October Player of the Month
October was bookended by two well contested London derbies; an unsatisfactory defeat at White Hart Lane as an hors d'oeuvres, but punctuated with a thrilling victory at Stamford Bridge. In between those two extremities, things haven`t been too shabby for Arsenal. Home wins against Sunderland and Stoke, progression in the Carling Cup and a last minute smash and grab victory in Marseille.
In line with some good results have been some stellar performances. Gervinho has started to acclimatise to his new team mates with 3 assists in the month of September. The Ivorian has brought a much needed penetration to Arsenal in the final third. For too long the Gunners have lacked players with the willingness to beat defenders and Gervinho has brought that to us. Laurent Koscielny has built on last season`s promise and is really beginning to look at home in the Arsenal defence.
I struggle to think of a single goal we`ve conceded in September that you could put down to Koscielny. Another player prototype that has been missing for too long at The Arsenal. A defender that loves to defend- at Stamford Bridge he made more interceptions than the entire Chelsea midfield combined. Koscielny is a pure defender who loves to throw himself into the path of an incoming shot. His performances in October have seen him finally begin to garner some well deserved credit.
Aaron Ramsey is beginning to come of age in the role vacated by Cesc Fabregas this summer. His last minute goal in Marseille, having arrived from the bench, gave us the sort of attacking support we had lacked all game with Rosicky in the same role. Stamford Bridge was a real coming of age performance for him in the way that Juventus was for Fabregas and Barcelona for Wilshere. See the delicious lofted through ball for Gervinho to score against Stoke and the defence splitting pass for the same player at Stamford Bridge for van Persie`s first. Suddenly, Arsenal have runners and riders again.
I was tempted, purely for variety`s sake, to give this month`s award to Aaron Ramsey. But in the interests of keeping the award as "pure" as I possibly can and maintaining its world renowned integrity, I just have to go with the simple criteria. Who has been Arsenal`s best, most effective and most eye catching player this month? I think you know as well as I do who that player has been. For the 8th time, Robin van Persie gets the Player of the Month award.
I think I ran out of things to say in and around the 4th time I gave Robin the award. So I`m at a loss for the eighth coronation. A simple chronology may suffice. A sweet right foot finish in the opening 30 seconds of the Sunderland game. When Arsenal conceded an equaliser and struggled and toiled to find victory, the captain did what the big players do. He produced at the biggest moment. A fizzing, curling free kick into the top corner with eight minutes remaining to seal the points.
van Persie reaffirmed his credentials as a penalty box striker when he was called from the bench to rescue yet another game, with Stoke holding Arsenal at home. Instantly, it was his movement in the area that transformed the game. Gervinho, showing a willingness to commit defenders provided both assists, which the Dutchman hungrily gobbled up with the intelligence of his movement and the unerring accuracy of his finishing.
The cherry on the October cake arrived at Stamford Bridge though. For his first, once again he had the intelligence of movement to sniff out his easy chance. It might only look like a tap in, but 95% of the work for such goals is produced before the finish. For his second, watch the angle from behind the goal when Malouda`s clumsy pass arrives at his feet. Terry simply pretends to lose his footing; so forlorn does he know the chase to be. But if you look even further past this comedy landscape, you also see Torres throw his arms in the air and turn away the instant van Persie collects the ball. He doesn`t even watch the finish. That`s how deadly van Persie`s reputation is.
The third exemplified the class of his finishing too. I recall Andy Gray`s commentary after Bergkamp had smashed an emphatic finish past Roy Carroll against United in 2005. "Exactly what was required." Bergkamp was renowned for an array of sublime finishes, chipped, curled and stroked into the goal. But he also knew when to pull back the hammer and thrash it. Van Persie`s third goal shows he shares that ability. He knows when to coax a keeper out, when to round him, when to fox him and when simply to smash it past him.
Van Persie has already taken the reigns from Fabregas as the fulcrum of the team. The inspiration, the one the other players look to. The danger is that we may look to him too much. Maybe we already do. But van Persie is a player that has that extra touch of class most professional footballers- even at this level- do not possess. LD.
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August: Thomas Vermaelen
September: Robin van Persie