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September Player of the Month

Aside from the aberration against Chelsea, September was a good month for Arsenal with wins over Liverpool, Southampton, Montpellier, Coventry City and a creditable draw at Manchester City. As such there are a few contenders for September`s Player of the Month award. Much of the praise bestowed upon Arsenal this season has revolved around their defence, so it`s probably not much surprise that most of the contenders are those that preside over the dark arts of the game.

That`s not to say the performances have been exclusively defensive. Gervinho bagged 4 goals in September, Lukas Podolski three, whilst Santi Cazorla has settled very quickly in England. After an austere August in front of goal, the Gunners have hit their two weakest opponents for six this month. But consideration for the award, in my opinion, comes down to a three horse battle. Mikel Arteta has moved into a deeper role following the sale of Alex Song. If your eyes aren`t able to see what he brings (and I think most Arsenal fans see it in Technicolor), he is our best, cleanest and most persistent tackler, as well as our most frequent and accurate passer. No player in England has touched the ball more times than Arteta this year and no midfielder has wasted it less.

But it`s not just defensively that the Spaniard`s wiliness is so invaluable. He is the springboard for our attacks. Arsenal are a team that likes to build from the back and Arteta is always on hand to take the ball off the centre halves and recycle it effectively. In turn, this also means the centre halves don`t have to push up so high and risk being caught too high up the pitch if an attack breaks down. Arteta is Arsenal`s umbilical cord. For all the talk of Cazorla being man marked by Ramires on Saturday, I think the most effective thing Chelsea did to stint our attacks was to put Oscar and Hazard on Arteta.

Arteta is a reasonably grizzled pro continuing last season`s good work. Carl Jenkinson however, is a little wetter behind the ears. But he`s not shown that this season. This time last year Jenkinson was plunged head first from League One into the defence of the Premiership`s crisis club. He was by no means alone in looking out of his depth, but it was certainly a baptism of fire. Twelve months on and as Bacary Sagna nears full fitness we find ourselves asking whether Bac should be on the bench. Arsene Wenger spoke this week about Jenkinson now being reassured that he belongs at this level and has therefore begun to express himself as a result. Arsenal`s attacking bias tends to be left sided, leaving Jenkinson with a more defensive role than Gibbs. But that hasn`t stopped Carl blossoming in both the defensive and attacking sides of his game.

Though Arteta and Jenks come close to September Player of the Month, they are both pipped at the post by the Big F*****g German. It hasn`t taken long for the conversation about Arsenal`s centre halves to shift around the axis of "who partners Per?" He brings an organisational reassurance and calmness to the Gunners back line. The typically 1 dimensional way in which football is covered by tired old newspaper hacks saw Per written off last season rather routinely.

This of course because he can`t sprint 200m in 15 seconds. The modern game is obsessed with pace, so the observation went that slow = lumbering. Never mind the fact that the likes of Baresi, Adams, Maldini, Cannavaro and other great proponents of the art weren`t exactly lightning quick, Mertesacker was, bafflingly, considered not fit for purpose. But Per knows his body and he knows his physique well. Almost like a good striker, he defends on the half turn. Take a look at his stance the next time you get the opportunity. He allows his hips a degree of rotation which both allows him to get a head start in case the ball does get behind him. But it also allows him to thrust out a leg in pretty much any direction to make an interception. At Eastlands, he made a dizzying seven interceptions. All in the last 30 yards of Arsenal`s half. If the ball never makes its way behind you, you don`t find yourself in a foot race too often.

In many ways it was the game that he didn`t play that emphasised his importance the most. Arsene Wenger said he would rotate his centre halves according to his opposition and for that reason; he reintroduced Koscielny alongside Vermaelen for the visit of Chelsea. In hindsight, it was an error- even if many of us, me included, saw and approved of the rationale before the game. Mertesacker seems to bring an élan out in the back four that Vermaelen and Koscielny don`t transmit to one another. Both look much calmer with Per next to them. Yet against Chelsea, Vermaelen made rash and costly fouls leading to both goals and Koscielny hardly covered himself in glory defending the subsequent free kicks.

