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December Player of the Month

There are times when picking the Player of the Month can be a troubling task. That is usually owing to one of two reasons. The most onerous of which would be those months when you have to have to reluctantly grab your spatula and climb head first into the bottom of the barrel (this happened a lot in the first half of last season). At other times, it has been such a quagmire of futility due to the plethora of candidates available. Happily, for December, 2009, it is the latter. In a month in which we have played eight won five drew one and lost two, December has been a kind month for Arsenal- which is quite extraordinary really considering how much of a tumult we were all in as December reared its wintry head. Given that both of our defeats were virtually inconsequential as Arsenal have stormed back into the title race and with notable wins over Liverpool and Aston Villa, the noughties ended in ebullient spirit. At the beginning of December, Andrey Arshavin appeared to be the front runner for the December award after moving to the arrow head of our front three impressively- performing consecutive match winning cameos against Stoke and Liverpool. Abou Diaby has also used his ungamely stride to step up to the plate with some of his best form since joining Arsenal four years ago- particularly noteworthy his performances in consecutive games against Burnley, Hull and Aston Villa. Aaron Ramsey is another midfielder who has been building on his obvious potential, playing excellently when called upon and notching himself two goals in December- one of those an absolute peach against Pompey at Fratton Park. I`m guessing most people`s choice for this award would be Alex Song and I would be loathe to disagree with you. The Cameroonian has continued to blossom into one of Arsenal`s most important players this season with a string of fine displays. It is not only is his tackling and ability to regain possession and match more physical sides that ha caught they eye, but where Song has really developed this season is in his composure on the ball, often beating players in tight spaces with crafty footwork and retaining possession for his side. The morons that booed him on his Premiership debut are probably the first ones booming out "We`ve only got one Song" from the stands, whilst bumptiously declaring that they`d "always rated that guy." However, Song, who I was pretty sure I`d give this award to right up until a few hours ago, has just been pipped at the post for December.

My Player of the Month for December is William Gallas. Whether or not he has been Arsenal`s stand out performer this month will be open to debate I`m sure, but that he has been playing incredibly well- not just in December either- will likely not be so contentious. Much has been made of Arsenal`s improved form over the last four weeks, but very little of it appears to have been out down to the fact that Arsenal appear to have repudiated their defensive form. In the six matches in which Gallas has played this month, Arsenal have conceded three goals- one a penalty given away by Vermaelen and one a consolation goal. Really, the only meaningful goal registered under his stewardship went to Liverpool at Anfield. In the two matches he missed, the Gunners leaked four. Gallas` form has not gone unnoticed amongst Arsenal fans, the most prominent evidence for Gallas` good form is that, since his fall from grace as he was stripped of the captaincy 13 months ago, the opinion of him amongst Arsenal fans has now gone past neutral and shifted into gear again. "William Gallas is our mate" again resounds from the terraces with gusto. I have written much about Gallas` more reserved, taciturn demeanour since being stripped of the captaincy, but a few other things have happened this season too.

Firstly, Arsenal have bought him a big, strapping deputy in Thomas Vermaelen. Gallas relishes playing alongside a physically robust defender who relishes putting his wotsits on the line and doing battle with the Premiership`s literal heavyweights. Gallas has always been more of a thinking man`s defender; positionally astute, careful and considered in the tackle, preferring to wait for a chink in the attacker`s armour before quickly stealing out a leg and robbing his opponent of the ball, well schooled in the finest texts of defending- Sun Tzu`s the 'Art of Back Four`, Descartes` 'Discourse on Defensive Method`, Shakespeare`s epic tragedy 'Gus Caesar.` It is well documented that Arsenal did not have a satisfactory back four last season. Due to his popularity as a character, many Arsenal fans refused to see that Kolo Toure had become the weak link, but there was a reason Arsene fought to hold onto 32 year old William Gallas in the final year of his contract, whilst cashing in on 28 year old Kolo Toure in the same state of contractual ennui.

Vermaelen being a left footer has also been pointed to by Wenger as a reason for Gallas` form this season, for the first time since he came to England he has been able to play in his absolutely ideal position on the right hand side of the centre half axis. Gallas is a combustible and moody character who has no problems being expressive with his moods, it is well documented that he and Toure did not get on, by selling Toure on, Arsenal have removed the weaker part of the old partnership, thus making Gallas happier as a player now he trusts his defensive lieutenant as well as enabling him to take up his best defensive position. I feel Gallas felt the gravitas of responsibility was a little too severe at times last season- it is no coincidence that Arsenal`s season fell apart with Gallas` medial ligament. Arsene has made some cryptic comments this month praising Vermaelen`s composure- I wondered if this was a sly dig at Toure- who did have a "headless chicken" quality to him that Gallas doesn`t on a football pitch. But whilst Vermaelen can take a lot of the credit for the fact that Gallas is playing his best football in an Arsenal shirt, I still think Billy is the senior member of that partnership. It`s only obvious when you watch him live in the stadium, but Gallas` cunning knows no bounds, using his faultless reading of the game to steal in front of strikers and cut off the oxygen of supply before an attack can fully develop. His upper body strength and pace are often under valued too. Witness his outstanding challenge on Agbonlahor as he went through on goal late in the 3-0 defeat of Villa, determination, allied with muscle and speed as he roared back with a stifling block.

