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Denilson and the Defensive Midfield Role

Denilson and The Defensive Midfield Role – by “LRV”

Quite a lot of football fans in Britain seem only able to notice and applaud Defensive Midfielders when they bully or break legs. Understanding of their role and the part which others need to play to enhance it, counts for nothing as far as they are concerned.

I think that the people who condemn Denilson do so because they compare him with an Alonso (a la ‘long and diagonal passes’). To such people, Melo would have been, without doubt, the better option if we had been able to get him. But alas, he prefers to play in a league where he is certain that he will be appreciated more.

Others, who like Denilson, look at such masters of the position as Gilberto, who even the Brazilians call “the invisible wall”, or Makalele, who was sourly missed by Real Madrid when he left them. These two masters of the DM position never really concerned themselves too much with long and diagonal balls unless it was absolutely necessary. Rather, they tried to get the basics done neatly and largely without being noticed too much. If you want to notice what they actually do, you have to pay a far greater attention to them.

But what do they do?

 They sit and rove in-front of the back four.

 They rely on a keen sense of positional play; rather-more than too much out-of-position running, wasting too much energy that needs to be preserved (the one man I know who got away with that was Flamini).

 They are avid readers of the game, with the affordance of break-up-play (which they acquire because of 2. above).

 They tend to stick more to the basic principle of collect and pass on (mostly short inter passing skill required for this to work). The short passes may either be sideways, adjacent or diagonal & cross-field.

 They must not dwell on the ball, but must be time-perfect. That means that they must know with a touch of perfection, when to venture forward to assist if the need arises; and when to maintain their position even if it seems obvious to everyone else that they should speculate forward, so as not to open a backdoor entrance for the opposition to oppress the defense.

 Finally, they must be good ball players (not just blockers); with acute close control ability; good headers of the ball; the ability to go past people if necessary; and the technical ability to complete at least 90% of passes.

Of course you can add to the above the usual English belief in Passion and Grit (the enforcer). Most European and other world footballers have proved that you need SAF = Skill, Agility and Flair – to do the job properly, not grit; but what do I know?

So was the team’s midfield frailty of last season down to Denilson’s, or even Song’s, DM failure?

Not particularly; bearing in mind that, apart from the main striker, there are four other midfielders who were supposed to also be part of that team. Defending is a team job.

Good defensive play always begins from the front. Front players must do their very best not to lose the ball (Adebayor did not do a good job of that last season). When they do, the Left-Mid must track back to help the Left-Back; the Right-Mid must track back to help the Right-Back; the Second-Striker or the Attack-Mid must alternately track centrally. The Defensive-Mid will then be more able to read the various track-backs and make interceptions, blocks any attempted shootings or tackle anyone that gets past accordingly, before they get to the Centre-Back pair. These pair can then do the same or clear any dangerous strays that get past the DM.

Front players tracking back may or may not make a tackle; it is not a strict requirement. They may not even win the tackles if they do. However, their efforts may harry the opposing player to make a mistake or make a hurried pass, giving the ball away or becoming unsettled so that the DM can then tackle them successfully.

Failure to track-back, will put unnecessary pressure on the DM, CB pair and the Full-Backs. It doesn’t help if the DM is constantly dragged left and right to provide cover. That will inevitably leave gaps in the other area. The DM can only cover one area at a time; others must cover the rest.

Any team attempting to play total football, or its variant – “wengerball”, must have skillful players who are comfortable interchanging, playing and defending as stated above. The DM must also have attacking capability should he need, on occasions, to temporarily swap positions with the Attacking-Mid. Our Midfield lapses last season, was a result of the whole midfield failing to play as described consistently.

If you judge Denilson against the points above, he showed in the matches he played for us last season that he so far has 87 – 90% already. Remember that he is still developing. I lick my lips at the prospect of what that boy will become in another year or so. Should Arsenal throw that prospect away? I think not. Diarra is one loss too many in my opinion (a typical Arsenal player that boy is).

It doesn’t surprise me, though, that some Arsenal fans want rid of Denilson. They threw the same accusation at, and used the same arguments against, Gilberto until he wasn’t in the team for a run of games. That was when they truly came to understand the role he played. The departure of Gilberto did not do Denilson any good; he would have learned from the master.

