The Denilson Show

There are two ways to rubbish players.  One is to dismiss them in one line, just saying “he’s ineffective” and leaving it at that.  The implication is that he is so bad everyone knows it, you don’t have to say another word.   The other is to argue the point constructively, using the stats, showing comparisons with other players at different times in their careers etc.

So, if we take Adebayor, we could call him “ineffective” or “past it” or whatever, or we could do an analysis which shows that up to the end of last season he was on a par with Henry in terms of goals scored year by year since joining the club.   Of late he seems to have lost his way – so we could then have a debate about how many players do go through bad times, whether they come back from it, how long it takes etc.

Sadly this latter type of debate doesn’t happen much, which is a shame, because people are more complex than one-liners.   OK in extreme circumstances you can do it (as in the somewhat unlikely scenario of the Lord Wenger selecting me to play in midfield against Cardiff on tuesday) but mostly there are deeper issues to take into account.

Nowhere is this more so than with Denilson.  I’ve been thinking all season, wow, this guy has come on, he really is starting to patrol and control the midfield, generally in the right place, intercepting, moving on with telling passes, getting better game by game.

Then in saturday’s Independent there was a dreadful snipe at him – one of those simple one or two word dismissals, with no argument, no debate – consigning Denilson to the dustbin of football.

It amazed me, because as I watch him, he is becoming more and more like – and even beyond – Gilberto.  If you remember everyone said Gilberto was useless, but then when he was out for a year we missed him like anything, and there was a huge roar upon his return.   When he became captain of Brazil few people admitted that maybe their judgement had been wrong.

So, Denilson.   The stats show he is the second best defensive midfielder in the country.  Of course I don’t sit in the Ems and do stats – I am rather otherwise engaged in supporting my team and having hearty banter with those around me.

But yesterday against the bankrupted West Iceland it was so obvious: he ran the show.  He must have touched the ball two or three times more than anyone else – he had that remarkable ability to know where to be to intercept (the ability that led to Gilberto being called The Invisible Wall).   Yes, he misplaced a handful of passes.   But it was only a handful, compared with a huge number of correct, well-timed and above all important tackles, followed by a release of the ball taking us onto another attack.

As I mentioned in my little piece in the Observer, the guy can’t to it all alone, and what he needed was another creative player near him whom he could release and send on his way.  Theo, Cesc, Rosicky… any of them playing with Denilson and Nasri, and we’d be there.

As it was, Nasri was the one creative hope in midfield until Vela came on, with Diaby playing one of his more defensive games.   Then sadly Vela seemed to fade quite quickly and that early promise wasn’t sustained.

Of course I am talking from watching the match there, in the freezing cold, rather than on TV with all the replays and the defining view of the commentators.   But I did sneak a look at the goal attempts in the Guardian this morning.  We won 15-2.   And those goal attempts all started somewhere.  Mostly, I would venture to say, with Denilson.

Finally: West Iceland United.   Before the match there was a brief tribute to a previous club doctor who died recently.  His wife was there, and the players wore armbands.   What did the West Iceland fans do during the very brief speech about the deceased?  They chanted abuse.

Some things never change.

Again apologies for the delay in passing comments for publication for the last two days, I was away from any computers.  And while I do appreciate comments about how good the blog is, that vision tends to be a bit diminished if it is then immediately followed by a series of adverts for another site.

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

11 Replies to “The Denilson Show”

  1. i agree that denilson ran the show.. i was very disapointed with the result and the way wham one stage they played 7-2-1 formation, while arsenal played something like you mentioned somewhere..i m afraid that epl will be soon as boring as seria A…
    at least totts lost again;)

  2. finally some sense!
    thats exactly how i felt the last few times ive seen denilson
    hes got a bit of gilberto in him definitely, but he can have a more expansive game as u were saying – he needs to develop that final ball a bit though
    that will come, but when it does i feel we’ve got a really excellent player on our hands

  3. One would expect Arsenal fans to be positive about the team or offer constructive criticism. The unusually high level of “time for Wenger to go” and absolute panning of players is more attune to the fans of other teams attempting to disgruntle Arsenal fans and create dissension. You are right in blocking those that do not constructively add to the debate.

