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ARSHAVIN CAN FIRE UP GUNNERS.

Byline: JIM VAN WIJK

ARSENE Wenger feels Andrey Arshavin can put a summer of disappointment behind him and help drive Arsenal on towards their first Premier League title since 2004.

The enigmatic midfielder - signed from Zenit St Petersburg during January 2009 - was distraught after Russia failed to make the World Cup finals, suffering a shock defeat to Slovenia in the play-offs.

Arshavin's form and fitness suffered towards the end of the campaign, which Wenger puts down to the frustrations of not being able to showcase his talents on the biggest stage of all in South Africa.

However, now the Gunners boss wants to see the 29-year-old at his very best as he prepares for today's trip to Liverpool - where Arshavin has scored five goals in his previous two appearances.

"It was a massive blow for him to go out of the World Cup with Russia, and he had an end of season which was disturbed by many injuries," said the Arsenal boss, who yesterday signed a three-year extension to his contract.

"What I expect from him is he remains completely fit, gives the team everything - with his creative side, he can be decisive, create chances and score goals."

Summer signing Laurent Koscielny is set for his Premier League debut in defence at Anfield. With Johan Djourou sidelined by a hamstring problem, Arsenal are lacking cover at centrehalf following the departures of veterans Sol Campbell, William Gallas and Mikael Silvestre at the end of their contracts.

Wenger has been linked with a number of players, including Everton's Phil Jagielka, Bosnia captain Emir Spahic, Stuttgart's Serdar Tasci and Germany stalwart Per Mertesacker.

The Gunners boss is also son the lookout for a new keeper, with Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer set on a move across London despite Arsenal having a pounds 2 million bid rejected.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 15, 2010
Words:306
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