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August Player of the Month

Choosing a Player of the Month for August is akin to selecting great moments in the history of Chelsea F.C. pre 2005. The pickings are pretty bloody slim. Arsenal played five games in August, with the team a patchwork of make do and mend toy soldiers. A mixture of injuries, suspensions and a failure to address squad issues until the 11th hour of the transfer window have made for an inauspicious start. Culminating of course in a humiliating 8-2 reverse at Old Trafford.

Nevertheless, there are still candidates from which to choose. Theo Walcott already finds himself on three goals for the season, two of which were crucial in securing Champions League qualification- August`s only real bright spot. Unfortunately for Theo, aside from the actual goals, he`s been pretty fecking terrible in truth. His performance against Liverpool was barely Sunday League standard. However, prior to the Old Trafford mauling, believe it or not, Arsenal were beginning to look rather sold defensively. With a complimentary axis of Koscielny and Vermaelen and d a goalkeeper behind them who doesn`t look like filling his briefs every time a ball comes towards him, we have looked quite formidable at the back.

It`s only when the back line has been decimated that we`ve looked porous. This leaves me with two predominant contenders for August Player of the Month. Wojciech Szczesny looks every inch Arsenal`s number 1. Commanding in his area, he has the kind of confidence that any top custodian needs. His interaction with the coaching staff appears obvious. Szczesny begins edging off his line very quickly this season. This is an obvious attempt to claim the ball as often as possible and relieve the pressure from his defence. He of course needs to exercise greater caution here. Rooney came close to lobbing him at Old Trafford, whilst Charlie Adam was moved to attempt shots from the halfway line twice in the Liverpool match. But then of course there was that vital penalty save in Udine, a quite stunning stop.

However, Wojciech doesn`t collect this month`s prize. Though I wouldn`t hold him responsible for any of the concessions in Manchester, it is difficult to give the award to a keeper that has just shipped eight goals. With that in mind, my first choice, Thomas Vermaelen, probably finds his candidacy better served by his lack of association with that particular debacle. In fact, that defeat showed just how important Vermaelen has become to our team. With Fabregas having left, Vermaelen finds himself as vice captain. With the full time skipper a centre forward, Thomas is essentially the appointed leader in the defensive half of the pitch.

It`s a role he has adopted effortlessly. Against Newcastle United, he took charge of every aerial battle, shielding Kieran Gibbs from the height advantage enjoyed by Shola Ameobi stationed on the Magpies` right. As well as being a world class bread head, Joey Barton is renowned for his set piece delivery. However, his unerring delivery was no match for Vermaelen`s flying forehead. The Belgian`s leadership skills have been tested to their utmost capacity as well, with the back line shape shifting. Sagna has found himself shun ted out to left back and young Carl Jenkinson- playing non league football just over a year ago- has come into the back four. When Koscielny hobbled out of the Liverpool fixture, he also had to guide Premier League debutant Ignasi Miquel through for 70 minutes. Bear in mind that Miquel is left footed, so Vermaelen also had to shift out of his comfort zone to the right side of the centre half pairing.

The result was one of the better performances I`ve seen from an Arsenal defender in the last 5 years. His was a commanding yet guiding display. 35m striker Andy Carroll wasn`t even permitted to scrounge for pennies on the floor, let alone get any change from Vermaelen. He was hauled off after 70 minutes, presumably only after being given permission by the Verminator to leave his pocket. However, ultimately an unfortunate own goal (which incidentally did not come from Vermaelen`s side of the defensive pairing) and a red card were ultimately our undoing.

Out in Northern Italy, Vermaelen again took on the headline role in a defence that was only really troubled when Johan Djourou fell asleep in the first half. I must confess, in the time he was out injured last season, I thought Gooners had begun to make too much of his absence. Don`t get me wrong, I`ve always rated the ex Ajax defender. But it`s tempting and rather easy to turn someone into Paulo Maldini whilst they`re on the treatment table. However, there was a last ditch tackle he executed in the last game of last season at Craven Cottage that changed my thinking. With Andy Johnson in on goal just three yards out, Vermaelen swooped in with a fulminating last ditch slide tackle.