What Song lacks, (an acute sense of positional play), Denilson has in abundance. Similarly, what Denilson lacks (which he is still acquiring), physical strength, Song has in abundance already. There you go. Make up your own mind.

I am sorry if I do not balance my arguments properly. It is because as a layman, I do not know too much about football other than that I played football, in previously one of the most inconsequential part of the world, in the seventies and early eighties before it went global.

Untold Arsenal warmly welcomes contributions from readers, so long as they meet the general ethos of the site. Send your idea or your article to Tony@hamilton-house.com

55 comments to Denilson and the Defensive Midfield Role

  • The Denilson debate is dead. He played very well last season. The people who don’t want to see that will not be convinced by true quality or reality.

    The thing now is for Denny to do the same thing again this season, and mark my words, the pundits would be forced to acknowledge his quality. When they do, the sheep Arsenal fans will come around to see the obvious.

    Someone pointed out that Denilson is one of the most cheered players at the Emirates for his play. Every now and then he makes a clearance or tackle, to spontaneous cheer.

    Denilson is not marmite. He’s jam. Some just think he’s marmite. Pardon my mixed metaphor.

  • steww

    I love Marmite Ole – what are you on about? Does anyone seriously dislike Marmite??
    Seriously though, I got it. I’m with OG and LRV on this. He is class, he proved it time and again. Some point to the Fulham defeat (like he was the only bad player) but I think that game or rather the reaction to it utterly proved what a fine player he is. He never hid, he never ran away he kept demanding the ball or making himself available to team-mates, he ran and ran he made goals and scored goals and in the Roma game particularly the commentator just stuck on a tape saying “won back by Denilson” over and over again.
    He is sheer class.

  • IndianGooner

    I too rate Denilson highly and for me, He was the Player of the Season. He reads the game very well and moves to the right place at the right time. He played exceptionally well in the Second part of the season and the stats prove that. And If I’m not wrong, In the 2 matches we had heavy losses against Chelsea in the League and ManU in CL, Denilson didnt start them.

    I’m sure Denilson is going to even stronger the season ahead. And I hope more people understand Denilson’s game and appreciate his efforts.

  • Rob

    Denilson last season had one of the highest work rates in the prm league and was one of the highest tacklers. Problem was he was also one of the most tackled which indicates he lost the ball a lot.

  • IanWrightWright

    IT CAME TO MY ATTENTION THAT THE FOLLOWING POST HAS BEEN COPIED FROM ELSEWHERE. I have not removed it on this occasion as others have since commented on this piece, but I would reiterate that we really don’t welcome copies of other people’s posts on this site.
    Tony

    Here’s the copied article

    I think the Denilson is too small to be a defensive midfielder in such a physical league. He gets muscled away by opponents. Most of the time, he stands and watches as the man he was supposed to be marking beats him for pace and strength. He loses the ball far too often and he only knows how to pass sideways.

    he passes the ball around sideways all the time, I’m sure that’s how he got seven assists this season, six of those before Christmas. van Persie, an out and out striker, got the most assists for Arsenal in the Premier League with eleven throughout the season. This means that until December, Denilson was Arsenal’s best playmaker, above Cesc and Van Persie, neither of whom by the way, gets any slack for not showing up.

    Denilson was NOT supposed to be a defensive midfielder. He was a centre midfielder in the same mould as Cesc. In January, Mr. Wenger realised that our defence was too disorganised with Gallas and Toure were both sweepers. Denilson was asked to defend a bit more. Result? 21 unbeaten Premier League games.

    In our unbeaten run of 21 games and the Chelsea match which we lost, Denilson played in 21 of the 22 matches. He was subbed off only at Anfield on the 65th minute. With Denilson on pitch, we conceded 13 goals in 2,045 minutes (1 goal every 157 minutes). When he was off, we conceded 6 goals in 115 (1 goal every 19 minutes). On top of this, he won the ball more times than anyone else in the league, 254 to Barry’s 187. And just to top it all off, 60% of the time he wins it back with an interception, completely eliminating the chance of a foul or a card.

    When he attacks, he is one of the best playmakers in the league. When he defends, our team’s defense is magically plugged. For somebody who’s an Under-21, pretty amazing, no?

