Arshavin set for Arsenal debut

Arsene Wenger has confirmed Russia playmaker Andrey Arshavin will make his Arsenal debut against Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Arshavin has not featured for the Premier League club since completing his £15 million switch from Zenit St Petersburg at the end of the January transfer window.

The 27-year-old was an unusued substitute for Arsenal's goalless draw against Tottenham and was ineligible for Monday's FA Cup win over Cardiff.

Arshavin has not played a competitive match since the end of the Russian Premier League season in late November.

He will be involved, but I have not decided what I will do with him yet.
Arsene Wenger on Andrei Arshavin

But Wenger revealed he is now close to full match fitness and will feature against Sunderland at some stage as Arsenal aim to close the gap on the Premier League's top four.

"He will be involved," said Wenger. "But I have not decided what I will do with him yet.

"He is still working on preparation and he is not qualified for the (UEFA Champions League) game against Roma (on Tuesday) so we can give him another week of hard work.

"At the end of next week, that will be three weeks with us and one week with Zenit, that should be enough."

"He can integrate well our combination game, he can move very well, he is very mobile so that is something we work on as well," Wenger said.

"He is a clever passer of the ball and that is something you need in every big team to open teams up.

"I know him quite well on his vision, his passing ability, his quick brain. That is something which is very important in the modern game."

Wenger may have given Arshavin more time to acclimatise to the Premier League, but his hand has been forced by Arsenal's desperate situation in the league and injuries to so many creative players.

"At the moment we have many players in that area injured like Cesc Fabregas, like Tomas Rosicky, like Theo Walcott, so there is a position to take as a creative midfielder," Wenger said.

"He (Arshavin) has personality, he has a strong character. The handicap he has at the moment is that he is not completely fit physically, but all the rest should be quite quick.

"Anyway, we will take the needed time. We will not put him under pressure, if he needs a bit longer he takes a bit longer."

Wenger also admitted it was a blow to lose Eduardo again so soon after his return from a year out with a broken leg and ankle.

"It is a shame because he got injured two minutes before I took him off. But it is not a bad injury, he will miss two weeks," Wenger said.

"I believe overall the situation is very positive because he managed to convince everybody that he will be back as a player for Arsenal Football Club, which is the most important thing.

"In the short term, we are a little disappointed but he will be back."