Denilson: brilliant or a waste of space?

Jonanthan Brown wrote to me directly, rather than via the blog, on the issue of Denilson, and I would like to pass on his thoughts.


To declare my position: I think Denilson is a sensation, but that he suffers as Gilberto did in the fans’ eyes.  If you remember, Gilberto was often thought to be the weak link in the team – until he had a year out with the back injury.  When he came back the roar was huge – everyone suddenly realised what we had been missing.  The “invisible wall” really was fundamental to the way the team worked.


So it seems to me it is with Denilson.   But now it is not just my word for it.

Jonathan has searched the Actim Index stats page – the stats used by the Premiership to grade players. Under the midfielders tag we find Denilson lying in 6th place with 230 points, behind Lampard, Ashley Young, Gareth Barry, Stephen Ireland and Mike Arteta.


As Jonathan says, “By my reckoning this makes Denilson the second best defensive midfielder behind Gareth Barry.”


This is confirmed by the Guardians Fantasy Football stats that has Denilson as the best Defensive Midfielder with 277 points. Played 19 games with 3 goals, 5 assists, 71 interceptions, 11 clearances, 56 tackles won.


I am not suggesting anyone who is a convinced anti-Denilson person will be persuaded – but for anyone who has watched the game and thought, hang on, there is more to Denilson than meets the eye, you will find the stats are with you.


Which raises the question – given that the Lord Wenger has said he will buy someone to play in midfield, the issue is, what will the new midfield look like?   My suggestion is that Denilson will stay, and we will have someone in who can play alongside him, or replace Denilson in the event of an injury, thus giving us the midfield of Nasri, Newman, Denilson, Diaby or Eboue or Walcott or Rosicky.


26 Replies to “Denilson: brilliant or a waste of space?”

  1. He is exceptional and altough he has one or two moments of carelesness, he has alot of time and could be a world class player as viera said also….Keep faith in him fellow gooners!!!!!

  2. I’ve always supported the little Brazilian-thought he was class in the making. Although he is small (and so is Cesc and Flamini) he has stamina, heart, and a good head on his shoulder. He’s been at the club for 2-3 years now and has learned from Cesc, Gilberto, and Flamini. Now he is starting to come into his own. I believe this was the year Flamini had in 06′ right before his break out year in 07′. Denilson has shown why he is in the lineup and will next year prove that he should be in the lineup. With the injuries the club is picking up-especially to the influential players-I think Denilson will come good in the CM position or even the deep lying DM playmaking spot. Since Cesc is a long way off…theres no one I’d rather have to fill the spot then lil’ Cesc….oh no thats not right…little Denilson.

  3. Hi. I’ve just come across this blog and it is good to find one that is not full of the same rubbish. Clever and insightful. Just want to propose a link swap if possible?

    Anyway back to real matters, I don’t think stats can tell you everything cos as they say football is a complex game made of simple things. It doesn’t tell you where he tackled, how he tackled, whether easy etc.
    He is good and is getting better. I think taking a small break from the centre and moving wide also helped and he seemed to learn a few things such as shielding and making certain passes, positioning etc. Still needs to positioning himself tactically and impose himself on the game. When he partnered Song he should have took the attacking reigns a bit more which against Villa was lacking until he got the goal in the first half.

  4. Its sad when fans ire is directed towards one individual. Denilson is blamed on the team’s failure. Our defence has not covered itself in glory and the kid is learning as he goes along. People forget that its his first season as starting player. His attitude is first class and frankly I like th cut of his jib.

  5. Denilson has a lot of potential no doubt but im not taking a typical fans view here but I still feel he is far behind our other midfielders. Although labelled as a defensive midfielder he does shy away from defensive duties which is surprising when he can tackle, taking the Villa game as example. I also feel he is the least capable passer in the team, and is one guilty of giving the ball away too much. I would like to see him go out on loan and get some good games under his belt because I think he needs a good run and a run of confidence and I think the current surroundings he’s under, a midfield being critisized as not being strong enough is having a negative effect on him.

  6. I’ve been a Denilson fan ever since he got here and I think he’s a good player. He’s still only 20 so I don’t think he should have to play every match though. He’s developing well and I think one day he’ll really be great for us, but for now I’d like someone to come in that is quality just to have more depth at the position. Song is a waste and cannot be playing in a top team as much as he has this season. Denilson will be great though.

  7. Some of the uninformed criticism of Denilson is unbelievable. Fireside scribblers who’ve never kicked a ball in their lives or even seen the Emirates on anything other than a cathode ray tube, open their mouths, let their bellies rumble and think they’ve made some kind of contribution. The Grumbling Hooker (sp?) is one of the worst.

    Age 20 and in his FIRST full season in the EPL, Denilson is right on track to be one of the world’s greats. His game develops by the week. Is he the perfect finished article? Of-course he isn’t! Only a numpty like the Hawking Gobball (sp?) would expect him to be. Does he have every skill in his toolbag to take him to the top? You bet he does. A hugely insightful signing by Wenger. If he wasn’t already in our squad but playing for Chelsea, noodle-eaters like The Hooking Fleabag (sp?) would be recommending AW buy him for $20M as a great prospect with EPL experience.