    Denilson is not going to become and out-an-out playmaker like Cesc. He is also not going to become a monster in midfield like Essien. However, he has the potential to be a great midfield general, similar to Xabi Alonso, who can both start attacks from deep as well as create a wall for the defence.

    Denilson is too inexperienced to handle both roles efficiently at the same time. How are we going to give him that experience? Normally, match time gives them the experience to be better players. Unless you expect him to become magically better from the sidelines like in the manager modes of the FIFA series.

    With the arrival of Vermaelen, and the coming of age of Djourou, our centre back pairing will be a lot more organised. With that, plus Arshavin, Rosicky and Cesc all working towards creating chances, Eduardo and RVP to finish the gazillion chances which they create, I think Denilson will be able to settle down and develop properly into the great player we know he can be.

    Compare that to Melo who cost £15m and misses out 9 games a season due to suspension. Or Cana who is now at wondersunderland. Denilson is cheaper than both these players, and at his age, light years ahead of where they were. Watch out for him, he is going to be the surprise package this season!

  • otariq

    Tony I would like to thank you very much for this article. Denilson is pure class and at his age will only get better. Song is also class and getting better. With these two players Arsenal will be a force to reckon with for years to come.

  • Faron

    Denilson is going to be Quality. My only issue is that the boy tries to do to much like a super pass or tries to take on a few players. He needs to calm down and leave those sort of things to the Nasri/Fabregas/Arshavin/Rosicky/Wilshere types ( i could go on lol ) With the Experience he is getting it will be no time at all when he does these things.

    By the Way Ole, you leave marmite alone.

  • Renan

    Denilson was by far our current best choice to partner Cesc this season. His stats last season were the best compared to any other Premier League midfielders. I see him to hold another starting place this season. He has improved a lot. To be honest last season he clearly outclassed Cesc, Song, and Diaby in a lot of occasions.

    He’s criminally underrated for me,, should be called by Dunga anytime soon. I just hope he keeps up the good performance ! UP THE GUNNERS !

  • walter

    In my eyes Denilson is a player who by just being on the field is making his collegues playing better. In the Valencia game, I know just a pre-season game, there was something missing and I just didn’t know what it was… until the game finished but our midfield wasn’t as comfortable on the ball as in previous games. First I thought it was the horrible pitch but no it was just the missing of mr. invisible Denilson.
    He is one of those players who always does his best and he can play at differend positions and is still very young. I really think he will be a new Gilberto in the near future.
    Great article LRV

  • Nigel

    Ole, the denilson debate is dead as much as our title hopes if we see more of him this season. It amazes me how people call denilson a good player after shocking performances last season.

    And walter, the problem in the valencia game was that Song was substituted.

  • ryan

    i didn’t think denilson was great last year. some very good stats for sure and he deserves all the credit he gets for them, but if you only look at stats you can sometimes miss half the picture. the stats don’t say if he’s made a lot of shit passes which have put the team under pressure- even if they’ve found their man, the stats don’t say if when he’s been beaten he’s tracked back doggedly or casually run back with little chance of winning it. and the stats don’t say if we’ve been lucky or not to not concede more goals considering chances we’ve given away.

    i like denilson. when he came he looked a carbon copy of cesc and i don’t think that natural talent will have disappeared even though he lacks that creative spark he used to have. i think he will become top class and really hope he does- and soon- at arsenal, but at the moment he doesn’t look particularly top class as people make out. he’s often not an invisible wall, just invisible. he regularly doesn’t really contribute much, plays a few passes, gives the ball away a bit cheaply at times or in bad positions and doesn’t have the physical strength to hold off many of the stronger opponents. he does have his good games though- vs roma the first time he was fantastic and i also think he will become really, really good. but i don’t think many of the really top teams around would either be interested in signing him right now or would be concerned to line up against him in a match. he’s a good player but at this very moment nothing extraordinary.

    many of his biggest supporters constantly recite as many stats as they can find on him. they are mostly very good and that’s great, i hope he keeps those stats up high as they are now- but depending so heavily on his stats is like looking at a painting which has been converted to black and white on a computer and saying how realistic it is. sure you can see the features all look extremely accurate and good, but if you saw the full-colour version you’d see that the use of colours is actually not very realistic and the picture isn’t as realistic as you first thought.

