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Why I Love Andre

Though favourite players are something I like to think I grew out of some years ago; occasionally a player comes along that steals your heart for some reason or another. Usually these reasons are trivial and often unfathomable. My favourite all time player will always be Anders Limpar. Not because I believe him to be the best Arsenal player I have ever seen; though he`s not a million miles away. But for a myriad of reasons, his mercurial streak, the fact that he was an artist in a team of foot soldiers. At the risk of sounding like a swooning college girl in some god-awful US Teen Drama, he played by his own rules.

Before he slunk into a sludge of moon faced indifference, I used to feel similarly about Arshavin. A shapeless artiste spraying mayhem in a game increasingly defined by tactical battle. The little Russian began as the luxury that Arsenal needed. Then the luxury we could afford. Then just a luxury. Until he finally became little more than an ornament. But with Arshavin now departed, a new playful imp has shuttled towards my malleable affections. I don`t think I can quite explain it, nor am I convinced it`s very healthy, but I can`t help falling in love with Andre Santos.

Santos fits snugly in the tradition of Brazilian full backs- or "laterals" as they are known in Brazil. It`s perhaps no surprise that Santos cut his teeth as a left winger. In 2003, at the age of just 20, he had to deal with the pressure of being labelled "The next Roberto Carlos" by Pele. In Brazil, full backs aren`t so much considered part of the defence as they are the first line of attack- Santos takes to this vision with his forays forward. But his runs are more sophisticated than people in England seem to appreciate. (See his goal at Stamford Bridge in October. He picked exactly the right time to race forward and exploit the space). His game is built largely on interception- which suits Arsenal`s aspirational pressing game of winning the ball high up the pitch. As you`d expect from a Brazilian, his control and touch is unyielding. Often seen seamlessly rolling his left foot over the ball deceptively.

He is rarely robbed of possession. Contrary to popular belief, he is no liability defensively either. Prior to his injury, he averaged more tackles and more interceptions than any other Arsenal player this season. I spend a fair bit of time playing left back myself, so perhaps it`s been a subconscious analysis that has caused me to appreciate Santos` skills. My girlfriend is Brazilian and had watched him at close quarters prior to joining us and hadn`t rated him highly at all, so I wasn`t expecting a great deal. We have both been pleasantly surprised. But the fact that I have a lot of time for him as a player isn`t the real reason I`ve taken to him.

Santos comes across as a genuinely warm hearted, pleasant individual. Ordinarily I wouldn`t put a great deal of stock in player personalities, but the way in which Santos plays the game suggests he extracts a real joy from what he is doing. At the reserve match on Wednesday, fans shouted his name from the East Terrace and he continuously looked up with a huge grin and waved. His twitter utterances seem to reveal a humble, yet fun loving character. It`s not widely known or appreciated that when Santos moved to Arsenal at a moment`s notice in August, his wife was seven and a half month`s pregnant. He had to live in a hotel without knowing a word of English, separated from his heavily pregnant wife whilst acclimatising to a new league.

The reason this isn`t widely known is because Santos never made a big deal of it. In a period when Arsenal fans were notably tetchy, many wrote him off after two or three games without full possession of those facts. But it was never presented as an excuse. Just another matter to overcome and overcome he did, balancing a transitional family life with a workplace upheaval with the minimum of fuss. He took English lessons, he moved his wife and young child to London, he trained hard and played well. Regardless of the sums of money one commands, that`s commendable. Just imagine for a moment that your boss calls you into his office on Tuesday, tells you you`re being relocated to Brazil next week, leaving behind a heavily pregnant partner to go and live in a hotel.

Just as he was really playing himself into some form and acclimatising, Santos was then injured very unfortunately. The timing was lousy for him and for the team with the perma crocked Gibbs on the sidelines. Again, Santos never complained. He acknowledged it as a challenge to overcome, continued to take English lessons, got himself fit ahead of schedule and smiled his way through an impressive performance in the reserves on Wednesday. There are other salt of the earth elements of Santos I have a strange affection for. His world war two pilot style side parting. His, ahem, "beefy" frame. The fact that his middle name is Clarindo! In his struggle to get to grips with the nuances of the English language, Santos infamously tweeted, "Great game today gays!" on his twitter feed back in October. It was an error that was endearing as it was amusing.

Even the fact that he wears number 11 and plays at full back has a certain madcap charm about it. He`s a character who hasn`t yet caught the imagination of the press in the same way someone like Balotelli has. As a result, Balotelli has been bled dry and turned into a caricature with the fascination and reportage of every mundane incident. Andre is very particular to Gooners. Santos appears to be one of football`s nice guys. A genuinely humble man, but a character to boot. Somebody that appreciates the position they find themselves in. He has a way of moving with the ball that I just find eminently watchable for reasons unknown to me. If I`m entirely honest, I think I want to give him a big hug. I hope that you don`t judge me too harshly for that. LD.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday March 16 2012

Time: 6:15PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Playing devil's advocate here, if Santos' wife was 7months pregnant, and he had played very well for 2 months, wouldn't you say that it was actually a *perfect* time for an injury? Back to Brazil for the birth after settling in London, let the baby and wife recover, then move over here properly in March? Sounds like a Wenger-esque plan to me!
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16/03/2012 18:30:00

Didn't we suffer a slump in form after his injury? I don't think many people appreciate he gives us a little more edge in attack, which we lacked for a while after he was sidelined. Feels like another new signing, and at the business end of the season. It's a shame we didn't sign him a little earlier in his career. I know some say they didn't rate him before he joined but I do believe some players need to find the right club for them to show there true colours ( why nasri will never become the player he was starting to become at arsenal.....and you can quote me on that). Hopefully Andre has found his club.
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16/03/2012 18:34:00

