Arsenal have signed the briliant Andrei Arshavin

It is understood Arshavin’s transfer, from Russian club Zenit St Petersburg, was held up over paperwork concerning agents involved in the deal.

“I am so happy to be joining Arsenal," Arshavin said. "They are one of the leading football clubs in the world, with a group of fantastic young players and a great manager. I am looking forward to making the Arsenal supporters happy and helping this great club win trophies.”

Yesterday, only one of the Premier League officials assigned transfer window duty, was able to brave the heavy snow and get into the offices, and Arshavin’s transfer was, according to a spokesman, “one of a number of transfers awaiting Premier League approval".

The transfer of Arshavin, 27, involved more than 40 separate documents, all of which had to be ratified and agreed, by the Premier League and the Football Association. Work permit clearance was another factor in the protracted negotiations.

A statement on Arsenal’s website confirmed that their new recruit would wear the No 23 jersey, as Arshavin had revealed earlier on his official website. The number had been unused since the departure from the club of Sol Campbell, who chose the shirt in honour of basketball legend Michael Johnson, who also wore the number.

Manager Arsene Wenger said: “We are delighted to have signed Andrei Arshavin, he is a player I have admired for a long time. He is a versatile player with great experience, who will add real quality to our squad.

"Andrei is an exciting impact player with a huge amount of ability and has been an influential force with both Zenit St Petersburg and the Russian national team in recent seasons.”

Arsenal had insisted they would not break their strict wage-structure just to add Arshavin to their squad, and it seemed they would not pay more than £12m for the player.

But the fee, confirmed at £16.9m fee, smashes the club’s previous record – the £11m paid for they paid for Sylvain Wiltord, from Bordeaux, in August 2000.

According to officials at the Russian club the final figure is made up of £15m fee, a further £1.5m in compensation for breaking a long-term contract and a further £450,000 in unpaid bonuses and included in the transfer sum.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said: “Andrei was identified by Arsene as a quality creative player that would add something special to this youthful but talented squad.

"The Board has always backed the manager with his transfer targets and we are delighted to welcome Andrei to the club where he will help us to challenge for honours this season.”

Arshavin could make his debut against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Sunday, though the Russian international has not played since November and may start the game on the bench against a Spurs side that will include the returning Robbie Keane.

Arsenal currently lie five points adrift of fourth-placed Aston Villa after successive Barclays Premier League draws against Everton and West Ham.

Meanwhile, severe snow in the capital forced tonight’s planned FA Cup fourth-round replay against Cardiff to be postponed, the tie now rearranged for Feb 16.