January Player of the Month
January Player of the Month is probably the most difficult award I can ever recall assigning. It has been a very pleasing month indeed for Arsenal, even games in which we have underperformed against lower league opposition has seen us, eventually, negotiate victories. The draw with Manchester "pimp my bus" City was the only slight blemish on an otherwise untroubled collection of league points, leaving us right in the mix for the title race. As such, there have been a plethora of pleasing performers. One of the notable things that has taken shape with Arsenal over the last six weeks or so would be that partnerships are beginning to form all over the pitch. The triumvirate of Song-Wilshere-Fabregas appears to be the perfect interchanging blend in midfield. All three players possess all of the qualities desirable in a modern day midfielder, rather than each prescribing to little boxes marked "defensive midfield, attacking midfield" etc. Arsenal have conceded only four goals in their nine game January marathon (interestingly, all of which were conceded to lower league sides). One can attribute this to a number of factors, but the blossoming understanding between Koscielny and Djourou has to be a considerable contributory factor. Maybe it`s no coincidence that Clichy and Sagna have really come into some eye catching form around this axis of stability too?
The Gunners also appear to have found the formula going forward too- the front three of Nasri, Walcott and van Persie has become a unit of chemical precision, another ideal blend of variable qualities. Arsenal haven`t looked nearly as imposing going forwards without that axis. But in the nine games this month, Arsenal have registered on the score sheet seventeen times. Robin van Persie has taken a while to find his sharpness, but now he has, Premiership defences are noticing it alright! His decision making in the penalty area is beyond reproach- even if he does seem to be continuing his love affair with the woodwork. For January, I think Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie, Alex Song, Gael Clichy (has won more tackles than any other Premiership player this season) and Jack Wilshere would all have made good cases for Player of the Month in more fallow periods. Indeed, if any of you were to make cases for any of those players in the comments section below, you`d find little resistance from me.
But I simply cannot over look the skipper for January Player of the Month. I`ve spoken a lot about the chemistry of the side and for the first time in a few years, I think the manager can reel of his favoured eleven. But Fabregas is the man that knits it altogether. I know it`s not the most interesting choice and, in essence, I`ve given myself a harder task with this article because it`s difficult to know what to say about Cesc that hasn`t been said a million times before. I`ve picked him far more than any other player and I don`t know how to keep any analysis of his game fresh or varied. We know what his qualities are. But what continues to amaze is how ruthlessly consistent he is, for all the talent one can possess, that is the quality that marks out those that hit the zenith of their sport. Fabregas is in the Jordan-Schumacher mould, you simply know what you`re going to get from him every single match without fail. I would go as far to say as he is now the best player I have ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. True, you may think this is to forget the genius of Pires, Henry and Bergkamp. But Fabregas plays in central midfield, where there is no hiding place, yet he dominates around 90% of the games he plays in for every single minute of the 90. Henry or DB10 would have been allowed 15-20 minute cooling off periods of not doing much at all, before releasing a burst of genius. Cesc doesn`t have this luxury; he is at the hub of the game constantly. His makes his consistency all the more remarkable.
Fabregas has formed so many devastating partnerships in an Arsenal shirt- all of which I have written about before. Now he seems to be developing an understanding with Wilshere and Song. But most impressive is the axis he is forming with Nasri, who rather use one another as sounding boards in our attacks. Roger Johnson`s own goal in the game at St. Andrews on New Year`s Day put me in mind of the days of Henry and Pires playing as if they had their own ball. What puts Cesc a cut above in January is that, whilst Arsene has fielded shadow sides for the cup games, Cesc is the linking factor that has looked to save the day when things were looking bleak. He instantly transformed otherwise uninspiring performances against Leeds and Huddersfield. The second he stepped onto the pitch yesterday, the team was transformed, the player`s running was suddenly full of vigour and purpose with the awareness that Cesc could find them with a cutting pass. A small demonstration of what I am talking about was probably at Portman Road. That was one of Cesc`s worst games I have seen in an Arsenal shirt. He still put Arshavin and Walcott through one on one with the keeper with eye of the needle passes. Even in an incredibly rare bad game, he had the quality to make the difference. Given the flirtation with Barca in the summer, Arsenal supporters have been absolutely desperate ever since to look for the slightest chink in Cesc`s armour, so aching are they to reel out the "his head is in Barcelona" line. I have barely heard it since he came back from his last hamstring injury. Enjoy this young apotheosis of a footballer for every day he is here Gooners, because you`ll notice when he`s not there.LD.
August- Tomas Rosicky
September- Jack Wilshere
October- Samir Nasri
November- Marouane Chamakh
December- Samir Nasri
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA