September Player of the Month
Once again, September has been something of a mixed month for Arsenal and, as such, the choices for Player of the Month are hardly multitudinous. Since coming back from suspension, Alex Song has enjoyed a solid month in front of the defence. Like Ramsey, I think he has benefited from having an assured player like Arteta beside him- who has also enjoyed a good September. He has ably filled in at centre half too.
Bacary Sagna`s freakish consistency makes him a contender pretty much every month, that consistency will be brought into even sharper focus now that he is sadly unavailable for the next 3 months. As with last month, Wojciech Szczesny is unlucky not to walk away with the overall prize. Home victories over Swansea and Bolton owed no small part to bright, alert reaction stops made by the Pole in the opening minutes of both games. Szczesny is Schmeichel-esque in his approach to one on ones. He has also developed the happy knack of being able to make that one critical save a game that Arsenal keepers are sometimes called to make.
But my September Player of the Month treads a well worn path. Since beginning the Player of the Month articles back in August 2007, this player has picked the gong up seven times and won Player of the Season twice. Lord Dennis alone knows what that figure would be with a slightly improved fitness record. Our captain and, clearly, our sole talisman, Robin van Persie. In September he reached 100 Arsenal career goals. He has 25 goals in 29 appearances in 2011. With Fabregas now having sloped off over the horizon home, you could argue that van Persie has endured a reduced service this season. However, at the beginning of the month, I saw a statistic (which I can`t quite place now) that van Persie had had more unsuccessful shots at goal than any other Premier League player.
That statistic will probably surprise you. Not only due to Robin`s quality, but because that troubling accuracy did not manifest itself into his self confidence. He simply carried on doing what he was doing, safe in the knowledge that his quality would prevail in the end. (We all know of his unerring love affair with the woodwork). Van Persie tends to begin seasons slowly anyway. Last season, he effectively started in December and didn`t get scoring until January. The season before, it took him four matches to notch his first of the season.
But van Persie is a player who, fittingly for a captain, a player that approaches every single game in exactly the same fashion. Against Borussia Dortmund he was somewhat starved of service, spending much of the game tracking back to help his wingers in defending against the Dortmund onslaught. He had one chance in the entire game. He took it with aplomb. Van Persie is capable of such a variety of goals. Against Dortmund, Walcott put him through on goal. On his wrong foot and with little time to act, he just put his foot through it and concentrated on scoring.
Yet compare that with the unyielding subtlety of his second against Bolton and his 100th for Arsenal. Walcott`s ball in was hit with pace, van Persie was facing away from goal. Despite the split second he had to make the decision on how to finish, he knew the pace was already on the ball; it just needed a nudge in the right direction. So that`s all he did. Turned his boot on it. It was a beautiful finish. This isn`t a criticism of the club`s other strikers, but nobody else at Arsenal would`ve finished like that. Few other Premiership strikers would have. It`s instinct combined with brains. To borrow a coaching cliché, you don`t teach that.
His first in the same game saw him catch Jaaskelainen off his guard with his poise and balance in the penalty area. Robin has a good instinct for surprising a goalkeeper when he strikes a ball. Ask Victor Valdes. He can catch a keeper by surprise, it`s something he does time and again. What was notable in the Bolton home fixture too was his willingness to argue with every member of the Bolton back four on his lonesome when, frankly, they were acting like a pack of douches. It`s the sort of fist pumping people have been demanding from an Arsenal captain for some time.
At Blackburn, even though he didn`t score (the second away game of 2011 he failed to do so), his peach of a cross found the head of Marouane Chamakh to set up something of a finale in an ill fated game. Having written articles of this ilk for van Persie so many times, it`s difficult to know what else to say. Which area of his game to appraise. All I would ask is that you try and find one person who would deny that he is our best player. His increasing maturity, particularly over the last 3-4 years, has moulded him into the world`s finest striker in my opinion. It`s been a pleasure watching him grow up in an Arsenal shirt. I hope we get to see him grow old in one too. LD.
August- Thomas Vermaelen
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