Mertesacker seems to enjoy a good relationship with other squad members too. I watched him warm up at half time against Chelsea. He would have had every right to have worn a hangdog expression given his form. But he was still beaming from ear to ear, joking with his teammates and, crucially, taking his warm up seriously. He seems to be well liked. It`s not the most important thing granted. Emmanuel Eboue seemed like a lovely guy off the pitch, but if you`re a liability on it, that`s not much use. But I genuinely think Per brings a good mixture of professionalism and camaraderie on and off the pitch. That, together with his calm, authoritative style, might go some way to explaining why his colleagues seem to calm the f**k down in his presence. LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday October 3 2012

Time: 8:52AM

Your Comments

Football fans can be so fickle. Not long ago Mertesacker was not fit for the Arsenal side whilst Koscielny was vying for player of the season, now a few good performances later from BFG and one bad one from Koscielny and the roles are reversed. You don't become a good or bad player over night, the most likely scenario is that they are both great players. Happy for Per, he's been a monster this season and will no doubt be regaining his place tonight.
Rocky7
Per has certainly come in leaps and bounds for us, since joining last season. I recall a friend of mine (fan of a rival side, of course) refer to his signing as "Arsenal purchasing an Ocean Liner", in mock reference to his pace and the time it would take him to turn, if confronted by quick attackers who feint to go one way but go another. He looked forward to watching him in games and would have a laugh after each game, early on, with his commentaries reducing as the games went on. It was the same chap who turned round to give acclaim to Per's contributions before his injury last season.

That, for me, was an instructive lesson in how wrong fans can be and how good a signing the BFG was and will be for a while yet. While the easier picks for player of the month would be Arteta or Carzola, I quite like the choice of the BFG.
Naijagunner
I would still go for arteta as our most important player. He is the firt name on the team sheet. If he gets injured this season, we are *****ed.
Sajit
Quite right, Rock, 'Football fans can be so fickle'. Reading comments on this site and others (BBC and Sky sports comments) there are a lot of people out there who suddenly rate Per as the world's best and Koscielny not good enough. No doubt the same people who spent the best part of a year saying that Kos was awful and not good enough for Arsenal before FINALLY seeing the player for who he is - rather than just 'someone who didn't cost 20 million, so he can't be any good'. And then said Per was useless for a year, before 3/4 good games this season, and 'world class'. There is a big gap between 'useless' and 'world class', in which 99% of players fall - but you wouldn't think it reading the comments of football fans!

Similar note; I was a bit annoyed watching the build-up to a couple of the games this year where so many people were saying
A) Arsenal can defend this year (err... we could defend last year. What's the difference between this Arsenal defence and the one that ended last season?)
B) Steve Bould is the reason (he may be doing something slightly different to pat Rice, but Wenger decides on the coaching programme and how much time is spent doing what. And presided over the only team ever to finish a league season unbeaten. So... behave.)
C) Jenkinson was woeful ast year but should be in the England squad now (Jenks has been good as long as he's played for Arsenal, for me; when he first started playing for the club last year, he came in immediately and didn't let anyone down. As an inexperienced teenager, very impressive. He made maybe 2/3 mistakes last year - as did every other player in the league)

Kneejerk! 'drew with City, we're brilliant, we're on a title push' - 'lost to Chelsea, the defence is awful' Deary me.
damiano_tommassi
I think you've exaggerated, certainly compared to my impressions of what Arsenal fans have been saying- but I accept maybe I've just been exposed to different people. I haven't heard anyone say Koscielny is terrible. I'm not sure the fans are fickle or whether it's just form is transient. Sometimes players play well, sometimes not. Sometimes there are tangible reasons for that (adapting to a new league for instance in the case of Mert, Jenks and Kos' first season) sometimes you just lose form or fitness for whatever reason. But opinions are no more set in stone (nor should they be) than the form a player is providing at any given time.
Little Dutch
Keep it up, but what am sure is that u guys will remain trohpiless as long as ur boards are naïve. Rubbish club!!!!!!
jayb
LD, did you see the comments of Will-i-am 10 in the vs Chelsea thread?
Naijagunner
Damiano are you simply programmed to be at a default setting of "aghast" at everything? You go OTT on literally everything. Literally. And i'm not being ironic.
shewore
 

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