    Stats don’t show everything but over an extended run of games and by looking at the key stats appropriate by position you do get a good understanding of who is and isn’t good. Defensive midfielder is one of those positions where the stats don’t lie. Over 24 games of the EPL Denilson as of today, is the leading midfielder in terms of passes, accurate passes, tackles (best amongst top 4) and pass interceptions. Making tackles, interceptions, and being always available to get the ball and move it on quickly and accurately is the job description for his position, as it was for Flamini and Gilberto. He is not the creative midfielder (Cesc, Rosicky, Nasri, etc) but the water carrier (although his assists and assist attempts are actually very respectable).

    The counter arguments fall into 2 areas – he has made Cesc be more defensive (and less effective) because he gets forward too much, and his passes are too short and often sideways or backwards. The answer to these points is easy – Cesc, before his injury was making just as many assist attempts and attempts (himself) on goal as last year (and tackles) – only he was himself not as efficient in scoring goals. In terms of passing, yes, many of Denilsons passes are short and sideways or backwards, but that is the case for all in his position, and bearing in mind that he is not the key creative midfielder. His assists, assist attempts and shots on goal (better than Flamini) show that he is still doing his bit in the attacking third of the pitch, and the fact that his pass pattern shows activity in all parts of the pitch show that he is fast becoming a strong box to box player (again part of Wengers job description for him).

    The criticisms of Denilson are often a veiled attempt at criticising Wenger for not signing Flamini (140k a week when you consider his signing on bonus at AC Milan) or signing a high profile, high cost, midfield bruiser. But as Denilson puts in more tackles, intercepts and passes than any other player in the UK or indeed in the Champions league this year (top 3 in these categories) – then who is there to buy?

    It is easy to ascribe the problems of the team to the “skiny young guy” that is “overawed” by the Premier league, or “what was Wenger thinking when he failed to sign….. (Viera clone – if such a thing exists)”. But the reality is that the problems of the team cannot be put at Denilson’s door – his performances as a 20 year old in this position, and in his first season in the PL and CL is quite remarkable. As I wrote the other day the real reason for being 5th (not say 2nd or 1st) is the poor conversion rate of the chances the strikers are getting, and weaknesses amongst the defenders (compared to say Man Utd). But thats for another days debate.

  4. … the Telegraph also made Denilson man of the match for yesterday, as they have done on many occasions this year.

  5. Hi Tony,

    thanks for the excellent article today. I also read your verdict on yesterday’s game over in the Observer. You said you’d give 10 for everybody, but no one actually?! Eh?

    I’m just joking.

    I couldn’t agree more on the point you make about denilson. I was awed of how brilliantly he controlled the midfield.Quietly, yet brillantly, and how composed he was! I checked the stats from yesterdays’ game, and diaby made a lot of successful tackles and denilson made so many interceptions. I’m sure if denilson were playing for other teams, he’d be one of the players I’d hate most because he just breaks off opposition’s play here and there so often. How annoying that must be!
    Keep up the good work. I really appreciate.

    Thanks jbh, for your posts. I couldn’t put it myself better.

  6. I agree Denilson was excellent again yesterday so I can’t understand this obsession with the need for a defensive midfielder.

  7. “Yes, he misplaced a handful of passes”

    This really is too much!

    Since when was 2 a handful?

    I thought he was magnificent yesterday in a team performance that would have stated that we were really cranking up our game now, had Ade taken even 1 of the chances that you have to convert to win a game against opposition, that have no intention of playing.

    Credit WHU, for their defending but it is sad that a great guy like Zola resorts to the tactics of the other 75% of the PL, who show no ambition.

    I overheard a conversation at the station – Denilson is poo, Diaby is poo, Song etc & no one would have got into the Invincibles.

    Fabregas & RVP certainly but I think if we can keep them together the question, in 2 years, will be, “how many of the Invincibles were good enough to play with this team?”

    Keep up the excellent work Tony.

