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November Player of the Month

One of the greatest measures of how well Arsenal have performed during a calendar month is how many players are realistic candidates for the Player of the Month award. November provides a swollen candidature indeed. The assertions are of course that Arsenal are a one man team and, of course, the man central to that media line has enjoyed another fine month, with five goals and four assists to his name. Arsenal also didn`t score in the two games he didn`t start in November. But as ever, the press line doesn`t take the trouble to dig a little deeper into the truth.

As 7am kickoff points out in here the creative elements of the team are hugely contributing. To that end, Gervinho`s contribution is worthy of commendation this month. Theo Walcott too would be many people`s choice for November Player of the Month. A regular run of games in a team that now has a more direct approach (that is to say, that looks to get the ball to the centre forwards quicker) has developed his game no end. Ever since the goal at Stamford Bridge, Walcott has found a new lease of life and those frustrating "trip over the ball" moments are becoming more sporadic. The fact that he has provided 11 assists in 2011 points to a much better final ball and that was demonstrated no better than in the whipped cross for Vermaelen`s equaliser against Fulham.

Arsenal have benefitted from good combinations all over the pitch. Mikel Arteta has been central to that, adding assurance in midfield. Arteta`s pass completion rate is amongst the highest in the league and, according to opta, nobody has completed more passes in the opposition`s half (87% completion rate). He has also notched two goals in November; but it`s his defensive work as much as anything which has only just started to draw the attention it deserves. In a sense, Arteta is defining the redefined Arsenal. Less fuss, less frills, less brittle.

The return of Thomas Vermaelen too has contributed to Arsenal`s added solidity. Vermaelen is a player that just oozes class. I get the impression he could play any position on the pitch and not look out of place. Likewise, Alex Song is coming ever closer to the complete midfield player. He`s helped himself to a couple of assists in November too. Song can now plunder forward on occasion (which he`s capable of doing to good effect) knowing that Arteta will tuck in behind him. The piece I linked above also highlights the speed of Andre Santos` acclimatisation.

Though all of the above can consider themselves worthy candidates, all take a backseat this month relatively speaking. My Player of the Month for November has been building up a head of steam with form now for some months; often without the credit he`s been due. Indeed, after the last minute mix up in the Carling Cup Final, it`d have been very east for Laurent Koscielny to crumble. Even his manager publicly admitted in the wake of the error between him and Szczesny that "Szczesny is taking it a lot better."

The 8-2 humbling at Old Trafford could similarly have seen him go the way of Senderos and Manninger. Talented players that just did not have the psychological resolution to cast their mistakes aside. Koscielny, it appears, is made of the right stuff. I always felt he had the qualities, which he showed last season. But this season he has accelerated his development into a fine defender indeed. The level of determination in his play is eye catching. Against Manchester City in particular, where he fronted the 65m strike force of Aguero and Dzeko. The only time they carved the defence open arose when Koscielny was attacking a corner. His anticipation of situations is beyond compare for me.

He has already shown a tremendously brave attitude (remember last season, a goal we conceded at home to Fulham. Koscielny was heavily concussed in the build up to their goal, but still tried to play on as his legs began to desert him). He attacks the ball with determination, but also with calmness at the same time. It`s a potent combination for a defender; to be able to maintain that level of fight without losing your cool in a situation. It`s a trait I think he shares with Vermaelen.

All of this shows in the fact that Koscielny averages around 3.2 interceptions per game. His reading of the game and his desire to get the ball. It also means he wins a phenomenal amount of aerial duels. But in November, Kos has also had to learn to adapt to a new position. With injuries to Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson, Koscielny has shifted over to right back and, again, he hasn`t looked out of place- presiding over wins away at Norwich and Wigan Athletic in an unfamiliar position.

