Arséne Wenger’s most important signing of the last 12 months needs to prove his worth

It’s fair to say that Andrey Arshavin has had a major impact on Arsenal since his arrival in January from Zenit St. Petersburg.

His movement, enthusiasm, work-rate and attitude have been a joy to behold, his arrival has prompted an upturn in fortunes and who knows what we may have done over thr course of the season if he had joined us in the summer.

But right now, a day before a critical four days in the club’s recent history, it seems to me that someone far less heralded now wears the crown of Wenger’s most important signing.

Step up, Mikael Silvestre.

Signing a M*nure player isn’t something I’m particularly enthusiastic about at the best of times, because the direction of players always seems to have been one way, from us to them, when players are at their best.

Think Frank Stapleton or even Viv Anderson, for instance.

I remember us drawing with M*nure at Highbury a few years ago and Silvestre came out declaring that it was the worst Arsenal side he had ever faced and generally laying into our boys. I didn’t forget.

So when he joined us on a free in the summer, I wondered whether Wenger or Red Nose Fergie would be laughing loudest come the end of the season.

For much of the campaign, with the exception of a little run that at least showed other defenders that the big hoof upfield and out of danger was not a dying art, Silvestre has either watched from the sidelines or been in rehab after an injury.

But when William Gallas was carried off in Spain last week, I wondered why everyone seemed to forget about Silvestre’s return to fitness and as a viable understudy to our deposed captain.

Sure, Johann Djourou has to be the natural replacement, but when he was injured at Wigan, it might have been a blessing in disguise.

I was abroad at the weekend and didn’t see the game, but from what I understand, Silvestre was terrible.

I’m not surprised. His best days are behind him, he was making his first senior appearance after injury and playing on a pitch used for rugby just a couple of days earlier.

But when you look at the honours he has won in a M*nure shirt, that experience could count for a lot in the next few days.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be confident if Djourou faced Giuseppe Rossi and Didier Drogba. But when you’re facing top class forwards in games which will make or break Arsenal’s season, experience counts for a great deal.

Without a Silvestre in the squad, we would have to rely on Alex Song at centre-back, and while he’s a modest understudy, a Champions League quarter-final and FA Cup semi-final are not the places to bed himself into a new position.

So let’s hope the Silvestre of old turns up tomorrow night, nullifies Villareal’s forwards and that we all go home looking forward to a trip to Portugal.