    on the topic of other plays i hate that cesc never gets criticism. he could play sub-standard for the coming 5 years and still nobody would admit it. over the last 6 months song has been our most consistent player in the squad. he almost never puts in anything less than a competent, solid, 7/10 and is usually one of our top 3 performers in almost every game. he’s always involved and he rarely has a quiet game. but the very idea that the scapegoat for all our problems at the start of the season could be playing far better than our captain is something very few people are prepared to accept.

    next season i don’t want to see denilson replaced in dm alongside song, i just want him to step up an extra 10% in his game and go from being a good overall player with impressive stats to a great player. they could end up making a fantastic partnership for years to come and it’s certainly what i’d love to see.

  • ryan

    walter if i remember right denilson came on vs valencia and gave the ball away a lot- he wasn’t the missing link we needed at all

    maybe on another day he would have had a really good impact, but not that time

  • shotta-gunna

    Denilson is already a “quality” player and the frightening thing (to our opponents most of all) is that at 20-21 yrs old, he is going to get infinitely better before he peaks at 26-28.
    It is revisionism to say Denilson is playing by default; the boss recognized that Denilson was ready to step up and that Gilberto was no longer guaranteed a starting placefor the 08-09 season. Hence allowing Gilberto to leave for Panathinaikos. The king is dead, long live the king (Nieves Denilson).

  • happychap

    ryan,

    Denilson didn’t play again Valencia AT ALL – in fact, he didn’t even travel to Mestalla!!

  • IndianGooner

    Happychap, people like to blame Denilson for our losses even if he didnt play.. Just like ryan said about the Valencia game even though it was a pre-season friendly. Denilson gave the ball away a lot even though He wasn’t in the list of players who travelled…

  • shotta-gunna

    Ryan – you can’t trust the stats, yet me must trust your eyes.
    Seeing Denilson misplace passes in a game he didn’t even play.
    I weep for thee.

  • Nasri

    Denilson was the player of the season for me last year. He was the most consistent player. Of course he needs to develope in some areas. But I’m sure he will. He’s an intelligent player and only will get better.

  • happychap

    Below is The Times’ player of the year with details of how the performances of the players and their values to the teams are measured.

    Extract as follows:
    ***
    Dr Henry Stott, Dr Ian Graham and Dr Mark Latham have taken every on-field action and tracked the relationship between these actions and the points that each team obtain. Then they have simulated the Barclays Premier League campaign again and again, each time removing a player and seeing the difference to the outcome without them.

    The final result is a table of the number of points added by each player compared with an average player in the same position playing for an average team. A significant component of the rankings we do is the time spent by each player on the pitch. We could eliminate this element and you would do if you wanted to see who was the most valuable player at any given time. But we want to see who did best this season, so ability to stay injury-free and be picked is important.

    Lampard tops the midfield players, narrowly beating Steven Gerrard. Cristiano Ronaldo is next, followed by Xabi Alonso. Denilson, perhaps controversially, comes fifth.
    **

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/fink_tank/article6346593.ece

  • shayne

    DENILSON IS SHIT.CANT PASS,CANT RUN,CANT TACKLE,AND U KNOW WHAT FUCKING PISS ME OFF HE DOESNT GET INJURIES BUT GOOD PLAYERS LIKE NASRI AND TOMAS DO.FUCK DENILSON HES SHIT.

  • shayne

    U PEOPLE TALK ABOUT GOOD PLAYERS FOR FU!! SAKE DENILSON ISNT ONE.

  • LRV

    @Ryan: I understand you clearly. You see, it is easy to see whatever side of a person you really are interested in. I specifically did not quote any stats because I know what critics might say.

    If you do not like a person, you tend to see their faults all of the time. You even condition yourself to see those faults in advance, before they actually happen. That’s what you see about Denilson, I am afraid. If, as already pointed out by others, you see his stray passes when he is not even on the pitch, doesn’t that tell you something? I suggest you look again, this time with open mind.

    And for anyone who feels that he is not tall enough, well, he is at least taller than Claude Makalele, who was, and still is for that matter, a master of the DM position.

