At the start of the season many people had written Arsenal out of the title race and some even believed they were the most likely candidates to drop out of the top four. Arsene Wenger’s side have however, silenced the majority of their critics in what has so far been a successful campaign. For me the most impressive area of the Arsenal side this season has been the midfield. In typical Wenger fashion the Arsenal midfield has consisted of predominantly young players, many of whom have come on leaps and bounds in the last year. The likes of Alex Song and Samir Nasri have been instrumental this season and despite just being 22 years of age, the pair are fast becoming invaluable to the Gunners cause.
As much as I have complete admiration for the likes of Song and Nasri, there are still several members of Wenger’s academy whose performances have often puzzled me. The Brazilian Denilson, for example, is a player who has shown a lot of promise at the Emirates yet has often given Jekyll and Hyde performances in the last few years and unlike Song and Nasri is struggling to cement a place in the side.
Many eyebrows were raised in the summer of 2006 when Arsene Wenger shelled out £3.5 million for a relatively unknown Brazilian. The then 16 year old Denilson had made just 12 appearances for Sao Paulo and was yet to break into the first team however, the Gunners boss had clearly seen potential in the youngster and wasted no time in bringing him to north London.
In his first season the Brazilian spent much of his time learning the English game and thus only appeared for the Arsenal first team in Carling Cup ties and occasionally the Premier League. The following year however, would see Denilson become a far more integral part of the Gunners side and after the departure of several key figures such as Mathieu Flamini and Gilberto Silva in the summer of 2008, the youngster was thrown in at the deep-end somewhat.
During the 2008-09 season, the quality of Denilson’s performances greatly varied. Although the youngster would often show glimpses of brilliance, it was obvious to many that he was not yet experienced enough to fill the boots left by his predecessors and he found himself on the end of criticism on several occasions. The Brazilian would respond well and it became clear that his game was fast improving, standing him in good stead to play an important role for the side in the following campaign.
However, the 2009-10 campaign has seen Denilson lose his place in the Arsenal starting line-up. A lengthy spell on the treatment table combined with the much improved performances of Alex Song has meant that the Brazilian has featured on a less regular basis this year. In recent weeks the youngster has found himself filling in for the Cameroon international in the defensive midfield position and I have been intrigued to see what he has offered the side. His performances have, in my opinion, once again been hot and cold and whilst there have been inspired spells; the absence of Song has been obvious.
The midfielder has improved his attacking play and it is worth mentioning that the youngster demonstrated his Brazilian roots by scoring a stunning free-kick against Hull yet I still cannot work out how much I believe in him. His potential cannot be doubted and he is still only 21, young for even Arsenal’s side but he could do with taking a leaf from Song’s book in trying to enforce his presence on games. He is a promising midfielder, but with Fabregas, Song and Nasri all of a similar age and currently excelling, I am unsure as to how important a figure he will prove to be for the Gunners.
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