Written by RockyLives
In a game of many villains for us it may seem odd to pick out one, but I’m sad to say that Denilson does not belong in the Arsenal first team.
Before I elaborate, it’s worth having a quick word for each of the other villains of the piece (and some heroes):
Alex Song: idiot for the first booking (he was carded for the dissent, not for the non-foul). Idiot for the second booking: when you’re in a minefield you don’t start doing Riverdance. Song knew that another booking would mean red yet he kept making niggly fouls. The obstruction that led to his second yellow would be a booking seven times out of ten. Aside from the bookings, he seemed leaden-footed and went marauding forward on too many occasions leaving us vulnerable in midfield, as if his goal against Bolton has made him think he’s Thierry Henry.
Phil Dowd: many people’s hate figure for allowing the Sunderland goal in the fifth out of four stoppage time minutes. But we all know that the official allocation of extra time is a minimum and anything above that is discretionary. After the flak that the ref in the Everton v Man Utd game took last weekend for blowing the whistle during an Everton attacking move it’s not surprising that refs this week were hyper-sensitive to the issue. Anyway, we’ve benefitted in the past from extra-extra time goals ourselves. If I was going to take issue with Dowd (who was generally pretty good) it would be over the fact that Bramble twice scythed down our players on the edge of the box as they bore down on goal and neither foul produced a card.
Rosicky: he had a good game overall, but the penalty miss makes him a villain. However, even the best players fail to convert pens occasionally and there’s no point dwelling on it.
Jack Wilshere: London made the point on here yesterday that in the first half he was leaking balls like a pair of torn underpants and perhaps should have been rested after the Braga game. He certainly struggled in the first half, but I thought he played very well in the second and, unlike the more experienced Song, was careful not to incur a second yellow.
Andrei Arshavin: will whoever has pinched his shooting boots please return them immediately to Mr A. Arshavin, Ashburton Grove, London N5. No questions will be asked.
Heroes: although Sunderland played really well and made a few half decent chances, Almunia, Kozzer and Squelchy all played well. Up front, Chamakh put in a tireless shift but in the last 15 perhaps he should have been replaced by Vela. Nasri and Rosicky also had good games overall.
And so to Denilson.
Let me start by saying I’m not a Denilson hater and I don’t like scapegoating players. I was at the Wigan game when so-called fans were booing Eboue and I was not one of them. I was away at Fulham when a 17-year-old Alex Song was shamefully booed by the traveling support and I did not boo then either.
Two seasons ago I thought Denilson was a promising player, tidy on the ball and efficient with his short passing game. He was far from the finished article but, if he continued to progress, he had the potential to end up being a first team regular. What’s more, he was Brazilian and we all know that Brazilians have an extra bit of brain devoted exclusively to footballing skills (it’s in place of the ‘don’t cut down rain forests’ bit of the brain).
Sadly little Den has not progressed and has, in fact, regressed. Two seasons ago he seemed able to maintain his focus and work rate. That’s not the case now. He was rightly condemned for some of his woeful performances last year (being overtaken by the ref during a Man Utd break which led to a goal was a particular low point). Looking at his 37 minutes and 15 seconds yesterday it seems he’s learnt nothing from that criticism. In that relatively short space of time I counted three occasions on which the Sunderland player he was challenging did a give-and-go, and Denilson turned to stand and watch the path of the ball instead of going with his man. It was as if he was a spectator while his opponent raced ahead into dangerous positions. Even Sunday League players know that when the man you’re supposedly marking or closing down gives the ball and runs you’re supposed to go with him. On other occasions when Sunderland won the ball in their own half and attacked at pace, you could see most of the Arsenal players sprinting back to cover – apart from one: there was Denilson, jogging gently back as if it was the end-of-game warm down.
To reluctantly steal a quote from Alan Hansen, it’s as if his football brain is not fully developed; as if his awareness of what to do in crucial situations has gone adrift. I feel sorry for him, I really do. I would love nothing more than to see him turn into a world class midfielder. Elements of his game are still good – his short passing in particular – but it’s not enough. He has become a liability and I have no doubt his inattention will lead directly to us conceding goals this year.
I have a sneaky hope that Arsène knows this too, which is why Denilson has slipped down the pecking order behind Wilshere and Diaby (and no doubt behind Ramsey too when he returns).
I will never boo him, I will never barrack him, and when he turns out for Arsenal I will support him, but I fear the time has come to say goodbye to Denilson.