  • I think the Shayne comment illustrates an interesting point. It is not universally true, but in general, the people who rubbish our players tend to do so without much of an argument. Shayne’s two emails are an extreme example, but generally the anti-Denilson pieces are of this nature – “he’s rubbish”, while the pro-Denilson ones focus on stats and the like.

    Last season I did a little piece for the Observer, and for that game I decided to focus on Denilson rather than follow the ball as one normally does. This was in the game following the Independent’s article which described him as “lightweight”.

    What amazed me was the way Denilson found the space automatically to get the ball from the opponents, not by tackling but by being in that one tiny area of ground where the ball would bounce as the opposition tried to get it, or where it would run to following a hurried clearance etc. His reading of the game, ability to pick the ball up and then move the game forward, was awesome when viewed like that.

    Interestingly it is not just Wenger and the statisticians who believe this – it is also Brazil, who have made him captain of several younger player sides – I don’t have the details in front of me, but I think he was captain of the under 17s etc – so that’s three important sources – Wenger, the stats, Brazil. Against that is Shayne. I think you lose the argument Shayne.

  • Jazbo

    Lol, thats the big problem with a lot of Arsenal supporters, they tend to be followers like sheep or lemmings come on people open your eyes and make up your own opinions , it’s also time for a lot of those who claim to support Arsenal show their true colors and admit that they support Chelski and the Spuds, their only goal on our blogs is to stir up discontent within the ranks of true Arsenal supporters.

    Up the gunners!!!!!!

  • Nasri

    shayne – you are pissed because one of our players doesn’t get injuries?? ‘shame’ is a better name for you!!

  • axis

    Denilson has in fact captained every level of the youth squads for Brazil.

  • cescfiberglass

    IF arsene thought Denilson was good enough, he never would have entered in a bid for Melo. Denilson might have the stats (which i find quite skewed), but he is no hard man, no tackler, he is not the high energy man that arsenal have been missing…

    look at the season we had flamini running the DM position. we were UNSTOPPABLE.. only injuries fucked us over.

    Arsene does want to find that high tempo midfielder, but he is to cheap to spend a little extra, where it is certainly needed..

  • axis

    My first time posting to your site TA…not sure why as I read your articles everyday. Thanks for the reasoned analysis…some of the commentary out there can’t get absurd. Hello everyone…(Hey there Ole & Shotta)

  • steww

    The stats are skewed mr fibreglass? But only in Denilson’s favour? How would that work? Come on tell me, I’m strapped in ready.

  • dan

    I don’t think the debate is over, this team needs to win something first.

  • clay

    cescfibreglass has is right.

    Denilson is not what we need. The huge disparity between our performance when Flamini played alongside Cesc, to how we perform with Denilson, should be evidence enough.

    Stats are just figures. They don’t portray the game or the player in their entirety. You all should know this from watching the game.

  • simba

    Agree he stepped up in the first half of the season and did well, but i was at all the home games and there were times in the second half of the season where our midfield was being overrun. I agree with browny about bendtner. The boys got some fantastic link up play, and yes i know its preseaon but he does seem to link up well with eduardo doesnt he. Once he finds his confidence, and a few more of the booers are off his back i think he will come good.

    ANyway back to the point, denilson. At 21 with stats like that, if he can become more consistent on the positive aspects of his game, then we got a hell of a talent there. I hope this is his season to shine.

  • LRV

    @cescfiberglass: It is not just Wenger who believes in Denilson, Brazil does as well. If they didn’t, he would not have captained their youngsters. As for the stats, I delibrately did not quote them. Besides, if the stats can be used in every other case, e.g to argue for a player that you anti-Denilson people might like to see come to Arsenal, why not for Denilson? I see that you shout Flamini as if he is the be all and end all for that position. That’s great; but do you know how long it took him to sparkle in that 1 season? Do you remember how long he was at Arsenal before that season?

