LONDON — Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Andrei Arshavin will have a major influence on the upcoming season and could make the difference in ending the team's trophy drought.
The 28-year-old Russian came off the bench to score two goals in Arsenal's 2-1 pre-season victory Saturday over Atletico Madrid in the Emirates Cup.
"He knows how English football works," Wenger said. "He knows as well that now he's part of the team from the start. I believe the team knows as well how important (he is) and how big an impact he can have on the results."
Arshavin arrived from Zenit St. Petersburg in January and it took time for him to settle into the team. He improved considerably late in the season, including scoring four goals in one match against Liverpool in April.
He was cup tied for the Champions League, but now will be available for all competitions from the start of the season.
Wenger evaded questions about whether Arshavin would play a more central role this season, simply saying "he can." The manager doesn't want to heap too much pressure on Arshavin, but is confident he will be a key influence.
"He has what you cannot give to a player," Wenger said. "He understands when there is danger, when there's an opportunity. In the final third, he's certainly dangerous."
Arshavin proved that Saturday, running on to a cross from Cesc Fabregas to the back post and volleying past goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo in the 86th minute. Atletico equalized two minutes later after German Pacheco beat an offside trap and slotted past goalkeeper Vito Mannone. TV replays showed Pacheco may have been marginally offside.
But Arshavin pounced on a poor headed backpass from Atletico defender Tomas Ujfalusi, tapped the ball around Asenjo and then slid it inside the net from an acute angle for the winner in the 90th.
Wenger doesn't feel an urgent need to go on a spending spree after selling striker Emmanuel Adebayor and defender Kolo Toure to Manchester City. He says he has enough attacking options, pointing to Arshavin and midfielder Tomas Rosicky, among others.
Wenger said any new players will be brought in before the team's pre-season ends at Valencia next Saturday. There has been speculation over several players, including the possible return of former captain Patrick Vieira.
Rosicky returned against Barnet last month after 18 months out with hamstring and knee injuries. He didn't feature in the three following matches because of a minor setback, but played the first half Saturday and had a goal disallowed after another player was ruled offside.
"I'm pleased and cautious with him," Wenger said. "He has not played for 18 months and I'm not a dreamer. I think if he gets through the next two months without a setback, we have (progressed in) the battle. But it's not won yet."
Arsenal finished fourth in the Premier League last season, spending several weeks in fifth place and under threat of losing out on a Champions League place for this year. The team hasn't won a trophy since the FA Cup in 2005. The Gunners last won the league in 2004.
"We want to prepare seriously and have a very strong start of the season," Wenger said. "In the first four games, we play Man United, Everton and Man City away, so we are cautious but determined to do well. I believe the team is conscious of the difficulty of the start of the season. But as well, highly focused and motivated, and that is a good basis."
Arsenal faces Rangers on Sunday after the Scottish team defeated Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the first game of the Emirates Cup.
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