By Richard Clarke

Andrey Arshavin is starting his Arsenal career in fine company.

The Russian is set to make his Emirates Stadium bow on Saturday in the Premier League game against Sunderland and, at his pre-match conference, Arsène Wenger compared his new signing to Diego Maradona, Freddie Ljungberg and Pele!

The Argentinian and the Brazilian may be small in stature but they are giants of the game – the pair are, quite simply, perhaps the best two footballers ever. Ljungberg may not have achieved that lofty status but the diminutive midfielder had a long and successful career at Arsenal.

Arshavin, of course, is another ‘mighty atom’. But when asked if size mattered to Wenger when he was interested in bringing in a player the response was a massive ‘no’.

“Yes he is quite small,” said the manager. “I think Arshavin is 5ft 6ins. But what is amazing in football is that people are always concerned about size.

“But if you take the best players in the world you had Maradona who was 5ft 7in and Pele, 5ft 7ins - so it is not a handicap.”

“For me the [creative] potential is there, the skill is there and the technical quality is there,” Wenger went on.

“We have always played with two creative players on the flanks. We have had players like Freddie Ljungberg who have had that creative influence. It is very important for our efficiency. And Arshavin can make runs in behind without the ball.”

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20 Feb 2009