  • stuartlondon

    SHAYNE!!!!! CAN’T STRING A SENTENCE TOGETHER, CAN’T STRING AN ARGUMENT TOGETHER. AND U KNOW WHAT PISSES ME OFF? YOU!!!!
    kind regards
    Stu

  • Damn_Gallas

    Stats sometimes fool people and as such it can only be used as a reference. For those who had watched every game of Arsenal, one would easily come to a conclusion that Denilson is not good enough for Arsenal. Physically weak, slow in pace, no dribble and constructive pass ability.
    His stats were obtained as he was used to be passing to his nearest teammate. He was used to doing the same in the box, it resulted in either making an assist in goal or putting his own teammate in a risky position.
    He seldom put his legs in and always waited and waited until his teammates to put their legs in taking every opportunity to pick up a loose ball.
    Denilson will only be looking good when it was an Arsenal day but he will never be the one who can turn something around.

  • walter

    Excactly my point LRV, about Flamini. He only played one really good season for us, in my opinion. He was awesome that season but before that season the anti-Flamini gang was very big and said the same about him as they say now about Denilson.
    Wenger knew better than all of us, included me, because I have to admit that I never thought Flamini would be that good. Wenger knew it and so I trust more on his opinion than on my own opinion. 😉
    @ Ryan: next time try to see who is on the pitch or even who travels with the team. He was staying in London as far as I know.
    So don’t blame him for Valencia. Thank you.

  • jbh

    A couple of points.
    Denilson has been at the club for 3 yrs, 2 of which were “under the wing” of Gilberto, so I’m not sure why you think he needed more hand holding from Gilberto last season. AW told Gilberto he would be no 2 to Denilson, so left for Greece.
    The lightweight argument doesn’t make sense. In the new age of football, and particularly with Sth Am players you go down when kicked or fouled. Denilson is no exception. He was the most fouled Arsenal player and 4th in the league (same number as Ronaldo). So on top of winning the ball (tackles and intercepts) more than any other player in the league, more passes, and more accurate passes (than any player in the league) he is one of the most fouled (which gives possession often in a good attacking position). For any player to do that in his first season as a 20 year old, and in a team which averages more than 55% possession is quite remarkable.
    The job description for his position is to win the ball and pass it to Cesc/ANO accurately. That is why he is so highly rated throughout Europe. By the way his CL figures for tackling, passing, etc were equally impressive (2nd across all players, and dramatically better than his old friend Gilberto).

  • jbh

    One other thing. Denilson has always been a “volante” (classical Brazilian defensive midfielder) ever since he joined Sao Paolo as an 11 yr old. Of course Brazilians are expected to have good offensive passing skills as well, but DM has always been his job. To suggest he is Cesc (2) is just not right and never has been. Those arguing against the guy are either trolls or just have no understanding of the game.

  • Aaditya

    @Ian Wright Wright – Excuse me, but you seem to have copied the article I posted as a guest on ACLF. If you wish to do such a thing, the very least you could do is to mention where you got the article from.

  • Cape Gooner

    IanWrightWright – your comment is mostly cut out of A Cultured Left Foot article of a couple of weeks ago.

  • Flint McCullough

    Interesting article, LRV.

    Denilson is a super player, who can only improve. The usual criticisms of him are simply absurd. Who knows if we did actually make a bid for Melo?

    When has AW actually played a purely, Makelele style, DM?

    Gilberto was the nearest but he was also generally looking to get forward, as were Petit & Paddy. We tend to have all purpose midfielders.

    The modern trend seems to be to play 2 covering midfielders, like Carrick & Fletcher, against dangerous opposition. They can win the ball & get forward but tend to get & keep possession, getting it forward a bit quicker than we do.

    We can do that with Denilson & Song, while Cesc/Diaby contributes but has a slightly freer role, like Anderson.

    For me, it is not without coincidence, that we started leaking goals again, when Cesc came back. A reason for that was Cesc was probably only fully fit for the last couple of games.

    The key to getting this season right is defending better as a whole team. The forwards have to work as hard as Rooney, the full backs have to be covered better or not take so many risks. There has to be a stronger attitude to defending, together with the determination to set the tempo at the start of each & every game.

    The single DM so craved by many, would just be a change of personnel, allowing the same problems.

    I strongly believe we have the personnel but maybe 1/2 to compete for places & cover the ubiquitous injuries that have already started occurring.

