By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger believes Andrey Arshavin is a man for the big occasion - and he expects the Russian to deliver against Manchester United on Sunday.
This weekend's marquee fixture at Emirates Stadium takes place almost exactly a year since Arshavin completed his protracted move to North London. Wenger's late, late swoop proved a masterstroke as Arshavin scored the goals - and provided the assists - which propelled Arsenal above Aston Villa and into a Champions League place.
The 28-year-old has scored 15 goals in 38 starts and, encouragingly for Arsenal, the Russian always seems to produce big performances against big teams. He hit four at Anfield last season, scored the winner at the same ground in December and fired Arsenal ahead at Old Trafford back in August.
Manchester United saw what Arshavin was capable of at the start of the season and Wenger is convinced the diminutive playmaker will produce the goods again this weekend.
"I am very happy with Arshavin, because in every big game he is influential and creates the chances," said Wenger.
"When you look at him, he turns up when it is really needed - not at 4-0, but at 0-0. He is always coming up with something special.
He is a player whom you always rely on in a big game like that.
"Arshavin likes the big stage. He can be quiet for 20 minutes, and then suddenly turn up with something decisive. That is what you want from the big players - the big players make you win the big games."
Arshavin's recent goals tally is unconvincing - he has scored just once in nine appearances - but there are mitigating circumstances. The 28-year-old has been forced to lead the line in the absence of Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner and, as Wenger points out, he is always a marked man.
"He is always marked very tight and people do not give him a lot of room," said the manager.
"Everybody who plays against Arshavin says 'make sure you mark him tight'.
"But even when he is marked tight in some of the so-called less big games, when you look at the tape afterwards, you always think 'this movement was good', or 'this pass was great'.
"He always turns up with something special."