    Denilson, close your ears and continue to play your heart out.

  8. Walcott, Denilson, Diaby, Nasri do not contribute to the team defensively which is a BIG MISTAKE FOR YOUNG PLAYERS. If these players do not correct this grave error, they will inevitably prove to be average at best.

    Without significant changes a top four spot may not happen. I believe many fans and indeed some of our players do not understand the importance of a top four place.

  9. Dane: how can you say that he is the worst passer on the team? look at the stats mate….you should know what your talking about before you say it.

    Denilson is class. He is highly regarded by the Brazilian federation, wenger, the players around him vieira, gilberto, cesc etc…..aka the people that matter.

    He is struggling because the team is struggling. They will come good together….only the TEAM is going to change things not individuals.

  10. Dane, I have to say your impression is based on what you think is happening rather than what is actually happening. Denilson actually works very hard, puts in the tackles and gets about the midfield as the stats show. If you watch him without prejudice, he actually rarely gives the ball away and makes some key interceptions. He is small and can sometimes be muscled off the ball, but he is having his first run in the team and is learning and improving everyday. He has been our most consistent midfielder all season, even when played out on the right or left at times he still makes a good contribution.

    Too many people expect him to be a Flamini clone and because he is not, he is unfairly criticized for this. He is a different player and I can assure you that even Flamini without the Cesc of last season plus Hleb and Rosicky would not be doing better. The team selection has not been consistent from week to week due to injuries so it has been difficult to get partnerships going, but Denilson quietly gets on in whatever position he finds himself and works hard. He deserves our support not constant criticism, because whilst he has made mistakes he is by no means the sole cause of our troubles.

  11. Denilson is not yet the finished article, and when he is, he will likely be quite a talent. But as it stands this season, he is far from the 6th best midfielder in the league. As the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. I’ve heard this argument for Denilson before, so I will respond now as I did then.

    First off, I’m not here to slag off Denilson. But he has been more of a detriment to Arsenal’s success, in my opinion, than an aid. Firstly, as a defensive midfielder, he is sorely lacking. His insistence (and this goes for the far inferior Alex Song as well) on bombing forward has left our best player and the one through whom our best attacks flow, Cesc Fabregas, forced to stay back in defence, which has left our offense looking flat… remember, Adebayor, who needs 3 tries to spill water from a glass onto the floor, scored 30+ goals last season with the consistent service provided by Cesc.

    Secondly, his passing leaves something to be desired. The stats show him completing a high percentage… however, those same stats include the many, many passes he has bone backward with. These occur most frequently when Denilson, through no fault of his own, is played out of position on the wing. But in the spirit of complete honesty, more often than not, when Denilson takes possession in attack, that attack tends to stall and regress into a kickabout 20-30 yards from goal.

    Third, and finally: if Gilberto Silva had not been sold in the transfer window, who would you have been starting alongside Cesc all season? I know for me it’s always the Rock of Gilberto.

    To Denilson’s credit, he works hard, and I believe in a more attacking midfield role, he will play more freely and excel. But his limitations (physically weak, lack of pace, shies from challenges) seem to outweigh his contributions this season. I welcome those who disagree to try and sway me, but this is how I’ve seen things all season long.

  12. I totally agree with this article…..Denilson does work hard for the team, give him until 2009/2010 season and you see that he’s a very good player and will be better than likes of Lampard, Barry etc…….. People forget how young he is and with Fabregas out i feel he has done extremely well in midfield.

    Our main problem is in defence and scoring goals. How many times we have led the game by one goal and end up drawing because we don’t have a Henry type sticker who can kill the game by scoring more than one goal! Our defence goes into panic mode towards the last 20 mins conceding from corners and free kicks. We don’t have any pace in the game where in the past we could counter attack due to injuries with Rosicky & Wallcott out the team. We need to strengthen our central defence….sell Gallas & Toure

    Put it this way, had we had Walcott, Rosicky & Eduardo fit from the beginning, we would be on top of the league and mixing it up with the likes of Ramsey, Wiltshire & Vela.

    The players that don’t deserve to wear the arsenal shirt are Eboue & Bentnar the rest I am happy with but with a couple of additions.

  13. Ill put it like this if their was a 50/50 ball to save your life and you have a choice of Denilison, Macherano, Gerrard or Essien to win it on your behalf, who would you choose…..that is the problem, he is a very able deputy for Cesc…no more….why is our midfield, THE ARSENAL, one of Europes big teams have players learning on the job… makes me head hurt.

  14. Trouble is, if you put Macherano or Essien in an Arsenal shirt they would be sent off every other game. Even Gerrard wouldn’t be allowed his regular two-footed challenge.

  15. Will that be a 50/50 air-ball or ground ball?

    Anyway, Happy new year Tony and the rest. Have a great one!!

  16. colonel mustard, yes, the current midfield is not good enough. Either they’re too young or they just don’t know how to play team defense. This team needs to be changed and experience brought in. Wenger knows it but can he actually bring the right players in?

