Arsenal - December Player of the Month
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December Player of the Month

Once again, it`s Player of the Month time and once again there is a poverty of real candidates. Last season, there were often three or four decent options per month, this year it hasn`t quite been the same. Though August (Nasri) and September (Walcott) took care of themselves, since October I seem to have been offering excuses for giving a player the monthly award rather than penning a glowing commendation. It`s been more apology than appraisal and December is not much different. Partly, changes in the starting line up explain this, virtual shadow sides were beaten 2-0 by Burnley and Porto respectively, whilst injuries and suspensions have once again gripped us terribly. Robin van Persie can lay claim to a decent month, he seems to have built on the match winning display at Stamford Bridge with some good performances, though the statistics of 1 goal and 0 assists does not do this justice. Emmanuel Adebayor has scored twice in his four appearances this month. The month has seen Bacary Sagna return to last season`s form and fitness whilst Gael Clichy has once again been the picture of consistency despite playing with a calf strain for much of the month. December has also seen Johan Djourou cement a place in the starting line up, whilst since being relieved of the armband; William Gallas has performed much better. Though he still seems troubled my momentary lapses, as demonstrated at Villa Park. Rumours of a bust up between Gallas and Toure appear to have weight behind them following Toure`s transfer request and if that is indeed the case, you have to feel Gallas is a character who takes himself far too seriously than is good for team spirit.

So December`s award will go to something of an unsung hero. In fact, unsung is perhaps too generous as he has been harshly chastised in some quarters, largely for not being a lank haired Corsican mercenary named Flamini. With the midfield unbalanced and now undermanned, Denilson has taken a lot of flack from some Arsenal fans this season. But I have noticed that most of this criticism has occurred as an after thought, I am struggling to remember him causing too many raised dissenting voices inside the stadium. Largely, I think it`s because he does a very good job, even if his midfield colleagues haven`t given him much help in his defensive duties. Denilson is a very young man who has been asked to play a new role this year, his early season performances were erratic. He was comfortably the best player on the pitch in the opening game against West Brom, one week later at Craven Cottage his passing bore resemblance to a man who would have trouble hitting water in the sea. But since he was rested for the away match at West Ham, Denilson seems to have economised his game and has become one of the team`s very few solid, consistent performers, a regular 7 out of 10 player. Those who have excelled in the defensive midfield role have always been characterised in this manner.

Denilson was one of the few players who could come away from Porto with his head held high and also performed very well in the win over Wigan and operated well out of position on the right hand side of midfield in the 1-1 draws with Middlesbrough and Liverpool respectively. Since Fabregas limped out of that Liverpool game with a ruptured medial ligament, Denilson has taken to the role of creator too. Firstly, scoring a goal borne out of pure desire in the 2-2 draw at Villa Park, whilst he also helped himself to an assist in the 1-0 grind against Portsmouth. There has understandably been a lack of clemency from Arsenal fans this season towards the players, but I think the criticism aimed at Denilson has been more discursive than anything. Were he currently to imitate a Scooby Doo villain and take to the field wearing a Flamini mask I doubt many would cast him as a weak link. He is persistently our best and most successful tackler and he rarely gives the ball away, particularly as he appears to have worked on simplifying his passing this season. Weren`t these the very qualities we were praising in the one season wonder that is Flamini just 12 months ago?LD.

2008/09 Players of the Month
August: Samir Nasri
September: Theo Walcott
October: Robin van Persie
November: Aaron Ramsey.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday January 2 2009

Time: 11:51AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Hail Hail. But he needs a partner right about now. Song is not doing it for me, and i am possibly Alex Song's biggest fan in the World ;-)
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02/01/2009 11:58:00

I think that's about right Denilson has done a good job and played well enough even on the right this month. The fella is high up on the Opta stats lists for passing, tackling and assists for the season so far. The good thing is that he'll get even better. He has proved a good partner to Cesc and as both develop their defensive game we should prosper from the partnership.
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02/01/2009 12:10:00

I agree with your choice. It's good to see Denilson's consistently solid performances getting recognised as he has been unfairly blamed for some of our problems this season. He works very hard and always gives 100%.
Report Abuse
02/01/2009 12:26:00

