but not for this talented artist who successfully manages to encapsulate the listener. Next up is the strangely named ‘EET’ where Spektor comments on the difficulties involved when losing and disconnecting from something which was once special. This is demonstrated by the despair that comes with the incredulity of ‘forgetting the words to your favourite song’.

As the performance smoothly progresses, Spektor comes into her own with the authoritative ‘Apres Moi’ where she tells the entrapped audience to ‘be afraid of the lame, the old and the cold’, before singing in her native Russian. Now, Spektor’s lyrics can be difficult to decipher at the best of times, but it proves almost impossible to understand verses which are quoted from a Boris Pasternak (the chap who wrote Dr Zhivago, for those interested) poem.

Leaving aside my grasp of Russian linguistics, Spektor successfully throws aside her sweet exterior and singing voice with ‘Bobbing for Apples’. To a rapturous response from her surprised audience, Spektor declares how she’s ‘dating Jack Daniels’ before emphatically, and almost proudly, asserting that ‘someone next to is f***ing to one of MY songs’.

As the gig reaches its climax, Spektor plays the atmospheric, universally popular ‘Us’ to a delighted crowd. The song builds up beautifully, just as the performance itself, and finishes with the Soviet born artist repeatedly singing ‘it’s contagious’. It certainly seems that Spektor’s complex song writing, enchanting singing, and masterful instrument playing are contagious for her engrossed listeners. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Andrey Arshavin, the enigma.

After receiving constant criticism throughout this 2010/2011 season by pundits, the media, and most consistently by the Arsenal fans (culminating in the disgraceful booing he endured in the Leeds game at the weekend), I feel it's time to launch a passionate, well needed defence of North London's favourite Russian meerkat, Andrey Arshavin.

As a consequence of being addicted to Football Manager, I was already familiar with Arshavin's ability, and whilst the game does not replicate reality fully, it gives a vague indication, at least. However, it was watching Zenit St Petersburg’s march to the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) Final in 2008 when I really started paying attention to the mercurial playmaker. Combining pace, intricacy, intelligence, tenacity and a flawless technique, it became clear that Arshavin had developed into one of the continents most sought after players. Indeed, this was cemented with his performances in the Euro 2008 Championships Finals, and in particular the way in which he embarrassed a strong Dutch side.

Once the tournament had finished and Arshavin had been duly named in the Team of the Tournament, the interest from some of Europe's top clubs became official. This was represented by bids from Barcelona and Tottenham being rejected by Zenit on the grounds that they did not match their 22 million pounds estimation. Zenit's refusal to sell Arshavin ensured that the Russian captain would remain in his native homeland until the January Transfer Window reopened in 2009. To my and many Arsenal supporters' joy, the club decided to pursue the player, and memorably confirmed the deal in the snow twenty four hours after the transfer deadline had passed. Incredibly, Arsenal had managed to buy the sixth best player in the world for thirteen to fifteen million pounds (the fee remains undisclosed), a fraction of his market value.

Surprisingly, Arshavin adapted to the English game immediately, and his first half season at the club was an instant success, as aptly demonstrated by his unforgettable four goals against Liverpool at Anfield. He seemed on course to be a universally popular figure at the club, not just for his masterful football playing ability, but also for his boyish charm and hilarious website. Arshavin answers questions from fans in an honest, blunt way, and this is most emphatically portrayed by the way in which he told a young teenage female fan to 'listen to her father' after she had sought Arshavin's advice about her dad not letting her play football purely due to the fact that she was a girl.

Fast forward two years, and the little Russian maestro has somehow infuriated the majority of Arsenal fans, with their criticism centering on his careless possession of the ball, combined with his refusal to 'work hard' and 'track back' for the team. The growing vitriol against Arshavin has prompted the Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger, to plea for patience and to remind everyone that he is a 'risk player', and that sometimes these risks do not come off. It would be fair to say that the player is not playing his best, but the booing by the fans and their constant criticism of him is despicable. For someone who has supposedly been off form throughout the season, Arshavin has still managed seven goals (joint fourth in the squad behind Nasri, Chamakh and Walcott), and contributed thirteen assists (the second most in the Premier League, and the most in the Arsenal side). So much for not working for the team, eh?

Of course it can be argued that statistics do not tell the whole story, but they certainly underline his importance to the side. One thing that these statistics do not show are the numerous opportunities that Arshavin sets up for players, and the number of times that he gets into goal scoring situations and is often denied by the excellence of opposing Goalkeepers.

Why Arshavin has been singled out for so much criticism recently remains a mystery. Could it be that the sometimes fickle Arsenal fans are looking for a scapegoat, someone to blame when the desired result goes the other way? Or is it down to a more legitimate reason, such as attempting to pinpoint why the player has not found his true, mesmerising form this season? Maybe the emergence of Samir Nasri as a clinical, influencer of games has meant that the statistical significance of his colleague has paled in comparison with the Frenchman's goal scoring exploits. Despite the fact that Arshavin has failed to live up to his very high expectations so far this season, there is no doubting his effectiveness, efficiency, and fundamental importance to Arsenal.

Once Arshavin does finally recapture his terrific form of previous seasons, then he is going to be a truly frightening proposition for other team. As the age old clique goes, form is temporary, class is permanent, and it is only a matter of time before the Russian rediscovers the love of the fans.
Could Arshavin's redemption come against Barcelona in the Champions League next month? Let's hope so.