I usually start with an introduction to my
piece, but since I subscribe to Culaan Davies YouTube
channel, I think action is the best way to start this week’s column, so sit
back and enjoy.
After his recent release from Arsenal, I felt compelled to write about Denilson
– A player who I feel was made a scapegoat and is a classic case of being
killed by our negative support. It seemed to be trendy to criticise him
when we officially terminated his contract by mutual consent but the truth is
his forte is everything most fans love about Mikel Arteta. Hypocritical? Maybe.
You see the thing with Denilson is he was a good player but he got overplayed,
there was barely any bedding in period and he wasn’t appreciated for what he
did. You only have to look at the vice captain and the thousands of fans
lauding up his passing statistics, yet in a time where stats were available but
not as pivotal as they appear to be now, Denilson was just as good, in
fact scrap that he wasn’t as good, he was better.
When Denilson started playing for us it came at a crucial time for the club.
We’d not long moved to The Emirates but and we had an array of centre
midfields, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Gilberto SIlva, Mathieu Flamini,Lassana
Diarra, Abou Diaby. Denlison’s opportunities were limited and he only started
22 games in total over 06/07 & 07/08 and only eight of those were in the
Premier League. Not a great deal of experience.
Then came his break breakthrough in 08/09 and he started 47 games and only
missed one Premier League fixture. He flourished alongside Fàbregas, who was
already an assist machine. Denilson’s job was simple, keep possession and give
it Fàbregas to do the rest, much in the way Arteta does to the likes of Santi Cazorla
at present. I’ll admit, at times I didn’t really appreciate Denilson’s role and
subsequently his suitability for the side but one night in Rome changed that.
As I stood in the Olimpico, with the shootout poised at 3-3 and it looking very
likely that Roma’s final penalty would be taking by their talisman Francesco Totti.
An unlikely figure made his way from the halfway line. Denilson had signed
himself for the pressure kick. Now when he kept his nerve, I had a new-found
respect for him. It takes big players to take spot kicks and I’m not sure if
you’ve ever sampled the pressure as a player in a penalty shootout but it’s the
biggest psychological head do’er you’ll ever come across. The goal looks tiny,
you have a keeper doing their best to put you visibly and verbally and then you
have the cauldron like the Olimpico, one of the most partizan stadiums in
Europe. Denilson passed the test with flying colours and I had hoped that this
would be a sign of things to come, after all we were a side that lacked big
game players. Ultimately that event will be classed as a false dawn but I’ll
always remember him for that moment.
The following season would see his most defining moment. 31st January 2010 and
Arsenal were taking on Manchester United
It will be known as the game where Denilson got overtaken by the referee on a United
counter attack. When the truth was he wasn’t. He did play a part in both of the
opening goals that day, but he wasn’t the only one.
1-0 Manuel Almunia OG
Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri got well and truly rinsed by Nani, then Denilson
got caught square leaving him statuesque as Nani waltzed through and he stood a
cross up to the back post and as Almunia flapped, he diverted the ball into the
net. Pathetic all round.
2-0 Wayne Rooney
An incisive United counter attack and as Clichy and Denilson ‘tracked back’ the
latter hesitates and it allows Rooney to run off him unchallenged and he
made no mistake. Denilson was one of five Arsenal defenders in that move but The
Emirates had the villain it craved.
From then on, his confidence has dwindled and sadly he fell completely off the
radar. However, at our club what is good for one player isn’t for another. I
could throw Michu running clean through in the horror show against Swansea City
in the League in December. You’ll notice a certain Tomas Rosicky gives up the
chase, also at 1-0 down but he didn’t receive any criticism, maybe it counts as
one on his pre-assists that supporters love at present. By April he would
be part of an Arsenal midfield that was torn to pieces in the Nou
Camp. Things were going downhill fast.
The trouble is Denilson had talent, he wasn’t a sideways merchant, he was
effective with the right personnel but we played a youngster 47 times in a
season and ran him into the ground, a lesson that wasn’t learnt when Arsene Wenger
integrated Jack Wilshere into the side. Jack played 46 games in
2010/11 and we all know how that is panning out – He’s
managed 26 starts since
The way I see it is he and Arteta aren’t that dissimilar in the roles that
had/have. Admittedly Denilson started as part of a 4-4-2 and maybe the switch
to 4-3-3 hindered him whilst it suited Fàbregas. The sad fact is that after he
was given a five year deal shortly after his superb strike at Goodison, we’ve
ended up giving a free transfer to a player that should have been approaching
his peak but he’s back in his native Brazil. Denilson wasn’t the worst player
I’ve seen, not by a long shot but it’s all what might have been, especially
after an encouraging start. I just hate the mentality of our fans when they
rejoice in him leaving the club when they kiss Arteta’s derrière for being able
to retain the possession, Denilson was the original in that respect and even
when Aaron Ramsey filled Arteta’s role against West Ham United when he
completed 117 of 123 passes in one game. It’s a lot easier to criticise than it
is to praise, so I’ll leave you with a clip of Denilson’s 11 Arsenal goals –