Denilson makes presence felt as injury leaves void in the middle

Denilson’s back injury is a huge blow for Arsenal who will miss the Brazilian’s industry and protection he provides in central midfield.

“Denilson has a small fracture in his back,” said manager Arsene Wenger. “He will be out for two months.” The news nearly had me doing an Ashley Cole swerve off the road (incidentally Nicklas Bendtner was not in the same car as me, nor was it an Aston Martin). The Brazilian has become a crucial piece of the Arsenal puzzle, his hard work and expert reading of the game adding great balance to the side. But he still remains underrated and unsung; BBC Sport made it their top story when it broke but only offering a couple of lines and an old(ish) quote further underlines his under appreciation.

The criticism of Denilson reminds me of that of Ray Wilkins, now Chelsea coach but without all the ball throwing at referees. His tendency to pass sideways gave him the nickname The Crab but as one top Brazilian coach viewed it, passing the ball to the correct person was a skill which requires strong discipline, decision-making and a large dose of unselfishness. And while Denilson’s technique is not quite as strong as the former Milan man, the potential is there to become more expansive and all-rounded since he has played a creative role in the past. It’s always been his mental attributes that set him apart and one which enabled him to compete with those older than him while at São Paulo.

Denilson’s injury woe started against Manchester City, taken off early in the second half and with Arsenal behind, it was necessary for a defence-minded player to be replaced. But for some his withdrawal opened the floodgates for City to attack as three goals succeeded his substitution. And they may have a  point too.

It would be unrealistic to attribute Arsenal’s slight dip of form since that game to one player but his non-participation has had a slight effect on the balance of the side. With the Gunners playing a high intensity 4-3-3 pressing game that means the distances both in attack and defence have to be right. With Denilson in the set-up, the formation can play close to a 4-2-3-1 when attacking allowing Fabregas to contribute ‘between the lines’ and in dangerous areas. When defending, it’s imperative to close down together and usually that means playing in a line so that the space and angle in the pass is shortened. A case in example is Iniesta and Xavi who drop back quickly if the ball is lost to help Yaya Toure. With Denilson, even if Fabregas was not quite as back as he should be, the organisation gave more steel to the side.

It will be up to Ramsey, Diaby and indeed Fabregas to make the necessary step up in terms of balance. Wenger was encouraged with Diaby’s brief cameo in defensive midfield against Manchester United and while he has all the tools technically, it’s his mental application which will decide if he remains an enigma. Ramsey on the other hand has thoroughly impressed Wenger on both accounts, now just lacking the experience to stamp his authority. The game against Olympiakos showed greater improvement in application and attitude with Diaby in particular providing better understanding of the defensive work required.

Rather ironically however, with Denilson out of the side the team picked up their first two clean sheets in the league. The proof may be in the pudding comparing the two performance levels but there is no doubt Denilson has made himself a vital part of the team’s dynamics.


19 thoughts on “Denilson makes presence felt as injury leaves void in the middle

  1. Rubbish!!!! Denilson and Song is the best defensive cover for fabregas.

    Not Diaby… Diaby is the utter piece of shit in the arsenal team.
    Diaby is the worst!!! He does not defend and cant attack.. I hope Denilson and Nasri comes back soon

    1. damn gallas you have absloutly no sense of football or managment. english league is too physical and tough to play a tean of midgets and light weights. the team lack height and physical presence on the pitch thats why diaby is there dosent matter if he is good or bad.. how many players do you have in your team who can take on 3 or four players at a time?? no1.. trust wenger and let the guy develop a bit this is his first run of games since he joined the club.. im sure you u dont regard yourself smarter than wenger and ffs stop slaging ur own players..glory do bring the curse of plastic fans

    2. you don’t watch enough arsenal games to be considered an arsenal supporter.
      diaby is a very talented player who works hard for the team.
      this summer, he worked hard on his conditioning to be ready for the new season, where players like nasri went to the beach.
      i understand the frustration with diaby, because i’m frustrated with his inconsistency, but WE SHOULD BE GLAD HE DECIDED TO PLAY BADLY IN A GAME WE WON.

  2. I had the same thing in mind. In the future, we may see a midfield ‘2’ of Ramsey and Denilson. It will be the ultimate defensive shield as both CMs are excellent readers of the game, good at interceptions and quite good at tackling. It may not work against the Boltons of the world but then even Man Utd dont have a big lump in the centre. Nasri will move to the LW in the future.

  3. Denilson does help out our defense by staying back a lot. I think Nasri is just a better player tho when fit. But with Denilson out we have to endure Diaby’s pathetic attempt to fill in. This makes me really miss Denilson.

  4. It’s amazing how I forgot to mention Samir Nasri when he returns as Wenger had pencilled him to play more centrall this season. He works hard, positionally quite good and creative.

    1. Nasri has everything to be a great cm. He possesses everything from defensive awareness, creativity, passing, positional play and dribbling ability. His guile and dribbling skills can be used to drive the ball out of defence. He missed th pre season so he might not be very effective.
      In the future, I think he will play as a defensive left winger who can also cut in. What do you think?

