Date: 2nd January 2009 at 11:52am
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Once again, it`s Player of the Month time and once again there is a poverty of real candidates. Last season, there were often three or four decent options per month, this year it hasn`t quite been the same. Though August (Nasri) and September (Walcott) took care of themselves, since October I seem to have been offering excuses for giving a player the monthly award rather than penning a glowing commendation. It`s been more apology than appraisal and December is not much different. Partly, changes in the starting line up explain this, virtual shadow sides were beaten 2-0 by Burnley and Porto respectively, whilst injuries and suspensions have once again gripped us terribly. Robin van Persie can lay claim to a decent month, he seems to have built on the match winning display at Stamford Bridge with some good performances, though the statistics of 1 goal and 0 assists does not do this justice. Emmanuel Adebayor has scored twice in his four appearances this month. The month has seen Bacary Sagna return to last season`s form and fitness whilst Gael Clichy has once again been the picture of consistency despite playing with a calf strain for much of the month. December has also seen Johan Djourou cement a place in the starting line up, whilst since being relieved of the armband; William Gallas has performed much better. Though he still seems troubled my momentary lapses, as demonstrated at Villa Park. Rumours of a bust up between Gallas and Toure appear to have weight behind them following Toure`s transfer request and if that is indeed the case, you have to feel Gallas is a character who takes himself far too seriously than is good for team spirit.

So December`s award will go to something of an unsung hero. In fact, unsung is perhaps too generous as he has been harshly chastised in some quarters, largely for not being a lank haired Corsican mercenary named Flamini. With the midfield unbalanced and now undermanned, Denilson has taken a lot of flack from some Arsenal fans this season. But I have noticed that most of this criticism has occurred as an after thought, I am struggling to remember him causing too many raised dissenting voices inside the stadium. Largely, I think it`s because he does a very good job, even if his midfield colleagues haven`t given him much help in his defensive duties. Denilson is a very young man who has been asked to play a new role this year, his early season performances were erratic. He was comfortably the best player on the pitch in the opening game against West Brom, one week later at Craven Cottage his passing bore resemblance to a man who would have trouble hitting water in the sea. But since he was rested for the away match at West Ham, Denilson seems to have economised his game and has become one of the team`s very few solid, consistent performers, a regular 7 out of 10 player. Those who have excelled in the defensive midfield role have always been characterised in this manner.

Denilson was one of the few players who could come away from Porto with his head held high and also performed very well in the win over Wigan and operated well out of position on the right hand side of midfield in the 1-1 draws with Middlesbrough and Liverpool respectively. Since Fabregas limped out of that Liverpool game with a ruptured medial ligament, Denilson has taken to the role of creator too. Firstly, scoring a goal borne out of pure desire in the 2-2 draw at Villa Park, whilst he also helped himself to an assist in the 1-0 grind against Portsmouth. There has understandably been a lack of clemency from Arsenal fans this season towards the players, but I think the criticism aimed at Denilson has been more discursive than anything. Were he currently to imitate a Scooby Doo villain and take to the field wearing a Flamini mask I doubt many would cast him as a weak link. He is persistently our best and most successful tackler and he rarely gives the ball away, particularly as he appears to have worked on simplifying his passing this season. Weren`t these the very qualities we were praising in the one season wonder that is Flamini just 12 months ago?LD.

2008/09 Players of the Month
August: Samir Nasri
September: Theo Walcott
October: Robin van Persie
November: Aaron Ramsey.