As with many players, Koscielny is only just starting to garner the credit he deserves from Arsenal fans. This is largely because fans are sensitive creatures. The French defender was quickly written off last season and people really do struggle to give credit to those that they have written off. Increased usage of internet, plus social networking has led to everybody having a platform for their opinion- which is a good thing. But it also means there is more opportunity than ever for your words to be flung back at you when you make them a matter of record on the internet. It appears the coping strategy for this is to eschew the fickle option and just refuse to dish out the credit. Andre Santos is finding credit for his improvement equally difficult to come by. (Incidentally, this piece makes for good digestion on his improvement). The wider press are still to observe Koscielny`s improvement. We`ll acknowledge it here with the November Player of the Month award. LD.

August- Thomas Vermaelen
September- Robin van Persie
October- Robin van Persie

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday December 5 2011

Time: 12:08PM

Your Comments

Excellent choice LD, Koscielny has everything going for him as a player. He is quick, good in the air, an excellent reader of the game and is tenacious as well. When he started with us his elegant style reminded me of Ricardo Carvalho and that comparison still stands albeit Kos is a very clean defender compared to Carvalho.
Deltaforce
That's got to be a good pick though I might have gone for the other lauded defender Santos. On balance I think Kos should get it though. Two goals from Vermaelen might have put him in the frame too but as you say there were others with credible claims. That has to be the most appealing part of the side. It does look like a team with everyone taking responsibility.
Amos.
I think there's a bit more emphasis on "Tactical Defending" (FIFA players would know) this season from our defence. With the addition of Santos and Mertesacker and the already present Koscielny, the focus is more upon intelligent defending rather than barnstorming tackles. More of our ball turnovers are coming as a result of interceptions rather than tackles. We're cutting of the opposition well before they reach anywhere near our box. A marked improvement on our defence from last season where we dropped back into our box when we panicked and encouraged teams to come at us.
Eboue=GOD
Should have been RvP Tim..
Sajit
Its almost as if you were sick of picking him over and over again.
Sajit
Football fans love goals and as such forwards and wingers are always more likely to win these kind of plaudits, but make no mistake, Koscielny has been our best player this month. Infact he's been the best player in many months. Even last season I couldn't really get my head round the criticism he was getting. He was brilliant last year too. Maybe not as brilliant as this season, but his improvement has been immense. I didn't even hold him accountable for the goal in the cup final. The keeper clearly called for the ball and should have gathered it. Kos is a beast, and a wonderful reader of the game. Much like Adams, not blessed with pace, but that doesn't matter when he'll whop the ball away and be off down the pitch before you've even realised you;ve lost the ball.
Rocky7
Kos is a very bold choice, L.D and I share this choice even as RvP is a close contender. I said it about Koscielny last season that he is almost psychic with his anticipation, hence his high rate of interceptions. He combines 'class' and 'aggresive' without being obvious. I was sold on him since the games vs Barca last season. He was immense then and is even better now. His call up to the French national team is no fluke and has instilled new confidence in him, no doubt.
Naijagunner
Good call LD. There were some good moments last season, when he was building a good partnership with Djourou. We looked defensively solid for a few games but that didn't last. This season, the team is defending better as a unit and that is largely down to the protection offered by the mid field (including Gervinho and Theo) which makes the defence looks better. Kosc is looking much better now, in his own quiet way.
prits
Tha
prits
Tha
prits
That's a good write up on Santos. The one thing that's immediately noticeable about him is his tackles. He gets a lot of them right. Their timing and accuracy are normally very good, and its crucial in breaking up the opposition's attacks. Sometimes, he does let the winger have a free run, but those are becoming rarer with every game.
prits
Santos just beguiles his opponent into a false sense of security and then simply flicks out his legs to dispossess the player of the ball; almost a Cobra-like action. Like him.
Naijagunner
The best defender we've had since moving to the Emirates in my opinion. He's not only very effective, but he really does show the 'art' in defending - perfect balance and poise; cool, calm and colected but with the capacity to go in forcefully; his reading of the game is second to none. It would be a struggle to find a better CB in world football at the moment. I feel very lucky to have him at our club.
ArsenalRob
 

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