  5. I think Denilson is brilliant, but I think when Nasri comes back he will be able to help Song as a DM but also be more creative going forward.

  6. @Brain

    “Rather ironically however, with Denilson out of the side the team picked up their first two clean sheets in the league”

    I think it’s to do with Almunia: I’m not trying to berate Almunia, but just state that some of the goals we conceded this season were down to Almunia’s error of judgement or lack of concentration.

  7. I agree that Denilson is incredibly underrated.

    People are quick to deplore his unambitious passing, yet when our side look to consistently play such penetrating passes, the ball, far more often than not, is lost and possession is relinquished.

    Denilson certainly has the ability to distribute some excellent balls, but whilst he gains more experience, I think his role dictating the tempo and helping to retain the ball, is incredibly beneficial.

    It’s also worth noting how effective his anticipation is. Whilst he has improved in this respect as of late, I still feel Song is found wanting in this area, and much of the time is late in looking to pressure opponents and retrieve possession. Denilson, much like his predecessor Gilberto, whilst not a stand-out, is consistent and efficacious at intercepting play and breaking it down before it starts.

    He’s also showing far more discipline in terms of covering for Song – a player who likes to drop into the back 4.

    Having said that, when Nasri returns, I feel he should start alongside Fabregas and Song. Whilst I don’t feel he has the ability to intercept play like Denilson, his positioning and concentration is good – as evidented by Wenger’s use of him in a deep-lying role last season – whilst he shows a greater ability to hold onto the ball whilst under physical pressure.

  8. The Damn_Gallas’ of this world are unfortunately the necessary barnacle on the great ship Arsenal must pick up on the journey to football glory. They must be rebuked, as you did Brain, and not allowed to grow lest they pull down the ship and force us to dry-dock prematurely. Those of us on board, not below the waterline like Damn_Gallas refuse to subvert undermine the vision of our leader Arsene Wenger and players like Diaby, who is now the scapegoat du jour Abou had a good game on Tuesday, not great, especially his defensive discipline and his improved tackling added to his usual willingness to take on opponents when going forward. By my count, he made at most four displaced passes on Tuesday. Yet we have fans, some who were at the stadium, come online to not only exaggerate Diaby’s mistakes, but fail to mention that that Cesc, Rosicky and Arshavin had about the same number or misdirected passes. These are the same people who berated Denilson for making only the simple passes. Same people who trashed Flamini prior to his breakout 06-07 season, Adebayor, Eboue et al. They are chronic slaggers and doom-mongers. Makes you wonder what makes them happy to be an Arsenal fan.

    1. i dont think you can categorize supporters into who supports who in this team.

      i thought diaby was horrendous simply because watching the match, he didnt show a single ounce of his brilliance. where fabregas contributed the game winning assist, arshavin ran at the defence and rosicky helped us keep possession better in the second half, diaby lost the ball on passes, dribbles, and even committed two fouls within 30 yards of our goal in the last 20 minutes of a 1-0 game.

      seriously, look at it objectively. also take a look at the guardian chalkboard, abou diaby free kicks given away in fulham game.

      you say diaby was good, but i watched the game with a bias towards watching diaby, because i know we worked on conditioning this summer and i wanted to see how he affected the balance of the team, what with him replacing denilson in the side. i like diaby but i’m not blind to his performances.

      he played badly at fulham. get over it.

      now if you disagree with me, don’t just thumbs-down. REPLY.

      I am not a doommonger. don’t just yell names at other people when you disagree with someone. that’s just immature.

      i honestly think diaby has great physical attributes and has a good future. he’s just inconsistent.

      criticizing arsenal is not being anti-arsenal!

  9. completely agree with you on denilson. he’s a huge part of the team.

    about diaby, hopefully he can work on being DM instead of AM, cause his performance as AM against fulham was just absolutely horrendous. he seemed to be put on the pitch to hurt our chances of winning.

    i secretly believe that diaby is a undercover manchester united player.

    it would also help out our balance as you said.

  10. Brain, who do you think is the right person to replace Wenger once he leaves? Or rather who do you think is the best young tactician in the world?

    1. Real Madrid have the best Arsene Wenger type manager in Manuel Pellegrini. Despite joining the Galacticos it’s not unlikely he will ever leave Madrid because of the volatile nature of the club. He has ambitions of managing in England too. Here’s a nice article on the guy:

      I like Bilic’s man-management and he is tactically underrated too.

  11. I have always thought that we can get the best of Fabregas by making him play deep. Which means, when an Arsenal player takes the ball out of an opponent, Fabregas should be the first player on the ball. This gives the chance to deliver passes like the one against Fulham. He can improve defensively, which should be a challenge that he should take up.

    Otherwise, I think we are short of CDM players. Diaby prefers to play where he has space to stretch his legs. He looks uncomfortable at CDM. He is a good attacking player but his instincts do go against him when he plays a defensive role. Song has improved considerably. He for me is one of the most improved players. He is slowly becoming a player Arsenal cant do without. Esp. after Denilsons injury. He seems to be enjoying more defensive responsibility.

    It is an exciting time for Arsenal now with many players coming back. Van Persie seems happy with his game and this is lifting the spirit of the whole team.

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