A Legend Waiting to Blossom?
On 31st August 2006 at around midnight, a name crossed the Sky Sports News rolling ticker, Denilson signs for Arsenal. After that, there was silence. Who was this person? Where did he play? How good is he? How old is he? These were just some of the questions being asked by Arsenal fans.
We had to wait until the Carling Cup to see who this player was and during the first season he made some fleeting appearances, he was only 18 so we were not expecting much from him. In his first season, he made 13 starts. Last season he was unable to make any great impact and at one point he disappeared from the radar, neither being named as a substitute nor listed as injured. It must have been very hard for a youngster to leave his home and come to a foreign land where it was cold and raining most of the time, look what it did to poor Baptista!
The Arsenal coaches have high expectations for Denilson, in the same way that they expect great things from Merida and Diaby.
With the departures of Gilberto and Flamini in the summer and our failure to bring in any central midfielders, Denilson was left with the duties of playing a defensive role. This was flawed from the outset, Denilson is small in stature and will not grow more, and until he is “bulked” up and is too easily knocked off the ball. Denilson was never bought to be the “enforcer” in the team, his role is more akin to Fabregas, he is a creative player who prefers to go forward and as he has shown this season he is capable of timing his runs to score goals.
In his formative years his delivery from free kicks or corners was excellent, he also packed a mean strike from distance, we need to see more these traits from the young Brazilian.
Denilson will develop into a more forceful midfielder, he will never be a giant like Vieira, but he can turn into a Flamini type player. Flamini was not big, nor did he possess as much skill and ability as Denilson, but what he did was constantly harassing opponents. It must also be remembered that Flamini was older than Denilson and his best season at Arsenal was after being at the club for four years.
The media has not taken to Denilson primarily because we are struggling, yet Flamini was held up as our saviour and the answer to our central midfield problem. Denilson is still learning the game; he will make mistakes about positioning and tracking players, but as longer as we see improvements and progress then the fans need to get behind Denilson.