  8. Agreed Tony.
    You sum up my feelings perfectly.
    Too many are written off for no reason, and no-one really investigates to find out the real truth about players, they just repeat what others say, even when based on no facts.
    Denilson was excellent yesterday.

  9. Great article, I have only recently found this blog but I love it! It’s on the bookmarks toolbar already 🙂

    My question is, can anyone point me to the stats you have been referring to… I’d love to have a read of it myself and get some juicy facts for all the anti-arsenal banter I get at work!

    Thanks, again, fantastic read

  10. Leaving the Emirates yesterday, I convinced myself that a point against West Ham was okay. Before I knew what the Villa score was I thought I had just witnessed a disaster. I assumed Villa would beat Wigan at home and that we would be faced with an horrific 7 point deficit to chase. Upon finding out that Villa had also drawn a blank, I decided that it was a good thing that at least we had not lost any ground on them.

    However this morning it has really hit home that yesterday was one of few chances we will have in the remainder of the season to close the gap. Not only on Villa, but also on Chelsea and Liverpool, with one or both of them dropping points later on today. This is really going to be a big grind for fourth place until the end of the season.

    The game itself was nothing to write home about. In the first half the only real chance I can remember was an early Diaby header from a corner that was deflected on to the top of the bar. West Ham had no intention of leaving their own half for the entire game. Their gameplan in my opinion was nothing short of a disgrace. I know people say ‘what do you expect them to do? Go at Arsenal all guns blazing and concede heavily due to being exposed from their attacks?’. However when you see, with 5 minutes to go, West Ham counter-attacking us with four/five players to our two you would expect them to go for the winner. But no, they merely turned back to their own half and rejected the chance to trouble Almunia for, perhaps, the second time in the 90 minutes. Shocking shocking stuff in my opinion.

    People will say it is down to us to break these teams down. It is. However Arsene has since said that his team were lacking sharpness after tough away games against Cardiff and Everton. I’m sorry but that just doesn’t work for me. This team should be used to playing three times a week. Earlier in the season we played three games a week, with midweek games in Istanbul, Kiev and Porto. It is just the way it is and AW needs to ensure he has a squad capable of coping with the hectic schedule that comes with being a top European team. We really needed the three points yesterday, I find it bitterly disappointing that we couldn’t convert what must have been 70%+ possession into a goal (which, lets face it would have been more than enough to beat a side who had no intention of scoring themselves).

    Is anyone else thinking we should have taken the £20m+ for Adebayor? What has happened to him? I have never seen a player look so disinterested in playing for us. Two guilt-edged chances. The first was a perfectly floated cross. From about 6 yards out he rose and met the ball only to head it passively straight at Rob Green. The second, a great piece of skill from Bendtner who slid the ball across the 6 yard line. Adebayor managed to scuff it about a yard wide of the near post. Unbelieveable. When you consider the miss he had against Bolton a couple of weeks earlier, you struggle to see how Bendtner (who got better as the game progressed) was taken off for RVP when he was far more influential in the game than Adebayor.

    Given his knack of scoring late goals for us, it really should have been Adebayor going off instead of Bendtner. All this will have done is tell Adebayor that he is an invincible member of the squad, rather than giving him the kick up the **** he needs (and deserves) in order to get him to get his act together. We also lost Diaby an Eboue to injuries. Yes, more injuries. It hasn’t been disclosed yet how long each player will be out for, but we do know Diaby will miss the game against Sp*rs next week for picking up his 5th yellow card of the season.

    So, apart from not losing ground on Villa, can we take any more positives from yesterday? Maybe. Here’s hoping that yesterday will have convinced AW that we must do whatever it is necessary to bring Arshavin to the club. With Arshavin’s penetrative power and ability to go past people (as AW himself has recently said), we will be better-equipped to beat teams whose tactics are to park the bus and do nothing else.

    I think he needs to sign him, not only for the good of the team, but also to keep the fans on his side. People are losing patience and not many of us buy into his stance that we have resources within the squad that can ensure a top-four finish, as well as serious challenges on the Champions League and FA cup. Only 30 more painful hours to go until the window closes. We will know soon enough whether the deal is on.

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