Agreed. Top article and right decision.
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02/01/2009 13:13:00

van Persie would have been my choice but I can't argue will Denilson at all. It's good to see these players showing commitment to the cause after coming for heavy criticism earlier in the season. Let's hope Tim has a tougher time making his choice in the new year!
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02/01/2009 13:44:00

I also think it's between RvP and Denilson. Den's also impressed me in a sense that he's played in the more creative and defensive roles in CM, and occasionally out wide (and was less effective, granted). This guy never complains and shows admirable work rate. Even after watching him play regularly this half season, I still see him as more of a creative guy than defensive. What do you guys think?
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02/01/2009 14:09:00

I think he's got the capability to do both and has done so this season. Perhaps ironically given our transfer blundering in the summer, I see him in the mould of Xabi Alonso. Maybe that's why he has a hard time getting credit, because everybody has this image of a midfield spoiler being ugly and gritty like Mascherano or Flamini, or quiet and studious like Gilberto and Makelele. Denilson has the materials to provide both and the statistics bear that out this season.
Little Dutch
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02/01/2009 14:23:00

Sagna was the player of the month nobody else.
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02/01/2009 14:26:00

I think Denilson can do both. The defensive side is something that needs games to improve. I'll warrant he is a better defensive player now than he was at the beginning of the season and will be better still by the end of the season. Part Rosicky and part Gilberto as he was once described. What more could you wish for?
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02/01/2009 14:28:00

It depends which part of Rosicky Wenger was referring to, if he has Rosicky's hamstrings then we're in trouble.
Little Dutch
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02/01/2009 14:31:00

Yeah I agree he CAN do both. I just get an impression that he enjoys the creative bit just a bit more. Xabi is a nice parallel, never thought of that - I just kept calling Den a box-to-box guy. Amos we of course see how he's improved and will certainly improve more. Having 2 midfielders who can both attack and defend as in the Viera-Petit partnership would be fantastic. I guess part of the reason why Den's been getting some (unfair) criticisms is that he's not an 'out-and-out' DM that everyone craved in summer. I goes back to the question of balance I guess.
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02/01/2009 14:36:00

Fulham have the 4th best defence in the premiership and their central midfield consists of bullard and murphy. You don't have to go smashing into people to play the role, positioning is the key to being a good defensive midfielder and denilson is growing into the role very well.
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02/01/2009 14:39:00

Rosicky doesn't have hamstrings they are more like hamthreads! Denilson has clocked up some playing time already this season. I was amazed that he played the full 90 minutes on successive days in the pre-season Emirates Cup. It looks as though he is made of stronger stuff though maybe I shouldn't tempt providence too much.
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02/01/2009 14:48:00

Yeah Amos, but er, he's injured for Plymouth:
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02/01/2009 15:05:00

Yes I just noticed that. Perhaps I did tempt fate after all! Hopefully it's a 'convenient' injury. Hardly worth risking him while Cesc is out.
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02/01/2009 15:21:00

I'm sorry guys, but I haven't seen Denilson as playing as well as the rest of you have this year. Being consistent and unsung is fine and all but the problem is that our midfield has been consistently bad. In a midfield as bad as ours wouldn't it be easy for someone to stand-out above the rest? If he was just as unsung and effective as Flamini, wouldn't there have been more balance on the pitch? I've said many times that I believe Den will be great, and I think this Fab injury actually allows him to play in his natural position.
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02/01/2009 15:23:00

There isn't a problem of balance in central midfield. The lack of balance is in the wide areas of midfield. His 'natural' position is central midfield that is where he is at his best.
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02/01/2009 15:35:00

Put two Denilson's in midfield and we would be sorted!
Report Abuse
02/01/2009 15:42:00

TP - This is a Player of the month article, not of the year. Denilson was woeful early on in the campaign, but has been sterling in December ...... even when playing out of position.
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02/01/2009 17:29:00

Denilson has actually been the epitome of consistency, in an inconsistent side. A good shout, LD. His partnership with Cesc didnt spark off like Cesc & Flamini, and if we are going to build our team around Cesc' creative play, that might cause a problem. Denilson & Cesc did look better 2 months into the campaign.
Report Abuse
04/01/2009 17:16:00

How weird Den didn't even get into top 3 of the poll:
Report Abuse
06/01/2009 16:02:00


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