Denilson: Another Wenger Special?
By Aaditya Gupta
Since his display on Saturday the anti-Denilson brigade has been muted. But there is no doubt they will be back on the rampage if he has what they perceive to be a poor game.
Over the 2008/09 season, no player has been more controversial in terms of popular opinion as Denilson. Everybody, from bloggers, to the press, to my neighbour’s dog, to the hobo outside Stamford Bridge, to the fish in the river Thames has an opinion about him.
There are people who put him at the level of a headless chicken and there are others who call him the new DM legend at Arsenal.
Even after scoring a goal and clearing one off the line those against Denilson will still say he is too small to be a defensive midfielder in such a physical league. He gets muscled away by opponents. Most of the times he stands and watches as the man he was supposed to be marking beats him for pace and strength. He looses the ball far too often and he only knows how to pass sideways……..Hold on a sec there!
Sure, Denilson passes the ball around sideways all the time, I’m sure that’s how he got 7 assists last season. He got 6 of them in the 1st half. The top assister in the league (Van Persie) got just 11 throughout the season, playing as an attacking player the whole time. This means that until December, Denilson was Arsenal’s best playmaker, above Cesc and Van Persie (who, by the way, never get any slack for not showing up)
Denilson was NOT supposed to be a defensive midfielder. He was a centre mid in the same mould as Cesc. In January, Mr. Wenger realized that our defense was too disorganized (Gallas and Toure were both sweepers) and as a result, asked Denilson to defend a bit more. Result? 21 Unbeaten Premier League games.
On our unbeaten run of 21 + the Chelsea game we lost, Denilson played in 21 matches. He was subbed off only at Anfield on the 65th minute. When he was on pitch we conceded 13 goals in 2045 minutes (1 goal in 157 mins.), when he was off it we conceded 6 goals in 115 (1 goal in 19 mins).
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.
So let’s get this straight. 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 in midfield.
Denilson is too inexperienced to handle both roles efficiently at the same time. How are we going to give him that experience? Normally, giving players 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 organized. Think an organized defense, plus Arshavin, Rosicky and Cesc all working towards creating chances, plus Eduardo and RVP to finish the gazillion chances 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 a Melo who costs 20mil and misses out 9 games a season due to suspension. Or Cana who is now negotiating with the likes of Sunderland. 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!
Editor’s note: We ran a piece on Denilson here about a week ago and it got a near-record number of replies. This article from Aaditya Gupta takes the debate on a step further by supplying more stats. And of course in the interim we have had the chance to see the first game of the season.
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