Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday January 31 2012
January has been a curious month indeed for Arsenal- and not in an entirely positive way it must be said! Three consecutive league defeats have left our January besmirched with the stench of failure. Imbalances in the squad have taken their toll as a key core of 14-15 players has been overloaded through lack of rotation. That lack of rotation is an implicit admission that there is a good chunk of the squad that Arsene either does not trust or that is repeatedly injured. (One has to question how much our never ending injury situation is both cause and symptom of a lack of rotation).
In that respect, the pickings for January Player of the Month are slim, limited largely just to the usual suspects. A mixture of mistrust, injury and an African Nations tournament have precluded many players from any sort of consideration. The usual suspects are once again left to lead the line. November`s choice Laurent Koscielny looks a virtual dead cert to finish 2nd in this year`s Player of the Season, continuing his fine work in January. In fact, he has even added an attacking string to his bow with a goal against Fulham and a marauding run to win the deciding penalty in Arsenal`s barnstorming comeback against Aston Villa.
Likewise, September and October`s choice Robin van Persie has delivered four goals in the four games he has played in January. Given that he`s pretty much the sole outlet any time an Arsenal player has the ball in the opposing half, it`s a relief his touch isn`t deserting him in the face of being double and triple marked by opposing defences. It`s for this reason that any contention Ramsey has lost form is wide of the mark in my eyes. It`s just whenever he takes up a promising position; there is only one option for the pass and often only one decoy run to give him the chance to run through himself.
Gervinho`s absence for the African Nations was supposed to be Andrey Arshavin`s chance to shine, but instead it is Oxlade-Chamberlain that has taken his chance. However, his two promising performances probably arrive too late in the month for this award. (I`m sure that won`t deter the voters for the official award on .com who will oblige to the typical popularity contest criteria). Alex Song too can be satisfied with much of his month`s work. He continues to provide assists too at a rate far beyond any other screening midfielder in the league.
But I like how intelligent his tackling has become. The younger Song was characterised by rashness. But statistically, Song is now booked for every 9 fouls committed. That`s because he`s intelligent about the way he uses his body to block. He either regains possession, or if he does indeed end up conceding a foul- an occupational hazard in his position- he barely draws notice from the official in doing so. A skill Gilberto was adept at.
However, my Player of the Month for January perhaps feeds my suspicion that Wenger can trust his squad players more than he does. Mikel Arteta has been a virtual ever present since his August move from Everton, but suffered a calf injury this month. (Whether or not that is due to having been overplayed one can only speculate). My January Player of the Month goes to Tomas Rosicky. The Czech has reportedly been negotiating a new contract this month and it`s not hard to see why as he`s made his worth to the squad much clearer over the last 6 weeks.
At Villa Park at the end of December, it was his introduction that changed the game. Largely because of the qualities he has shown throughout January. Experience has given him a versatility that slots into a multitude of positions. He primarily arrived as a wide player- a role he`s certainly capable of fulfilling. But it`s in the midfield three where he has had the greatest effect. He has the economy of possession to step in for Mikel Arteta as the link man in the midfield three. But he also has the urgency and tempo to play further forward. Rosicky speeds up Arsenal`s passing game by doing incredibly simple things. He passes the ball quickly and accurately, and then he moves his arse. Simple, but incredibly valuable for a midfield like ours that relies on interchangeability.
Rosicky also has the physical properties required to marry with his nimbleness. Seldom do his passes go astray and rarely is he ever dispossessed. In the home games against United and Villa, I felt he was our best player. When in tight spaces, he either has the ball control to retain possession as well as not being shy of a tackle. Whilst he probably no longer has the legs to perform for 90 minutes on a regular basis; he still has a boundless energy to his displays. It was his harrying that led to Chris Smalling slipping in front of his own goal against United. Rosicky was straight onto the loose ball to tee up van Persie for an inexplicably missed sitter.
It is perhaps a signal of an underwhelming month that a squad player performing a squad function wins Player of the Month, but Rosicky`s performances should have done more than enough to convince the manager that the overburdened Arteta and Ramsey might be able to take the odd 75 minutes off here and there. He fits a number of roles in the team and encourages other players to play with the impetus and pace at which he plays. If Arsenal are to salvage the second half of the season; you get the feeling Rosicky could yet have a big role to play. LD.
August- Thomas Vermaelen
September- Robin van Persie
October- Robin van Persie
November- Laurent Koscielny
December- Mikel Arteta
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA
Date:Tuesday January 31 2012
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