  • Adam Smith

    And surprise surprise where does IanWrightWright usually blog……TeamTalk…..say no more Must be a large family of copy and pasters 🙂

  • good article though think congratulations goes to alex song gave alot to the team esp towards the second half of the season,hope he will develope to a world class DM

  • dan

    The best brasilian youngsters go into the senior national team, diego, pato. Wishful thinking is fine too.

  • Damn_Gallas

    Song better DM at the moment, but Denilson has far more potential. Song’s lack of pace and positional awareness are hard to coach out of him, and the only reason he’s better for us right now is that he adds some oomph to a team thats lacking in a bit of it. Read the article Truegooner and agree with it, especially the rest of the team including the strikers not making his job easier. Makele was the best there was in the position and he was diminutive. However he also had huge brutes behind him doing the donkey work for him. We are asking the DM to do a lot of that at the moment because of our lack of a big CB and so Song, as a CB himself, gets the nod as he beefs up the team. I do feel DEnilson will need to concentrate more if he is to make that role his own, as if often ball watches and loses his man, but he does look to have potential for the role. But we’ll need a big strong CB to help him out.

  • haho

    Ok… My contribution.

    Denilson has proved beyond doubt he is good enough. I was watching the season review last week, and as I prefer my feelings and observations over statistics, I used them. During the first few matches, he was a metronome, and amazing. Newcastle, Blackburn, WBA, Bolton, Man U, Chelsea, etc. He is not slow (not fast by any means, but certainly not slow). He is not weak: in fact, for his size, he is quite wiry. He may never be Mikael Essien, but then again no-one is. His stamina is typically Brazillian: tip-top. Technically he is one of our best: people ignore a lot of his passes and deft touches but they are class. His two goals in the Carling Cup of 2007-2008 were amazing shots, of the highest order.

    I will say that he has been thrown into the deep end a tad early. He may have benefited from being used less. However, most Arsenal fans with the ability to reason (and a degree of eloquence, Shayne) are huge fans, cause they saw in him what the Brazil set-up sees too: he has amazing potential. He captained Brazil right up to the Under 21s. With teammates like Pato, Anderson and Breno. He was always the leader. They may have been promoted, but Dunga sucks as a coach so far (the play ugly crap football) and he is very much in Dunga’s plans, I know for a fact that when Gilberto retires (probably after the World Cup) he will be integrated: Dunga actually rates him above Anderson and Lucas these days, he is of the opinion that Anderson is being raped by making him a CM/DM and will not play him there.

    He can be our Gilberto, or Xabi Alonso (that was a good comparison, another metronome) and he will prove doubters wrong. He has only three problems: Alex Song, Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsey.

    Song is a truer DM, power, energy, and a suprising pass. He can be our Yaya Toure or Mascherano, and then Denilson the Xabi or Xavi. Interesting too say the least, but unlikely: Song and Denilson together will not be played by Wenger.

    Abou Diaby is probably (this is gonna get some backlash) the best player, when he is truly in the zone, the club has. He has power, pace, a great dribble, great shot, good passing, and drives like a 1000hp Hummer. However, he only ever experiences miniscule moments of that. If he could be (a lot) more consistent, he will finally fulfill the promise and become the best BtB in the world.

    Aaron Ramsey is the other contender for that accolade (best BtB) He showed against Valencia limitless energy, has amazing vision (Wales today!) and technique to match. His excerts at RB for Cardiff taught him to defend and he can be the best CM there is in the world. He has it all: at 18 he is already MOTM at international level…

    Also, we have Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin. They too will be great DM’s one day. Coquelin especially….Perhaps they should push the lazy Diaby in to shape, together with Lansbury (great BtB) and JET.

    Denilson is fantastic. He will be an international, and a mainstay for us. Wenger is not wrong on talent, and nor is Sandro Orlandelli, our Brazil scout. He is gonna be a star, a great player, and his modesty, hard work and his natural easyness with anyone (so I’ve heard) will mean he goes farther than most hype-boys…

    That is all.

  • agooner

    Breaking news!!!!
    Barcelona is going to sign Denilson @40m on the coming saturday, i.e. tomorrow, when they missed to sign Cesc.

  • clay

    haho, I hope you weren’t stating that Denilson is comparable to Xavi or will one day be. That’s near blasphemy.

