October Player of the Month
October seems to have whizzed by somewhat, in spite of a soporific international break, games seem to have been coming thick and fast. It doesn`t seem a week ago that I was appraising Jack Wilshere`s contribution in September. Jack is not in the running this month, but that is due more to suspension than a comment on the quality of his performances which had been exemplary prior to his rash tackle on Nicola Zigic. Hopefully the incident will have accelerated his learning curve. Speaking of learning curves, Lukasz Fabianski has emerged as something of a shock contender. It is true that most of his performances have been steady and consistent, rather than blistering- the City game aside- but to do so has commanded a good dose of mental strength having been derided by the press and loudly by his own "supporters" at home games. The new dimension Alex Song has added to his game going forward looks to be a progression closer to the complete midfielder, three goals in his last three games have put his name on the lips of many a Gooner.
Sebastien Squillaci has seemingly added a quiet air of calm to a backline that has managed three consecutive clean sheets despite being shorn of its two first choice centre halves. Marouane Chamakh continues to impress, forging chances, scoring goals, creating space for team mates with his tireless work ethic and apparently possessing a pair of legs which have "kick me" tattooed to them. However, October`s Player of the Month is unlikely to invite much dissension. The sings were prescient in his pre season displays that Samir Nasri`s omission from France`s World Cup squad has benefited him no end. With three goals and three assists in the month of October, the numbers give you the biggest reason why Nasri is Arsenal`s belle of the ball for the Oktoberfest. Nasri`s talent has been obvious from the first minute of his Arsenal career. He arrived with a large transfer fee and a protracted negotiation amidst murmurs of discord wit some of Arsenal`s senior French players; he also came to England with a reputation for being perennially injured. It therefore seems remarkably contrary that Nasri`s fitness record has been generally sound since joining Arsenal!
Yet I`ve never once heard anybody admonish the fee we spent on him, nor has there been indication of unrest between any of his team mates whilst at Arsenal, which runs in contradiction to the suggestion that he is incredibly unpopular with the France squad. Certainly Thierry Henry and William Gallas don`t seem to like him, but both of the aforementioned are disputatious characters in the extreme. (Before you arch that eyebrow, was Gallas` strop at Birmingham that much different from Henry`s berating of Poll against Newcastle? Was Gallas` stand offish behaviour a huge departure from Henry`s treatment of Reyes?) But departing from rumours, gossip and dressing room tittle tattle, Nasri is beginning to produce on the pitch to the standards worthy of his talent. I wrote here many times last season that I felt Nasri- along with Rosicky- had become frustratingly conservative and therefore not provided the team with the creative impetus they are capable of. But whilst Nasri and Rosicky are still not quite perfect in that regard (despite some frustrating performances, Arshavin is still by far and away our most dangerous player this season), the numbers suggest Nasri is becoming a more decisive and important player.
His performance against Manchester City summed up his season so far. He kept the ball intelligently, recycling possession against ten men with the minimum of fuss. Yet when the opportunities came to hurt City at the core of their defence, he took them. Firstly prompting a smart one two with Arshavin for his well taken goal, then teeing up Song in the area for the second and finally, busting a gut to keep a lost ball in play and slipping Bendtner through for the third. His penalty taking has also shown a great deal of assurance in front of goal, as did his brilliant touch and shot in a tight space against Shakhtar. Nasri is beginning to develop into the top level performer we all knew he could be and as such, his current form isn`t a surprise, even if he is playing the best football of his Arsenal career to date. His manager said earlier this month that players tend to really come into their own at the age of 23 and it`s easy to forget that Nasri is still a young man. But if he continues on his current trajectory, he`ll be well and truly in the running for Player of the Season, never mind Player of the Month.LD.
August: Tomas Rosicky
September: Jack Wilshere