arsenal will win with its new midfield…

This Sunday’s game has turned into a gut check, a man-up if you will.  Half the squad is injured and can’t play. So the fates have made it easy: whomever can play, must.  And once again, opportunity knocks.  Sunday is a chance to introduce a new hero for the season.  And frankly, I can’t wait for this game.  We are about to see the birth of a new midfield partnership to turn the game inside out: Song, Fab and “Baby Face” Denilson.

The Liege game was an eye opener, for everyone, fans and players.  Yes, Denilson and Song have played together before, but not with the balance and comfort in their division of roles.  In the beginning of the season Denilson had moments of wandering back and forth, sometimes unsure of how to help Song then Fab.  This made sense at the time, we had the new 4-3-3 and Song was still learning his role.  Two months of sitting out and two months of Song developing without any help (Diaby doesn’t count) and Denilson can see where he fits into the new team.  Even better, HIS GAME FITS SONG’S!  No longer do we have the confusing movements of Diaby and Song; now we get the rhythmic balance of the Brazilian Samba.  And Song and Denilson know how to play dance together.

This new found confidence plays both forward and back.  Fab now knows he can hover in the upper third, waiting for a linking pass from Denilson.   This means that Fab doesn’t have to stretch himself father back offensively to get the ball; now he can wait for a Decent SHORT pass from Denilson.  And Song doesn’t have to reach to send pinpoint long passes forward to reach Fab.  He can hang back stop the counter and quickly dish the ball forward to Denilson and let him do it.

Compare this to the Diaby situation and its night and day.  Diaby is physical and talented, but offensively he wants the ball where Fab wants it, confusing the midfield.  And, unlike Denilson, Diaby does not want to track back or fight for the battle-space (remember, he’s no Viera), so he’s not really happy about being a link the chain.  As a result, Song often lacked a necessary awareness of where Diaby was.  Confusion reigned in the battle-space.  A mental gap was created, balls were lost and focus diminished.

But now, finally, everyone has confidence in everyone else.  Everyone plays a role that leans on the other person.  We have a machine of short accurate passing from the defense through the midfield up to the forwards.  This game has a chance to be beautiful and I can’t wait.

The only real issues stem from the defensive side of the equation.  Will Denilson be able to impose himself in the midfield and can he mark his man enough to slow down the chel$ki attack?  I think he will.  But not like everyone else may want him to.  Denilson’s game is subtle.  He doesn’t impose himself through hard tackling or pushing.  He operates by positioning and timing.  The good news is, if he focuses on his strengths we’re good.  Let Song deal with the physical aspects, let Song keep people off the ball, let Song be the physicality.  Denilson’s grace is more important, it’s what he has over all of the blueman group’s midfield. A proper positioning here to break up a play, a smart tackle there to slow down the game, a pin point pass that catches the smurfs off-guard and forces them to pay more attention to him, thus leaving Fab and the forwards more open.  Delicious.

But the best part, the part I am looking forward to the most, is Denilson’s goals.  With Denilson back, we finally have a long-shot artist.  While Denilson can do the short pass in the box, he clearly enjoys taking a 30+ yard shot and god love him that’s what we need.  Everyone knows to pack the box when we crush forward.  Denilson lets us stretch that defense.  Check out the Liege game, nobody saw that shot coming and go back to the Everton goal too.

So that’s it, my hopes are there with my belief.  I can’t wait for this game and I’ll even bet Denilson shines brightly, with a goal at that.

the student

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