In the Stoke match, Arsenal came under a period of sustained aerial pressure with some trademark Delap long throws, but Gallas was more than equal to the task of buffeting Stoke`s league of mutant muscle men. Against Liverpool too, Gallas was charged with the task of neutralising the not inconsiderable threat of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard and did so with consummate aplomb, marshalling an Arsenal defence which did not concede so much as a shot on their goal in the second half. Villa too travelled to North London armed with forwards which no defenders relish facing in Heskey and Agbonlahor, with John Carew joining the fray from the bench. None of them got so much as a sniff. Gallas has been operating at the top of his game for some time now and, at his age, is at his peak for a centre half. Since joining the Premiership nine years ago, it is my opinion that Gallas has consistently been one of the finest defenders to grace the league- both in blue and in red. Amongst the plethora of contracts signed by Arsenal players since May, one remains conspicuously ink free. If Gallas continues this form, it might just be the most coveted signature of the lot.LD.

Previous Players of the Month:
August: Alexandre Song
September: Robin van Persie
October: Robin van Persie
November: Francesc Fabregas




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday January 5 2010

Time: 4:36PM

Your Comments

you arse really can't write a short article, can ya?
vangogo
Best defender in the World?
Tom14
Billy G! I hope he's the next player to sign a new contract,hurry AW
ajwb
The centre back pairing of Vermaelen and Gallas is the bedrock of the side and if these two stay fit for the remainder of the season I'm sure we will win a trophy.
gronedrone
I know all these words must be scary to someone of your low intelligence vangogo. It's alright, you don't have read them all. You can just go to a different site, we won't judge.
TPowell
Good news that the utd city game has been postponed. The rescheduled date means utd only have three days off before coming to face us at the grove.
nikolaijns
I fear that William Gallas won't be with us next season. He seems to be completely devoid of emotion these days, but the fact that he's one of the most professional professionals I've ever seen means he won't allow hos performances to drop. I really do think he's already made up his mind to leave. Which make his performances all the more impressive.
Rocky7
Gallas is taking care of business. His partnership with Vermaelen has strengthened as the season has gone on. Billy is behaving thoroughly professionally and I expect that he will do so right up until he plays his final game for us by the end of this season. Good pick for player of the month for December but that comes as a consequence of the credits he has built up since the start of the season for me.
Amos.
Its funny you should say that Rocky as the Chavs would have us believe he threatened to score own goals unless he was allowed to leave? Maybe they lied?! His performance against Villa was very impressive as Agbonlahor has given him trouble in the past, he has had a great month.
iceman10
i think Kolo would have done well as well alongside Vermaelen. sure Kolo had some fitness issues last season, but Feb onwards he had his old touch back and looked our best defender till the end of the season..
luckys_10
and if Gallas does leave, i wont be sad, he is playing at his best right now, but clearly he is not going to improve much more than this, infact he will gradually decline with age. which is why i'm so *****ed we're gonna lose Senderos. he should be given a new contract. he needs the boss to back him n show some faith in him, and playing alongside a guy like Vermaelen will only be good for big Phil. he has shown in da past that he is good enough at this level, just needs his self belief back. we're gonna lose 2 really really good centrebacks in the summer and one old useless manc and again the defence will have to be rebuilt in the summer..
luckys_10
I don't see how Senderos and Vermaelen would work to be honest, We need another Gallas. And you are very harsh on Willy.
Tom14
I rate Djourou! Obviously it'll take him a while to get back after his injury but I think he'll be a player. Billy has been fantastic all season but have to agree the captaincy issue last season I feel was un-mendable! Especially as it seemed like one of the players he was having a pop at was RVP.
navydave
I think Djourou, if he recovers well, will be the perfect replacement for Gallas. Infact I find their styles very similar.
Rocky7
I personally think Senderos and Vermaelen would make a good partnership. It would be a similar style to that of Hypia and Carragher at Pool but they'd have better assistance from the full-backs. They compliment each other well. Where Vermaelen has aggression, Phillipe has calm. I think they'd also improve individually playing along side each other and learning from one another. I also like Djourou, but for some reason him and Tommy V doesn't work quite so well in my mind. Perhaps just because Johan doesn't show much of a commanding influence in the side, but if Arsene was to invest his faith on him on a regular basis, I'm sure hid gain that.
ArsenalRob
