Andrey Arshavin dazzles in a central role for Arsenal

Having spent the second half of last term on loan at Zenit St. Petersburg and the whole summer hawked around a variety of European clubs, even Arshavin himself would have been forgiven for expecting another dismal season in north London.

On his first start of the season, however, the mercurial Russian ran the show as the Gunners romped to a 6-1 win over League One Coventry and offered a hope that there might yet be a glittering swansong to his Arsenal career.

In a game Arsenal dominated, Arshavin was at the heart of all Arsenal’s attacking endeavour. The Russian started the sweeping move that led to Giroud’s opener and won the second half penalty the Frenchman then fluffed.

He teed up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arsenal’s third, scored the fourth himself after gracefully plucking Giroud’s lofted pass out of the air and prodding home and completed an impressive evening's work by plonking the ball straight on Ignasi Miquel’s head for the fifth.

"His best position looks to be behind the striker now,” Arsene Wenger noted after the match. “That's where his vision and creative side of game becomes most efficient. When he is central, he can influence the game.”

Arshavin did not merely influence the game, he dominated it - the change in his output remarkable when tasked with unlocking defences tucked in behind a centre forward, rather than shuttling back and forth on either flank.

With the passing swagger the Gunners have rediscovered this year – a consequence of the flourishing partnerships between Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla in the middle of the park – Arshavin has surely stumbled across the ideal scenario from which he can force himself back into Wenger’s reckoning.

With a variety of neat flicks, round-the-corner balls and deft touches, the artful manner in which Arshavin orchestrated proceedings last night points towards a potentially mesmeric partnership with Arteta and Cazorla, with firepower supplied by Giroud, Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho.

If Arshavin can follow up last night's display with a performances even a fraction as potent in both the Premier League and the Champions League, he could prove an invaluable asset to the club in a season where many had totally written him, and them, off.

With two very indifferent years behind him, this could well be the last chance Arshavin has to salvage a reputation the playmaker previously had as one of Europe’s finest before joining the north London club.