    I agree with most of your points, though.

  • Ken

    LRV, thanks very much for the excellent article. I’ve been thoroughly preplexed by the extraordinary amount of irrational Denilsion basing in the internet and I’m so glad that you have been providing critical, objective, evidential analysis thathas been so lacking. Please keep it up.

  • Mark Mywords

    Stats? The stat you really should be looking at is his time for 50metres. Denilson is slow. Seriously slow. Does it matter? Well yes unfortunately it does. One of the most telling moments of the Man Utd away game was the sight of Ryan Giggs, aged 35, sprinting into the box, with Denilson treading water yards behind. To do the job he does, you have to have a change of gear. On top of that he can’t head the ball and isn’t convincing in the tackle either. I can’t believe some of the crap I’ve been reading.

  • Nick in Frankfurt

    Tony very good website BTW.

    I think the point you missed is the new formation. I have thought for sometime that we need to find a way to play 2 players behind Cesc like denilson AND Song together. One cant leave out fabregas so it makes sense to have a 3 man central midfield – with both the FBs and wide attackers helpin out on the wings. Thats is why Arsene sold Adebeyor. Given that arsenal generally play with attacking midfielders and dont rely on the “big man upfront” – then I would suggest the new 4-3-3 formation is really what arsenal should have played earlier. The crucial question for the new season is not thus about denilson or song. But whether Arshavin and RVP or Walcott can do their job properly on the wings.

  • Abhishek Kumar

    Hi LRV

    I have been reading your posts for quiet some time. Even I look at Denilson and Diaby as great potential(esp. Diaby). But the rumours of Melo and Viera make me feel that Wenger wants Denilson to learn some thing more. Do you have any comments

  • LRV

    @ Abhishek Kumar: The rumours of Melo and Viera were just that, rumours. Do you think that if Arsene wanted either of them at Arsenal they would not be here?

  • GunnerBe

    Very interesting discussion this one, because apart from Shayne, I believe everyone is correct to some extent. I agree that Denilson is an excellent DM, but I also think he’s still got some way to go to be a great DM.
    When I think back to last season the player I most noticed making stray passes was Denilson. Then the next time I noticed him he was winning the ball back. I think statistics can lie, to a degree, so if you accept that and he had great stats with a certain amount of less than stellar activity on the park what you get is a player who is extremely active over the course of a full game. He just doesn’t hare around like a mad dog ensuring people notice him that’s all.
    Like many of us, I am extremely ambivalent about our coming season, but I suspect it’s going to rely heavily on how well Denilson does at DM. If he stays healthy and his game improves just 5% what will that mean to the team performances?

  • sccr13plyr

    It is very simple. With the loss of Flamini, Wenger was digging to find a defensive midfielder (DM) last year. I did not see all of the games last year. But of the ones I did, Denilson was horrible as a DM. Not that he is a bad player, but on several occasions he did not track back appropriately. I could care less about the “bullying”. To me it is being around the ball/player to harry the opponents offensive effort.

    Song performed much better in that capacity last year. It is apparent that Wenger thought so as well having placed him in that role against Everton in the opener.

    The scariest part of the game today to me was when Song pulled up injured. I don’t know who else we have on the team that has both the skills and personality to play that role. To me, this is THE position where we need to acquire more depth with a transfer purchase.

  • goonergerry

    What concerns me in a lot of critical blogs about Denilson and Song is that no account is taken of their stage of development or rate of progress. Denilson is a young player who is making rapid progress-his game does have strengths-an ability to keep possession under pressure and find his man, improving capacity to tackle cleanly and good interception ability. Can be useful in goal scoring positions- however he needs to improve his forward passing and shooting- yesterday showed again that he can shoot,
    There is a tendency amongst gooners to scapegoat fringe players and to blame individuals for collective shortcomings- this is particuarly true of defensive, problems last year attributed to poor positional play by Denilson. Denilson’s primary limitation is his short stature and a tendency to be physically brushed aside against the likes of Chelsea and United. He is getting stronger and at the current rate of improvement will be able to look the Chelsea midfield in the eye in another year’s time. What we will have barring injuries in 12 months time is a world class midfielder- tried and tested in the toughest proving ground for midfielders in the world.