That`s when it struck me; Vermaelen is a defender that loves defending. He relishes putting his body on the line, the blood and thunder of the challenge, to be amidst the flying elbows of an aerial duel. To be where there`s life. That`s why the Arsenal fans sang, "Thomas Vermaelen, we`ve missed him all year" in reaction to that tackle. This is exactly the sort of defender Arsenal have lacked at times since Sol Campbell`s departure. Vermaelen has been asked to step up and take extra responsibility now. The early signs are good that he is doing just that. Vermaelen is one of the leaders of our squad and also, undoubtedly, one of the best players in it too. In August, he has showed why rather emphatically. LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday September 4 2011

Time: 2:31PM

Your Comments

Would be illuminating to see him alongside Mr. Mertesacker and how they bed in. Personally I feel they complement each other really well. Vermaelen the battler. The 'get in there' kinda guy. Mer being the more calm and the 'mopping up' kind of player. Permaelen could be a force to contend with for many an attack.
Bacary, Thomas, Laurent, Per and Andre! Could this be the start of something special - a formidable and fabulous back line??
e dubbz
I get why people would suggest Walcott. His goals in the champions league played a vital role in ensuring that we remain at the top table of European football (14th year in a row!). So if this was the 'player who made the most significant single contribution' then I believe these calls would be justified. Hell, without his goals we may not have been able to attract some of those last minute signings. That said, as Tim rightly points out, the remainder of his play is at times, shockingly poor. With this in mind, I believe the player of the month nod must go to the player who has achieved the highest level of consistency and not merely a couple of flash in the pan moments. On this basis, I would have to give it to Banger, who never seems rattled and who just gets on with it. No fuss, no muss.
He needs to stay fit this season, that's going to be crucial. Verm & Kosc were looking pretty solid. A word of caution about Mertesacker though - he will take his time to settle into the Premiership, so we shouldn't pin our hopes on him too much in the 1st half of the season. I still see Verm & Kosc as the 1st choice, till Jan at least, and that, to my mind, is a solid pair.
I feel any of TV, Sagna and Theo is good enough for the honour.
OT. So, what's this about Wilshere being out for a further 2 months? I hope that's just a worst case diagnosis.
If u guyz think Arteta is as good as Fabregas get ready for disappointment.
Well we know Jack will not be the September, October or November player of the month now. What is it with our players?
Hi guys my first time of posting here.
You are very welcome, drop of milk, 2 sugars please.
Dan u must be far as am concern arteta is a good replacement 4 fagregas & remember he is a freekick specialist.
Don't get me wrong T-boy,Arteta is very good player I've even said it here before but he's nt on the same level with Fabregas in terms of passing and technical ability.And guess what Arteta is injured yet again...
Excellent Piece LD.I must confess that when he was out for most of last season, I thought gooners were making too much of the fact that we were missing a saviour of sorts in defence but having seen him at close hand this season,TV is really World Class.I just pray that he stays fit and manages in excess of 30 games this season as a starter,that should really give the team a bit of a boost at the back.Quite clearly, not only is he technically proficient,he is also a tenacious organiser and God Knows we need that this season.Looking forward to the season now!!!.Ooh to be a Gooner
Gunnerblood,what do I get for the favour?
Dannism stop hitting on gunnerblood you gimp!
I'd give it to Jenkinson for not taking the s**t aimed at him by Walcott, who suddenly became extremely vociferous in the drubbing at Old Trafford, and showed his commitment by bravely turning on the young fullback. 'T.J. is a ***t' appeared to be Jenkinson's suggestion for his next literary effort.
Arsenal season will start next weekend,as 4 who get to start,i don't see any pros with dat bcs arsene wenger now have good bunch of player's to select from,so no excuss 4 d prof dis time around.
Who says I'm hitting on gunnerblood,deltaforce...
Everyone you massive ball licker.
Looks like our player of the month won't be picking up that award anytime in the near future. Out for 2 months.
gr8 news.. verminator terminated.
The curse of the player of the month strikes again. Vermalien out for two monts like Jack. Exspect to see them doing their comback in late April....when our season is once more over and we will be told on 31 January that we dont need another CB as Vermalien is only days from comeback.....ring a bell?
Dannism, what in the blue F*** are you talking about?
Tony is my pal...
Read some stats recently on Vermaelen from a site called In the past 2 PL seasons: Arsenal with Vermaelen : 38 games,Win 63%, draw 16%, Lose 21%; Without Vermaelen: 38 games, win 47%, draw29%, lose 24% It is very worrying given our start to the season and Thomas' injury. Really hoping Mertesacker can step up
Even Per Mertesacker couldn't have expected to be thrown into the deep end so soon after joining. Well, this is the Arsenal where every player can dream to play one day, given our injury records. What a blow!