One of my favorite things about Santos is that despite an obviously healthy salary he drives around in a black and day-glo green Smart car with green alloys. Top man!
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16/03/2012 18:53:00

I was appalled when I first heard that we'd signed him. On this site I posted a link to his last appearance in the selecao (against Germany) back in August. It showed why he hasn't been called up again. I always liked him because of his character and personality and on twitter talked about my worry that gooners would start treating him badly because of what I expected him to show: his notorious limitations, screw-ups, unreliability. I worried because Andre's a wonderful guy--saw him play live couple of times in Brazil and the gestures of kindness, sportsmanship and consideration he showed opponents, teammates, club staff before, during & after games--even journos who put microphones in his face pretty rudely--were always endearing, charming, memorable. It's a big reason Dunga kept calling him up: he helps to bind the team together, he has an excellent influence on team mentality and bonding. So my reaction was a mixture of terror at the signing of a very limited, unreliable player and the inevitable cruel fan reaction to him. Boy did he prove me wrong. I immediately noticed the difference in seeing him track back ferociously and try hard to improve his positioning and covering--I thought "Arsene's been talking to him. And he's listened." I am delighted to see him try so hard to adapt to the PL because it's a treat to have him in any squad. And I melted all over the place when I saw him put a coat over the Ox when he came off against Newcastle (I think it was AOC) and then later when he attacked Arsene in a ferocious hug like a child when Vermaelen scored. I loved Arsene's reaction.
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16/03/2012 19:14:00

I could have sworn Ive seen this article before today..but it says date Mar 16th 2012.. Hmm..
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16/03/2012 19:28:00

I wondered who that was throwing there arms around le boss! Have been trying to see highlights of the goal celebrations to work out who it was....cheers jaelle. On the subject of that goal celebration, rosicky looked like a man possessed! Was great to see that hunger, and to think andre has only been here for a dog watch, shows how much he respects wenger. And I think your right jaelle, credit must go to wenger for obviously improving his tactical awareness......I think it was one of your posts I was reading that pretty much made up my mind about a player I knew very little about. He has also added a bit of much needed humility to this squad after the likes of ady, nasri, eboue, bendnter
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16/03/2012 19:32:00 I posted a link to this piece on here before, but it doesn't bare much relation to this one.
Little Dutch
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16/03/2012 19:44:00

Somebody on that article thinks that clichy is a better defender!? Must be a citeh fan.
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16/03/2012 20:01:00

@ Chipo, I'm assuming you mean back to Turkey? He came from Fener, not Sao Paulo
Ozi Gooner
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17/03/2012 01:24:00

If you look at the training ground pictures as well, he seems to be the most happy, always laughing and likeable characters in this team. I didn't give much thought earlier to the Rosicky Twitter takeover thingy but he said that there are a few clowns in the team. And I believe Andre is one of them. That sort of person is required in a football team to help forge a bond among the players on and off the pitch.
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17/03/2012 04:32:00

brazilians are generally very humble people with good work ethic and complain little. we saw these traits in gilberto, dudu and now santos
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17/03/2012 05:56:00

Nice one there, Jaelle. I recall that post you referred to and after seeing him in a few games, had noted somewhere how Andre may have exceeded your expectations. L.D called it right: his interception rate and tenacity in possession were second to none before his injury. He has this snake-like way of throwing out a foot when his opponent least expects it and wins back balls this way. Maybe, I appreciate him too 'cos I play from the left side as well, and at LB at some odd times :-). Top article.
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17/03/2012 07:03:00

Of course, I refer to footie with over-aged, sometimes, pot bellied guys looking for some form of recreation on a Saturday morning/Sunday afternnon. So, no one may suggest I come to our grounds for a trial, you see. Lol!
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17/03/2012 07:07:00

I took to him very quickly simply because it was clear that he knew how to play football. In fact he'd made up a big chunk of the creative deficit in our midfield play. The defence 'weaknesses' that some pointed to in his early games were simply the midfield getting used to knowing when to cover for him. But he isn't only about attack because he can defend well too and will put in a shift to get back when we don't have the ball. The fact that he is a superb footballer should be enough but he seems a diamond bloke too! I think I'm also a little bit in love with him.
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17/03/2012 17:26:00

He's been a quality addition to the squad, his personality apart. He's still adapting I think, but the speed of his adaptation has been remarkable.
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19/03/2012 08:43:00

Having ďbigged him upĒ I hope this article isnít the kiss of death for him. Iíve noticed that he plays a lot of balls across our eighteen yard line and shiver when he does, but like all of you lot, Iíve loved what Iíve seen so far. Iím interested to read that Jaelle has had a change of heart because she wasnít too impressed when we signed him but maybe Arsenal play his style of footie. Itís also interesting to note that LD has a Brazilian girlfriend who has also had a change of mind about Santos. I wonder if this was a common viewpoint in all Brazilian women?
Sir Henry
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19/03/2012 14:14:00

Sir Henry, it was a common viewpoint among most if not all followers of the selecao. It still is among most of them. Joe, that's a nice sentiment but unfortunately we have egotistical idiots like Ronaldinho, Adriano, Dani Alves and Manchester United's Anderson (for whom who I have a particular animus) don't quite fit your description.
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19/03/2012 18:50:00

well i got his name and number on the back of my Arsenal shirt, before he even played for the first team
61 Neveragain
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19/03/2012 18:52:00

I must admit to taking to him as well, and the footballing ability apart he added a bit of physical presence to the back four which GC and Gibbs did not and do not do. However I suspect that there is a little element of the "getting better by not playing syndrome" at play here!
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20/03/2012 21:21:00


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