And luckys, although he may not improve, I think Gallas has it in him to play at a very high level until he's 34, although obviously his appearence rates will decline through that period as his recovery time between games increases. As for the apparent rift with RvP, they are both players who have matured immensely in recent times, and I'm sure they can forgive each other. They've been celebrating each other's goals with each other so that's encouraging. I doubt there was much in that to be honest.
ArsenalRob
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1240866/Arsene-Wenger-considers-breaking-rules-offer-William-Gallas-new-Arsenal-deal.html?ITO=1490 YES do it!!! 2 years?
ajwb
Naydave, Djourou isn't good enough. Gallas and Vermaelen are. If Gallas goes, we'll need someone better. As for Senderos didn't he openly say he didn't want to be there anymore? Gallas and Verm partnership is working, so why change it?
FuiKaka
COME ON WILL-I-AM !
Will-i-am10
i think song should be player of the "first half of this season". he has again "just" missed out on taking the monthly award but his game has been consistently of high quality. he is really making a big difference in the team, and in fact i would argue arsenal's defensive stats this season has a lot to do with song's cover for the back four. Last season we were all crying out for a defensive midfielder because of the number of goals we were shipping in. The answer has come this season in the tune of a formidable song.
supersof
Nobody knows if Djourou is good enough or not. He's had fantastic games, like at Stamford Bridge last season, but he's had average games too. He will need a consistent run of games to show if he's got what it takes. That said, I hope Gallas gets a two year contract. I don't know if being captain made him feel like he needed to give his views to the press, but since November 2008, I haven't heard a peep out of the guy and his performances have benefited from the lack of drama.
gunnerkid107
Agree with gunnerkid's assessment. Its too early to judge Djourou. He is in that age bracket when one year of constant playing experience can significantly improve his game and can make fans re-rate his prospects. Just like fans now think differently about Song as compared to last year. If he does not make the grade next season, they he AW will move him on for sure but he deserves his chance before we pass any final verdict.
deltaforce
Supersof - It's a really hard call, but i think Cesc deserves 'player of the first half of the season' ...what he has done so far is absolutely outstanding (not saying what Song has done isn't!) I think we expect sooo much of Cesc these days that we take for graunted just how much he has done so far. I think it's about 10 goals and 15 assists in 20 games? (Could be off?) but his pure genious and presence have won us games. We would've have beaten Fulham if it wasn't for his pass to RVP, we wouldn't have won against Villa if not for his 28 minute appearance. As good as a lot of players have been like Song, and Vermaelen, I don't think i can go past Fabs right now.
FuiKaka
Gallas has been immense so even though he's not the clear pick, he is deserving of the recognition. I don't feel confident that'll he'll stay- when you hear little stories about how he is a bit seperated from the other players on the bus and look at some of his body language, it's obvious losing the captaincy was a bitter pill. Professional as he's been I don't think he'll sign up for another year of this but sincerely hope I'm reading this wrong. Come on Billy, sign up and lets sock it to the chavs!
Andy-bayor
Errr, Luckys - no chance would Toure have been as effective.
shewore
Song could replace Gallas.
Tom14
I have been watching Gallas' body language and think it has improved, lately. Did you see how elated he was at Edu's goal against WHU, practically falling in a heap over him? That was a rare sight, which shows he may have re-ignited his passion for the club. He will sign if the contract length is right.
Naijagunner
Good choice LD, although I agree with Amos that Gallas has been consistently good for about a season, ever since he got the armband taken off him really. For that reason I have a lot of respect for him. People (especially the press and other fans, even some Gooners) hold that against him and always, always refer back to his antics at Birmingham, where Eduardo's injury played the most part in changing our season for the worse, not his behaviour on that day. His attitude and performances have been very professional and admirable. In fact I've only become a fan of his AFTER our slump, if that makes sense. I was also worried he'd leave. But now that he's enjoyed such a good partnership with the Verminator, I'm hoping these factors would make him stay: (a) playing in his ideal position + (b) being offered something more than a one-year extension, an exception to Wenger's rule with players in their 30s (in fact I thought the boss made it public that he's sort of bending the rules for him was a tactic to give him face and make him reconsider) + (c) his ability to earn more than he could in England or France or Italy or Spain + (d) Arsenal winning something at the end of this season.
GoonerLou
No Diaby "medal" yet? :P
KenyArsenole
 

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