Spot on Armory. I recall RVP was supposed to be out for 6 weeks and was missing for 4 months or something like that, on more than one occasion too. Wenger always undersells the extent of injuries.
Or maybe the extent of the injury wasn't known? Happens in most cases in the early stages of an injury. It doesn't work like that, you don't get kicked on the ankle and immediately snap your fingers and say, "oooh, that needs an operation to remove the tendon." ***** sake.
Little Dutch
....Stevie Gerrard, anybody?
LD in the case of Vermalien last year it had nothing to do with the first stages of an injury as we where being fed the same bull***** month after month. In january we where told we did not need another CB becouse Vermalien would be back in days....well what a ***** up that was. If we look at other players like RvP same story what is reported time and time again only being small injury and not likely to keep him out long turns into months. FFS when a player is alowed to go fore some horse ***** treatment by a ill reputed sports guru like RvP did then there is something seriously wrong with our medical approch.
I agree on the RvP thing. Vermaelen wasn't mistreated last season, fact is achilles is a nasty injury and a tricky area to treat. The consequences of getting it wrong are career threatening. But even if there are questions to be asked of the club's medical treatment in the past, doesn't mean they're necessarily at fault for every single injury. Take each one on its merits. Calm down, put your toys back in your pram and stop lashing out every time something you don't like happens. It's what adults do.
Little Dutch
Well well well you don't like what I have to say LD? There is no need to get down right childish, it shows your age though. complaining about the medical treatment of our club is hardly anything new and the Vermalien exsamle is quite legimit though I never said that he had been mistreeted, more that the comminucation from the club is both misleading and sometimes downright wrong. I don't claim to be a specialist in those injuries like your self but having suffered both achilles and cruciate injuries my self I know that the treatment is time comsuming but the time table my specialist gave me was pretty accurate. As for being at fault for every injury, thats not something that I have ever implied, had you taken time out to read what I wrote insted of spitting out your dummy you would have understood that.
Where have I claimed to be an expert? How would you have any idea how old I am? Why has the communication been wrong? The injury came from a kick on the ankle. After a few days treatment it was revealed to be a problem with the plantaris tendon. When in the history of the world has anyone been kicked on the ankle and yelped, "Ouch! My plantaris tendon. That'll need removing now." That sort of thing takes a few days to reveal itself. Cruciate injuries are much easier to put tme frames on because they're very common and are treated regularly. Inflamed plantaris tendon isn't an injury that happens as often. It's quite easy to see if you want to and you shift the "Arsenal meds are useless" agenda for five seconds. That can be the problem when people get an idea in their head (and I'm not saying the idea itself is wildly inaccurate), they will see everything through that prism.
Little Dutch
No don't belive the team is useless more inclined to look to the bad management of those injuries and players being brought back to soon. As for Vermalien the injury he suffered last year and left him on the sidelines was never reported as serious until later in the season and if it takes that long to figure out the proplem then there is something wrong with our approch. Ditto with RvP injuries theo's sholder injury ( it was known he needed a surgery on it but it was not carried out when discovered) After the last few years there is a pattern emerging how wecommunicate, if not how we treat, on those injuries and each time we have a new injury it feals like a rerun you get the feeling that the recovery time is going to be a lot longer than reported by the club and sadly that is the trend.
The club quite deliberately changed their approach to communications of injuries. Now, they don't put any definite timeframes on anything and are non committal until they have a good idea. I'm not certain it was known that Theo's shoulder required surgery. I agree with regards RvP's injuries in the past. But there again, a lot of that was his fault. He lied about the amount of discomfort he felt. The meds are well within reason to ask a player if they're feeling any pain and if they're not, to start easing them back in. Vermaelen's achilles injury last year was just one of those injuries that didn't settle down. It wasn't like a break or a ligament tear or a pull. Those injuries are so well known that they're even graded by medics. (i.e. a hamstring tear, I believe, is grade 3, whilst a pull is grade 2). If you look around, you find this sort of thing does happen a lot. Gary Neville's ankle injury that pretty much finished his career? Hargreaves' knee and subsequent hamstring pull cos he was rushed back. Ferdinand's back and hamstrings. Lampard's hernia last season was originally diagnosed at 2-3 weeks and ended up at 3 months. In any case, given that Vermaelen didn't play for eight months last season, I think it's fair to say we hardly rushed him back!
Little Dutch
Rush him back? more likely wrap him in 20 bales of cotton wool.

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