  17. To me, denilson is a capable player, but at stages like what we are now, it is not the right time to make a player improve, rather, we need someone who is at his best. Trial and error is at the beginning of the season , or when you are at the top of the league with sufficient lead in front, those Thierry Henry days, when we used to score goals on an average of 4 per game.

  18. don’t be fooled by stats! the likes of essien havnt player this year and he is a far btter player than denilson. and it is fair to compare denilson with flamini, because look at the other 3 starting midfielder, provided everyone is fit its Walcott, fabregas and nasri. undoubtedly, denilson is the weakest player in the midfield, in fact the other 3 are excellent players. denilson is ok to sit on the bench but the other top sides have much better options in the midfield role than we have.
    also there are many flaws in your stats, for example, Liverpool and man united generally play two sitting midfielders and. Chelsea play three central midfielders, whereas the sole defensive responsibility of our midfield defence lied on denilson. and we need to replace him.

  19. >>.why is our midfield, THE ARSENAL, one of Europes big teams have players learning on the job… makes me head hurt.

  20. “..why is our midfield, THE ARSENAL, one of Europes big teams have players learning on the job… makes me head hurt…”

    That’s what makes Arsenal different from others, and i hope this will become our tradition in post-Arsene Wenger era. Many clubs and their fans nowadays are looking for quick success, by paying crazily inflated big money to get proven and established players, whom may only serve for few seasons. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but i don’t thinnk i want Arsenal to be one of these clubs. I really love the club for how it is run, i.e. self-sustaining, nurture players, get them developed into world class players, get some silverware for us, then we can sell them for profit. That’s the legacy i want Wenger to build. Success is not measured by silverware alone, it’s more than that. It made me sick when some self-proclaimed “hardcore fans” ranting we have not won any trophy for the last few season, and that is not acceptable….bla..bla..bla..

  21. I was not impressed with flamini of 06, then 07 came and I ate my words. I wont do the same with Denilson, I think he is still developing so I am not so impressed so far, but I really feel that he is shaping up to be a great midfielder. I cant question his work rate and he does produce moments that say “I am brazilian”
    But as the blogger said, expect more from him next year, so I think we should all stick by him this season and not to blame for the overall poor peformance by the team.

  22. Over the past twelve months Andrei Arshavin has become a big name in European football. He has undoubted talent and announced his intention of leaving Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia.

    The price bandied about for Andrei Arshavin is £20m, extortionate for a player who is unproven outside of Russia. £10m would be worth a risk but probably a risk worth taking.

    Arsenal have been linked with a move for him since the summer and while I agree that a player of his ability would be welcome at Arsenal there could be someone a little closer to home, who I believe would be better value too!

    For me Mikel Arteta would be a perfect signing for Arsenal and I’m sure he would cost a lot less than £20m!

    In Arsene Wenger’s programme notes for Sunday’s match against Portsmouth he admitted Arsenal might need a creative spark due to the injuries Fabregas, Walcott and Rosicky have suffered.

    Arshavin and Arteta are players who can provide that spark but Arteta has something that Arshavin doesn’t possess. Premiership experience.

    Arteta wouldn’t need time to settle in at Arsenal. He has played in the Premiership since 2005 and Arsenal need players who can make an impact now. He is used to the league and I’d argue that Arshavin, despite his talent, would need at least six months to acclimatise to Premiership football.

    Mikel Arteta is very versatile and that would appeal to Arsene Wenger, who as we all know, loves to play players out of position. Able to play anywhere across the midfield, Arteta would be
    a vital player for anyone to have.

    We could use him in the middle of the park to provide cover for Cesc’s absence and when Cesc returns he can quite easily play on either side of midfield where he has excelled for Everton.

    I think he would relish a move to Arsenal. Without sounding disrespectful to Everton, it would help his chances of international football too. He would be playing in the Champions League regularly and that always gets the eye of a national coach.

    I read that Everton are in need of money and David Moyes needs to sell before he can buy. I wonder if Wenger could put in an offer that just maybe too good to refuse.

  23. great article. Honestly I see nothing wrongh with Denilson, he is very good and would soon get to the status of Flamster very soon. I just hope Wenger does not buy a direct replacement for him instead a loanee that will replace Fabregas pending when he comes back and a very good Central defender and possibly a Striker to replace almost useless Bendnter – I said almost not useless 😀

  24. Hi Tony
    I am big Denilson fan as well, so thanks for the ammunition for debates!

    @ Simba
    I agree – it would be FANTASTIC to get Arteta. I’m not going to let myself get excited, though – I’ll wait and see what Wenger does.

    @ Molosser
    Hear, hear! I love to watch the players develop and (most of the time) come good.

  25. I think Denilson is the only solace we can take from our central midfield this season. Song has been dreadful, although, surprisingly, played well against Chelsea (I think). Unless Song buckles down and starts to get some good form going, we’ll probably need to dip in the market. Denilson was superb against Villa, particularly the 15-20 minute spell after the halftime break, but seemed to fade off a bit, I think, when no one else seemed to want to put in the effort. That’s the thing, I reckon, it’s the shortcoming of youth; the uncertainty during crunch time. I really hope Wenger gets some worthy replacements with the same kind of attitude of Sagna, Fabregas, Eduardo, who I believe are the few that always give it their all

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