Samba de Denilson

June 11, 2010

If there is one player who divides the Gooners it is Denilson. A young man in whom Mr Wenger continues to have faith in whilst the vast majority see nothing above the ordinary. Why?

Some history. Denilson was born in the poverty stricken favelas of Sao Paolo, raised by his father – his mother dying when he was 10. Footballing ability kept him out of the drug gangs though many of his contempararies died in street gun battles. This is a tough kid. He came to Arsenal on the back of fine performances for Sao Paolo in the Copa Libertadores, as an 18 y.o. reserve team player the fee of £3.4m appears very generous to say the least. Arriving at Arsenal with no English, he must have been terribly homesick and fearful. Denilson seems to be a very shy lad and has consequently struggled to establish his persona on the team.

Denilson has played over 100 games for Arsenal which comes as some surprise. In fact he scored on his 100th appearance – the cracker against Standard Liege. He would seem to be an integral member of Wenger’s squad and as such it is interesting to analyse his input, because many do not see how he improves the team.

AW says of Denilson that he is a cross between Rosicky and Gilberto Silva. He can play “the Invisible Wall”, and be creative. He certainly has a powerful and accurate shot. It is often pointed out that statistically Denilson is one of the most efficient midfielders in the PL, his pass completion is excellent, he is one of the most succesful tacklers and his pitch coverage is also very good – though it is in this area that Denilson has come under the most scrutiny. That the referee beat his trackback for the Rooney goal at THOF last season opened him up to damning condemnation, this was proof of Denilson’s laziness and lack of application. Poppycock. Lack of concentration – certainly, rank poor defending – definitely, but laziness? Not in my opinion. Denilson is one of the hardest working players in the PL ….. and his stats prove it 😉

Of course people say his excellent pass completion is due to him passing sideways and delivering short balls to Cesc or Nasri/Diaby. Well, that is his game and what he is paid to do, Cesc has better vision and part of Denilson’s job is to get the ball to his Captain as often as possible and as quickly as possible.

Our no.15 scored 5 goals in 25 appearances last season and all were from outside the box. Surely this is evidence of his value to the team, for aside from RvP, who else shoots?

What Denilson lacks is the ability to impose himself upon the game, his slight physique is a major negative compared to Song, and he hasn’t huge pace. Nonetheless, he is a fine tackler and it should be recalled that he at just 22 y.o.  he is very young for a DM. Plus he has suffered with back injuries over the past 2 seasons which have hindered his development.

I am not suggesting that Denilson is the answer to our DM problems, but he is a fine back-up and will hopefully continue to develop. He was our 6th highest scorer from only half a season’s games and that from a deep lying position. Furthermore he will surely learn to concentrate for 90+ minutes after his MU humiliation.

As to his future at Arsenal there must be some doubt. The purchase and initial development of Ramsey will caste a shadow upon Denilson’s future. Ramsey (assuming a full return to fitness) is a wonderful prospect and sure to be an integral member of the first 11. He has what Denilson lacks – visibility – you know when Ramsey is on the pitch, whereas Denilson like Silva is “invisible.” Will Denilson accept a bench role?

I see a fine player in the making but a player in the wrong League. Sadly for Denilson, he is too lightweight for his position in the team and Song has proved this. I would keep him for another couple of seasons to see if he bulks up, and to shepherd in the arrival of Ramsey. Then sell him to Spain where I would expect him to have a fine career.